We learn this in elementary school reading competitions, in sports competitions, in the race for another promotion: the strongest prevail. Someone is always ahead of us. A little faster, a little smarter, a little louder – this will be rewarded with: better work, more money and, above all, great recognition. No wonder that a lot of people exit this system with one goal in particular: to win.
Competition does not stimulate business – it wastes energy
It’s a system that encourages a competitive, elbow-building mentality, no matter how much emphasis is placed on team spirit in job postings and corporate websites. In the professional context, those with ambitions also pose a threat to their own success. After all, many managers and entrepreneurs say, “Competition stimulates business.” The result: a tough culture where everyone stands first and foremost. This can work for individuals – but for the teams in organizations, and also for us as a society, it is a waste of energy. Because innovation, progress and entrepreneurship get better when we work on them as a group. As a community where people trust each other, open up to, see, use and appreciate the strengths of others. Anyone who is constantly afraid that someone might want something bad for him, instead of focusing on the common cause, copes with the fear of competition.
We need consistent rethink – urgently
Dissolving this self-image is necessary if we are to face together the great challenges of the present and the future. We need energy that can release – and we need mutual support that cognitively empowers us to do other things. The end of unreflective competitive thinking that continues to be naturally lived up in many environments is overdue. This creates space for development, greater diversity and integration. Because when we really start to think together with everyone – and with no ulterior motives, how can we use it for our own success – we have the ability to create truly new structures.
But this rethinking is not easy, precisely because for decades we have been rewarded many times for staying ahead of others and “fighting” our way forward.
Three impulses as an impulse to develop new ways of thinking, question structures and rewrite rules – for yourself and your surroundings.
Impulse 1: Collaboration Beats Competition
“What can I bring?” instead of “What’s in it for me personally?”
A change of perspective is essential for a new level of personal responsibility and a central element of the New Job: Can anyone see themselves and their behavior in the context of the big picture? Do employees understand what they contribute to meaning? And can they use their strengths to do so? This requires both an organizational framework and an individual capacity for reflection and multi-perspective.
The organization of the future needs employees who are not primarily focused on their personal development, but rather on their contribution to the larger picture: people who understand and trust that this will result in their personal growth and further development.
Here the circle is closed to the great question of the meaning that it keeps asking me. People who seek a goal in their work will find that through exchange and cooperation they can achieve more than if they went out on their own. When we realize that our fellow men are not a threat but a gift, it is an indispensable contribution to the major – including social – challenges we face.
Pulse 2: Change example
“Why can I set an example?” instead of “It’s a job for others.”
Can strength games and competition be effective in achieving goals? Yes. I just wouldn’t stay here. But go ahead and ask: does this mechanism lead to the sustainability and full development of the team or organization’s potential? I don’t think so. Because compared to cooperation, competition is not the best use of energy.
But the career paths in companies often still go like this: a team member stands out for his exceptional performance, outperforms his colleagues, and is rewarded for that – for example, a promotion. This is not bad in itself. However, what cannot go unnoticed is the collective as well as individual potential that is not aroused. Strong teams are more than the sum of their parts. They become especially good when we see more than ourselves, we truly trust each other, and we are ready to give without asking: is it knowledge, time, energy or compassion.
Leaders have a responsibility to consider all talents and strengths, not just loud and extroverted. “Survival of the Kindst” instead of “Survival of the Fittest” may be a new approach. I would translate “nice” primarily as grateful. Because you shouldn’t underestimate the value that “cohes” bring to your team. People who show a level of eyesight and sincere respect, while keeping the whole in mind. Not only hard KPIs count, but also (alleged) soft skills. Because without people who promote cohesion, we cannot function in a community – and our superiors can also communicate it clearly.
Impulse 3: Get out of the ego trap
“What do we really want?” instead of “Higher, faster, further?”
Competitive thinking and a bruise mentality did not arise because people are particularly angry or selfish. Homo oeconomicus is a theoretical construct, not a psychological reality. The belief that people are greedy and interested only in their own development is surprisingly persistent and sometimes deeply rooted in organizational systems (e.g. in monetary incentives).
I also see that the focus on competition is the result of a structural error in the system. To change this, it is imperative that we individually and collectively question beliefs that seem so obvious that they often operate in us quite unconsciously. For example, believing that our goal should be to be on the winner’s podium. “Higher, faster, further” becomes an end in itself. It is worth stopping and asking: Is this really what I am looking for? And: Do we need this as a community?
The rethinking of the world of work is long overdue, and it’s up to all of us to accompany this change. It helps if we keep asking ourselves: do I really want this now or is my ego speaking out of me? If the answer is no, it is worth asking – in the interests of all of us – what do I want instead?
Would you like to delve into this topic? Then listen to this episode of my podcast on female leadership:
EPISODE 149: ELIMINATING COMPETITIVENESS: HOW TO GET OUT OF UNNECESSARY COMPETITIVENESS
This article also appeared on verastrauch.com