Competitive Vs. Non-Competive Environments

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This is a post going way back to Weber and the concept of work efficiency.  It is in response to a comment Sam made on my previous blog post.  Sam brought up the idea of noncompetitive gamified environments, and how they might be preferable over the alternative cutthroat competitive environment. Here is a link to the comment

Your comment on a non-competitive gamified work environment raises an interesting point.  The competitive environment certainly pits people against each other and the objectives become focused around winning rather than simply doing good work.  Obviously, when two people are competing to win, good work will inevitably follow. Yet there is certainly a moral conflict that occurs in this type of environment.  People are inclined to feel that we should be communal and cooperative with one another rather than competitive.

Non-competitive environments generally feel much more secure.  People have more control over their work and lifestyle. Although it is much more pleasant, non-competition can never achieve the same level of productivity and efficiency as the alternative.  Our Concept of Power class incorporates a non-competitive system.  We are given assignments which we then can complete it to receive the reward.  Other classmate’s achievements do not serve as a factor in this work-reward system. On the other hand,  if our professor were to add a competitive aspect and offer double points for the best final paper, the quality of writing would skyrocket among the entire class.

So why isn’t our class structured in this way?  If competition instigates higher quality work, wouldn’t professor Mackin want us to battle royal in order to produce the epitome of student papers?  There are two main reasons: the natural desire to avoid conflict, and the harsh impact competition has on those who fail.  Competitiveness is in essence conflict.  Competition can be enjoyable when put in non-serious aspects of life.  But in the context of work, where there is a bit more at stake, competition gains considerable risk.  In the same way people desire to avoid conflict in Hobbes’ “state of nature” scenario, people are unwilling to enter into competitive work so as to maintain a sense of security.  The other significantly negative effect competition can have is the way it disables the lower performing half.  Since winning is the central goal in competition, those who cannot perform well in their work, or even just those who have low self esteem can become completely unproductive. If someone were to preemptively make the judgement that their own work wouldn’t be good enough, than competition would actually cause them to become less efficient.

So it is a trade off.  I think that the competitive environment– productive but seemingly unhealthy for the soul– is certainly a more bourgeoisie tactic, and con-competitive work can be seen as a more traditionalist tactic.

On a final note, music finds itself in an interesting paradox regarding this subject.  As much as I hate the fact, we all know music has become one of the most competitive professions. Yet I can’t think of anything more cooperative.  We work so hard in order to beat out the competition, but when it comes to performing we reach a deeper level of communication with our colleagues.  Music is very passionate and soulful, yet saturated with cutthroat attitudes.  I think because of competition, musicianship has reached a higher level than ever before, but i’m curious to hear peoples opinions as to what extent music suffers from this competitive vibe.

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2 Responses to “Competitive Vs. Non-Competive Environments”

  1. akolot Says:

    This is an interesting post, hailing back to the ‘Weber’s Tradistionalist Views in Portlandia.’ While parents are concernde about how their children should succeed outside of school, based on early, elite education. The assumption is that if the child has the edge of his peers then he will be more successful – the resilience of competition is passed on from the parents’ own desires to be successful and their wish for their childen to exceed expectations. Yet, I cannot imagine a child who pursues music, for example, to ‘beat the other kids.’ Competitiveness is the conflict that child learns to resolve over time – thus, when we grow up, successfully get into renowned colleges, we cannot stop competing with our peers. So in this sense, this class is a breif respite.

    Or is it?

    The lack of competition should encourage the class to follow their own path and be responsible for its own learning. However it could also be seen as the excercize of biopower. The choices the class is granted in order to gain points only forces each individual to self regulate in order to show how the content of the class has been internalized – thus, as students we have to consistently confirm/self regulate the relevance of what is posted/written/commented on etc.

    • givenarnold Says:

      Super Interesting point regarding biopower. Although we have the appearance of free choice, it could be another way of enforcing discipline, and therefore weeding out those who lack any. Looking at it this way, competition almost seems like the more traditionalist tactic, and non-competive environments could be a product of biopower.

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