Competition versus co-operation

I am known to have a competitive streak. At various times in my life, I have tried to hide this, mostly because it can be viewed as unseemly for my gender. However, as I get older, I understand that I am who I am and if someone doesn't like it, well so be it.

I think my competitive spirit is a combination of nature and nurture, the nature part I have managed to pass on to two out of three of my offspring, with the third gaining it by nurture - three out of three! My sons were born ferociously competitive, but not my daughter.

In her first running race, she stopped in the middle of the race to pick something up - ''look Mum, a feather''. I didn't know where to turn - 11 years of competing with her older brothers has rubbed off and nurture has had its way, I've even see her popping her elbow out on the netball court!

It's interesting to think of the origin of competitive behaviour. Biologists argue competitiveness is a biological trait that co-evolved with the basic need for human survival. Economists argue competition is an essential force in maintaining efficient markets and without it, monopolies form.

Yet psychologists describe competition as an extrinsic incentive, rewarding a behaviour that might be short-lived once the reward disappears. These extrinsic motivations crowd-out the intrinsic motivations (comments by Sander van der Linden in The Psychology of Competition).

Therefore, the strange bedfellow of competition, is co-operation, which is what our species truly needs for survival. Think about our relationships with other species. If we destroy bees, plants are not pollinated and so on it goes.

Why am I raising all of this? Well I am trying to justify turning something I am doing for a good cause into a competition, to motivate myself and my ''competitors''.

You see, occasionally, wanting to win and raising the stakes is a good thing to do. Recently, I signed up to an event called ''Toss the Boss'' run by the Malcam Charitable Trust to raise funds for youth development.

Toss the Boss entails dropping a number of local bosses off the Forsyth Barr Stadium - attached to a rope. As part of agreeing to do this, I am expected to find people to sponsor me. All the money goes directly to the Malcam Trust.

It will use the money to expose young people to a variety of experiences and career opportunities so they feel connected in their community and inspired to contribute.

Can't really argue with that and really, there is nothing not to like about what the trust is doing.

So, on June 2, they will be dropping the bosses off the stadium. And therein lies my challenge. With the wonders of modern technology, by visiting the ''Give a Little'' page, I can see that to date $405 has been donated to Malcam for me to be ''tossed'' off the stadium - which is great and I thank all those donors, but, I can also see many of the other bosses are ahead of me already! I am currently in sixth place - I am ahead of the mayor though in the only race I will stand against him!

My Facebook network has clearly let me down and so I am unashamedly touting my Otago Daily Times readers to support this fine cause.

I believe, for perhaps the first time in my life, this is an occasion where no one can criticise me for turning this serious matter into a competition. And in thinking about my competition versus co-operation discussion, I have decided I need both, competition to urge me on to raise more money and co-operation to assure me that the rope is genuinely attached, because as well as being highly competitive, I greatly fear heights!

-Anna Campbell is managing director of AbacusBio Ltd, a Dunedin-based agribusiness consulting and new ventures company.

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