in Everything Else

Competition and the problem with ‘reality’.

This is a scheduled post whilst I’m on holiday in the UAE – my apologies if I don’t respond to comments straight away!

“There’s a philosophical tendency in the West, following Plato, to conclude that if a theory isn’t working, there must be something wrong with reality.” (Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi, Harvard Business Review)

An increasingly-prevailing rhetoric of competition has invested western society. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is the dominant mantra: nature as ‘red in tooth and claw’ justifies everything from ultra-competitive school sports days to bankers being paid huge bonuses. Anyone who opposes such an ‘obvious’ state of affairs is seen as naive and, well, a bit… fluffy.

Interestingly, where the real work gets done – on the frontlines (be those military or educational) camaraderie and sharing rules the roost. Why? Because when it comes down to it, we are what we share. Competition, despite what the current government would have us believe, does not ‘drive up standards’ in and of itself: it’s a lazy shorthand for innovation. And if, like me, you believe that co-operation is the best way to bring people together to innovate, then competition is diametrically opposed to this. Everything is not a market.

So the next time you try work out how to boost your Klout score, improve the numbers in that little Feedburner chicklet, or be reshared/retweeted on Google+ or Twitter, just ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Am I doing this to make the world a little bit better than I left it? What and whose theory am I acting on here?