Cooperation Leads to Success

Competition or cooperation? Which works better? The answer, without a doubt, is cooperation. Many may say that competition is a breeding ground for success, however, scientists have repeatedly verified that cooperation has the strongest long-term impact. Yet big business, government, and parental influences continue to encourage competition as a successful tool, completely ignoring the power of cooperation. None of these groups seem to realize that competition might be the cause of turmoil and unsuccessful events. Some research has even shown that too much competition may cause poor health choices. Yet we continue to hold the cherished belief that competition (not cooperation), to paraphrase Sigmund Freud, ‘is the royal road to success.’

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If competition, supposedly, brings out the ‘beast’ in us, then research demonstrates that cooperation surely brings out the ‘best’ in us. Research has found this to be true in virtually every occupation, skill, or behavior tested. For instance, scientists who consider themselves cooperative tend to have more published articles than their competitive colleagues (Buffington). Cooperative business people have higher salaries. From elementary grades to college, cooperative students have higher grade point averages. Personnel directors who work together have fewer job vacancies to fill. And, not surprisingly, cooperation increases creativity. Unfortunately, most people are not taught cooperative skills.

University of Minnesota professors, Dr. David W. Johnson and Dr. Roger T. Johnson published a journal about the effects of cooperation vs competition. Dr. Roger Johnson explained, “If we are to teach people to be cooperative, then education and psychology must work together. You see, a typical classroom teacher is taught to keep students quiet and apart, indirectly fostering competition. Yet…people learn best when they work cooperatively with each other. Children who experience this type of learning at an early age carry it with them as they mature (Johnson & Johnson, 2009).” This type of learned behavior has reached big business and more importantly, our governmental system. Past government and present government are great examples of how competition diminishes cooperative efforts. David Johnson stated, “students feel good about themselves as learners when they cooperate. Their self-esteem increases, they have a better sense of community, belonging, and acceptance. One can also extrapolate this research to any setting.”

Sadly, our government has become something that these two professors feared would happen. Given their research and training tradition, the Johnsons were concerned that too much emphasis is placed on competition. Moreover, they felt that the means by which individuals once learned cooperative skills will erode eventually. Roger Johnson explains, ‘There are a lot of reasons to worry. Some of the standard ways that people once learned to cooperate – home, churches, communities – are not operating as they once did. Teaching young people how to cooperate does not receive the appropriate level of interest (Johnson & Johnson, 2009).’ As a result, competition has spread throughout our government. Only a few people are working towards changing this system.

Cooperation decreases when people are fighting for knowledge, work-space, personnel, or anything that helps them be successful. Resources exchange becomes valuable in creating a cooperative environment. It is also suggested that leadership be shared. Isasken believes cooperation is a form of leadership, equally shared by all group members. By sharing the leadership, you allow others to take on initiative and to be integral parts of the group. There is an increased sense of ‘ownership’ of plans and ideas by all members, and the work environment is pleasurable (Isaksen, Dorval, & Treffinger, 2011).

In an effort to repair our broken governmental system, leaders need to reinforce team efforts. When the team does well, the entire group should be rewarded; instead of praising just one person for a job well done, utilizing a team approach is suggested. This will minimize individual competition and maximize cooperation. Research supports the fact that individuals who have witnessed a cooperative act will ‘pass it on,’ sharing some degree of cooperation with the next person they meet. Anytime you help another person feel better, you have increased the probability that he or she will be cooperative toward you. As Isaksen summarizes, ‘Actions speak louder than words and encourage another person to cooperate with you (Isaksen, Dorval, & Treffinger, 2011).’

Cooperation is a valuable commodity and works best when it is freely given and indirectly encouraged. It promotes goodwill toward men and women, and is a gift that is always appropriate. And there’s no better time to be cooperative. Sigmund Freud once said, “A man should not strive to eliminate his complexes, but to get into accord with them; they are legitimately what directs his conduct in the world.”

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Cooperation Leads To Success. (2021, Jun 22). Retrieved November 28, 2022 , from
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