Friday, January 09, 2009

This could work either way for us...

Do you feel like you compete with the guys in FJ and TP, or just your actual neighbors?  It could make a difference in your competitive drive.
If you've ever had to take a test in a room with a lot of people, you may be able to relate to this study: The more people you're competing against, it turns out, the less motivated and competitive you are. Psychologists observed this pattern across several different situations. Students taking standardized tests in more crowded venues got lower scores. Students asked to complete a short general-knowledge test as fast as possible to win a prize if they were in the fastest 20 percent completed it faster if they were told that they were competing against 10 people rather than 100. Students asked how fast they would run in a race for a $1,000 prize if they finished in the top 10 percent said they would run faster in a race against 50 people rather than 500. Similarly, students contemplating a job interview or Facebook-friending contest said they would be less competitive if they expected more competitors - even if "winning" only required finishing in the top 20 percent. The authors conclude that competitiveness was curtailed because the larger the group, the more difficult it is to compare oneself directly to others. [More][More]
We tend to overplay I think the anxiety-producing and socially corrosive aspects of competition too much, even as our professions becomes more intensely competitive. These are also attitudes prominent is well-established producers who have more to lose than gain. Understanding where those judgments come from might be a good start. An even deeper look at invisible competition from Tyler Cowen:
We tend to forget that competition often breeds cooperation. What is the contest between Archie and Reggie for the attention of Veronica but a bid for an alliance, a cooperative relationship? Very often, cooperation is needed even before one can compete. In order to succeed in the global marketplace, corporations strive mightily to instill the cooperative spirit in their employees, training them, investing in a shared corporate identity, and working to keep up workplace morale. And as both businesses and individuals become more successful, they are brought into more numerous relationships with other firms and people that require coordination and collaboration. Managing these proliferating relationships has become a major preoccupation of American ­business.
The same technologies that foster invisible competition also promote new kinds of social ties and cooperation. Through my blog I come into contact with strangers around the world, and some I eventually meet for interesting meals and conversations. Even before she started her freshman year of college this fall, my stepdaughter was trading instant messages with her future classmates, starting new friendships with people she had never seen. Of course, she might use Facebook to get a competitive edge in flirting with some guy; that just shows again how closely competition and cooperation are ­intertwined. [More]
 I'm still trying to decide what if anything this says about global competition in agriculture.  I do know I think differently about how my farm needs to perform after going to national meetings and especially after visiting to farmers overseas.  Does it make me a better farmer?
That's a tougher call.

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