As an individual with a very competitive nature, regardless of whether I’m on or off the basketball court, I understand the importance of competition and its role in pushing one to perform in their optimal mode, pushing for excellence in others or simply inspire thoughts that are creative and stray away from the norm. 

The Conquistadors of the 16th century, the industrial revolution, the atomic bomb, the nuclear bomb, democratic elections, almost every business model and even the evolutions of the human intelligence, is based on the need of learning how to master and gain a competitive advantage over other members of the species. 

But what has this mindset gotten us so far? Aside from positive innovation, we have been left with a world that is constantly in conflict, a world in which to trump another is to obtain success in any setting (academia, business etc.) and a world in which scarcity has resulted in nations hoarding resources and creating an unbalanced consumption. These resources, if equally distributed and efficiently used, could help build global sustainability and tend to the three billion in need of basic necessities, nourishing their longstanding stunted development.

At such point, we should realize that competition can have detrimental consequences and at such a point is where the act of collaboration finds its place. Thanks to the Internet, we have been able to see the power of collaborative effort and witnessed a brighter side of humanity, providing new opportunities and empowering individuals to develop communities dedicated towards solving real problems while being anywhere in the world. This is not to say that humanity did not exist before the Internet, but thanks to the influence of cyber-culture, there is certainly a shift in the way boundaries are perceived by today’s generation. Many more people are informed today, leaving little room for discrimination and injustice to go on without being noticed. People are realizing the socioeconomic differences that exist in today’s world and humanity is starting to see the plight of its fellow humans in a picture far clearer than ever before. And the best part about it, people are starting to get bothered. Bothered by the continuous marginalization and exploitation of the third world countries. Bothered by the west’s privileged living made possible at the expense of third world’s cheap labor and bendable governing system. Revolutions are happening with the help of social media and unity, for the first time, extending far beyond the ideals of patriotism and nationalism. 

If there was ever a time that it has become easier to collaborate than ever before, it is now. Hospitals should find ways to contribute to other hospitals rather than compete with each other. Non-profit organizations fighting for the same cause should not fight one another, but group together what each organization has to offer to tackle the issues at hand that are larger than the both of them. The strengths of humans must not be used in relevance to reward, rather they should be used and shared among a common species for equal prosperity.

3/18/2013 18:09:28

This does well in presenting cases for concern to do with our race. For change to occur in a world that has travelled so far down a general direction there needs to be complete comfort taken in the reevaluation of human activity tracing as far back as foundational philosophy and ethics. It is a hefty thing to ask for, but in all cases with humans, if there are enough people asking it's bound to happen.

3/19/2013 03:06:50

Agreed! Collaboration should be extremely useful in transforming the inequalities present in our world today, if actually used effectively. I find that often, the name collaboration is plastered to projects, yet the countries or organizations involved are continuing to compete to outshine the others and wrest more control into their fists. Have you encountered any effective uses of collaboration on a grand scale?

3/24/2013 11:52:28

Reddit, Wikipedia and Quora are some of the encounters I've had of effective collaboration. Through opening their platforms and letting the people contribute to their websites, they've been able to make their websites some of the most informational and resourceful. Firefox web browser is a similar example, where the developers and improver of the web browsers are the users of it.

3/24/2013 11:15:30

Great highlight on healthcare collaboration. Different societies work on their own research separately but great progress can be made with increased transparency through different groups aiming to solve similar problems. Ah competition, being first is a great expense to all sides involved.

3/24/2013 11:21:25

But then again not everything is as altruist as it is publicized and good competition can lead to some phenomenal impacts as well in innovation and self development. People tend to gain more ground when they have a rival and have a lesser tendency to surrender to complacency

3/24/2013 11:47:23

Agreed! Competition has what has gotten us this far for sure. But I feel as if the advent of technology has helped change mindsets and brought forth a new opportunity, which can only be done through collaboration. Websites such as wikipedia, quora, reddit.. all are great examples of how collaboration can be just as revolutionary as competition. We just have to find what we want out of life and work with people with a similar outlook.Only then can we truly gain ground through collaboration and avoid complacency. But then again, not everything can be as altruistic, so thank you for bringing that point about!

3/24/2013 12:31:54

I think it's interesting that you framed your thoughts in an "x vs. y" format, given the issues you deal with here. Does it need to be either/or? Couldn't it be both/and?

3/25/2013 19:31:42

Definitely! That is why I mentioned the importance of competition first. But I guess near the end of my post I did get a little one sided and didn't go back towards the importance of competition in other situations. There is definitely the need for competition when improving technology, playing sports or trying to come up with new ideas. Do you have any examples of competition playing a positive role in other scenarios?

3/24/2013 13:36:08

Excellent post! Prior to reading this, I never really considered the internet’s contribution to collaboration amongst different cultures.

You know it’s interesting that we teach small children the importance of sharing, teamwork, and working together, but as soon they become young adults, one of the first lessons (in and out of the classroom) is “survival of the fittest.” As adults, we’re constantly given statistics of who will make it and who will stay back. We’re basically pinned against each other and in order to succeed, we’re often taught to pursue whatever means necessary.

That aside, the increase in collaboration amongst people/cultures is fantastic, but I believe in the idea that collaboration is often based on the expectation that the favour will be returned (reciprocal altruism), so even when we’re helping, we are still always seeking benefit. Ultimately, competition and collaboration are both necessities. It’s just dependent upon what leads to the desired outcome.

3/25/2013 19:38:12

Very well put Ajani. The example of children being taught to share and engage in team work was an excellent one as it displayed our innate desire to want to do things together in harmony to achieve a successful outcome and even happiness. Competition can definitely be more valuable in a lot of scenarios but then to what extent should we draw the line so that another doesn't "lose", per say, because of it?

3/24/2013 14:13:46

Great post but even though it sounds ideal to collaborate it is hard in practice. competition is important and it pushes people to become more creative which benifits the world a lot more.

3/25/2013 19:40:20

As you come from a dancing background, I definitely understand your point! Dancing competitions definitely encourage the best in a choreographer to come out. When trying to be creative, competition helps a great deal, but when it comes to doing something for the greater good, is it really ideal to be competitive?

3/24/2013 15:13:58

Competition acts as the foundation of our capitalist-based structure, and lets face it, it's kind of the underlying basis of how everything works world-wide. You're right to say that the reason for advancement and progressive changes in the world is because of competition. Do you think that web-based collaboration is just a by-product of some of our advancements due to competition? I mean the internet is a thing of the past now; I'm sure there are technologies brewing that date this technology, and therefore it is easy to collaborate using this medium because it is no longer a competitive advantage to some markets.

3/25/2013 20:00:23

Hey Manu. You bring up a very interesting point. I don't know if internet is totally the thing of the past. A lot of companies have just started using social media in the recent years to gain competitive advantage. However I do like the connection that you are drawing up. I do think it does become relatively easier to collaborate once a venture becomes successful, a venture that could've very well began its course from competition. But I don't think that internet is the thing of the past now which enables people to collaborate through it. I think the internet is the reason why it has become so much more easier to collaborate as it allows instantaneous and constant connectivity with others.

Daniella Q
3/24/2013 16:59:36

Zain, you make a great point. Although competition drives us to succeed, we must look to collaboration in order to make for more beneficial outcomes. Thank you for making me see the light at the end of the tunnel!

3/25/2013 19:53:28

Thanks Daniella. Do you think competition and collaboration could be used side by side?

Maliha Majeed
3/24/2013 23:32:37

Awesome post! I totally agree with the fact that the internet and websites such as reddit act as catalysts to promote empathy – borderless, nationality-free empathy towards others for the sake of standing up for those who are marginalized.
Although I see this as a great way for global opinions on multi-scalar issues to be expressed, it makes me wonder what action can and will be brought upon based on these opinions. Maybe what it’s coming down to is diminishing competition between society and decision makers / those in power? Or perhaps sharing of global knowledge and showing empathetic behaviour will simply increase to a point where decisions and actions will come directly from the grassroots level.
I also think competitive behaviour will always remain (like you said, it pushes for optimization), but I think it can be used positively and in conjunction with collaboration to optimize actions under a new, more empathetic perspective.

3/25/2013 02:51:52

Competition is what drives businesses/people to be innovative and to succeed. Although I like the point that you bring up about collaboration, it is a bit more difficult to practice, especially in capitalist based economies. Many companies’ mandates are to maximize profits (for their shareholders), and competition is their way of doing this. I think collaboration is important nonetheless, but it would not be effective or beneficial in certain conditions

3/25/2013 06:40:59

Rather than one against the other, they almost go hand in hand. Like Ajani mentioned above both are necessities for development. It all begins with the mindset within each individual, we need to be open to collaborate and compete when either seems fit for the situation at hand. Collaboration can create various improvement in many fields, but so does competition. Would Samsung be where they are now if it weren't for Apple? A great example of competition and collaboration can be seen with LeBron and Durant. Off season they workout together and collaborate and compete (1on1). When the season does start its a no holds barred competition against each other. Toyota and Subaru, both competitors, collaborated to design the Scion FRS/Subaru BRZ.

There needs to be a balance of the two, just because competition might have detrimental consequences as you mentioned, we cannot overlook its benefits. Neither can we say collaboration is the way forward. Understanding the importance of the two and knowing when each is suitable is the key.


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    As an avid listener of instincts and humanity, I strive to do things that put me out of my comfort zone. Cherishing the growth that comes along with this habit and all the beauty that life has to offer, I'd like to share my experiences with you. 

    All posts and opinions expressed are mine and completely independent of the University of Waterloo and the International Development program.


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