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The Power of Competition

by Margaret Gilsenan, Chief Strategy Officer

For anyone who has entered industry awards, you will know they are hard work.  The AIMs, D&ADs, ICADs, Sharks, Effies, Cannes, all involve various levels of selecting work, poring over data, writing papers, creating case films.  And when you have an entry date looming, you ask yourself the question… is this worth it?  Would life not be easier without constant competition?

There is also a creeping prevailing sense in society that competition is bad, it brings out the worst in us.  It creates inequality.  It should be confined to the sports field.

Having asked my competitive self ‘is this worth it’ mid Effies, I decided to study what advantage competition brings with it, for us as individuals and as businesses.  My conclusion is that I agree with  Tim Cook who said “The reality is, is that we love competition….. we think it makes us all better”.

Interestingly the writings also suggest that there is as much advantage to competing with yourself as there is with others. Setting your own goals, beating your own previously held records.

Here are ten benefits (there are probably more) outlining the common themes across all my reading that healthy competition* brings with it… in life, in sport, in business.

  1. It keeps us on our toes. Having a competitive nature prevents complacency.  If you succeed, you are motivated to always improve.  If you fail, you can use it to motivate yourself to keep going. 
  2. It generates more clarity. You can’t be competitive at something unless you know what you are aiming for.
  3. It inspires greater creativity. To do things better, you need to be a better problem solver and be more solution driven.
  4. It causes you to do more self-reflection. To do better, you will need to know your strengths and weaknesses, and identify what you need to improve.
  5. It compels us to give things a go. Because competitive people tend to see failure as part of the journey not the end of it. They are more comfortable failing, in the hope that next time will be better/successful.
  6. It is satisfying. When managed properly, and realistically, it brings the satisfaction of completing goals.
  7. It motivates us to strive to do better. “Believing that your competition is stronger and better than you pushes you to better yourselves.” Simon Sinek.
  8. It makes us resilient. Competitive people don’t always win, they have to have wider comfort zones.  You learn to cope with failing, to dust yourself down, and get back on that horse.
  9. It makes us makes us hopeful. You look to the competition, and ask if they can do it so can I?  You focus on the good, and ignore the bad. 
  10. It helps us to live fuller lives, because you live with the belief that anything is possible. Michael Jordan: “You have competition every day because you set such high standards for yourself that you have to go out every day and live up to that.”

Off now to compete against myself,  Je pars pour établir un nouveau record personnel en Duolingo.

* Disclaimer: Love this picture of the Bonny Baby competition in Butlins but do not consider it ‘Healthy Competition’.