Collaboration or Competition?


How do you and I make us?

It was the battle of the century, two opponents and one minute on the clock. Eagerly awaiting the starting bell, they clutched their chopsticks. The bell sounds and they begin, shaky hands inserting into metal nuts to stack on each other in hopes of having the tallest tower. 

With three ties in a row, the final match ends when one contestant drops their highest nut off the tower. This is an activity that happened in my introductory business class this week. The purpose of the activity was to examine the principles of competition and collaboration. The game made me question which was more effective, and which has a greater presence on our campus?

StFX is a big supporter of community and kinship. The university encourages students and professors to work together to attain common success for the betterment of everyone. 

Collaborative learning encourages students and professors to set goals, to assess and to develop ideas together, with its small class sizes this is exactly what our school strives to do; but this is not a theme that applies strictly to the classroom. From house events, our sports teams, the societies, and the programs developed within the area and abroad, StFX applies a sense of teamwork in many branches of its work.

Competition is a healthy part of learning, as it forces people to push beyond what they may believe to be their limits. Those same collaborative groups at StFX compete regularly whether it’s amongst themselves, opposing schools, or other groups. Competition drives us to excel, or at least it does if it’s good natured and if we have the ability to achieve success. 

As someone who always enjoyed sports, albeit was terrible at them, nothing was worse than the dreaded beep test in school. The concept is simple, you run back and forth across the gymnasium and with each beep your time to run across is shortened. 

My, at the time, robust body was unable to keep up with the beeps and very quickly I was eliminated. When finished there was nothing left for me to do but wait, while others would complain or disrupt those who were still running. There was no driving force for me to get back up and run again, or to try and compete with my peers as it was evident they would outrun me, so competition becomes considerably more finicky. 

I believe StFX has the right idea with prioritizing collaboration over competition because as we build relationships that will carry over as alumni, and stay with us forever, we learn to interact, gain information and ideas, and to accept responsibility within our roles. 

Whether it’s the friends we make, or the ring that binds us, there is a strong sense of community on campus. Competition is a wonderful driving force if you are passionate about the subject or activity at hand, but it isn’t a means to promote continued success. 

Competition can also be detrimental if people don’t know how to cope with loss, and it can lead to conflict. What differentiates this conflict from conflict within collaboration is that within a group, the conflict can be resolved with discussion and expansion. If it comes down to it, any person in a group can be replaced; whereas in competition the only resolve is to compete again. 

We all want to be the best at anything we do, it’s natural to want to succeed. Working with a partner or a team often has unforeseen benefits and can help with the natural progression to grow. 

When partnered with competition, I believe the two can be instrumental to the success of a person and their peers, but if I had to choose, it would definitely be collaboration.