Positive-Positive Value Polarity: Competition and Cooperation

By Steve McIntosh

Polarity number three is COMPETITION & COOPERATION. While some progressives disparage competition, and some modernists overemphasize it, competition can be a powerful value creator. However, when it is not moderated by its polar counterpart of cooperation, competition can devolve into a dog-eat-dog condition wherein defensiveness saps productivity. Conversely, cooperation by itself, without the incentive or opportunity for individual excellence or creativity, can similarly devolve into groupthink or stifling bureaucratic mediocrity. But when competition and cooperation are brought together in a mutually correcting relationship that provides for both *challenge and support,* the value-creating potential of each side is maximized.

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  • Evan

    Hmm. What are the examples you see of competition creating value that co-operation to a value end can’t create?

  • Steve Greenleaf

    How about Magic Johnson & Larry Bird? How about Katie Ledecky & Ariarne Titmus? Okay, I betray my both my age & my current viewing habits, but the same can be said in other walks of life as well. But in athletics, especially in team sports, the key to success is an ongoing dialectic of competition (for example, in playing time, for personal glory) and cooperation (sharing the ball & team success). I once thought one pole might prove “the best,” but now I appreciate that it’s a real dance; a set of polarities that provide energy to a system. (Having been both an athlete and a coach helped shape all of this; both then so did my career as a lawyer.)

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