A Common Myth about Collaboration

Collaboration makes you competitive



  1. Royan,

    I struggle with this one… @gcouros and I have talked at length about cooperative competition based on the principles of teamwork, etc… But if we are trying build community, can we actually do this through competition based on collaboration? Yes, we may move forward as a unit but there may be a cost involved due to competition.

    The more I read abut competition, the more questions I have. Competition has been everywhere in my life and it has worked for me for the most part (although I have done some dumb things based in sport)…. Some I go back and forth on this one.

    I do not like when things are dichotomized like collab vs comp… But I wonder about those who never feel they can be successful because they have “lost” all their life… Individually and collaboratively. How can any form of competition work to engage?

    So, I am not disagreeing with you but asking for more insight into your thoughts on this. I look forward to your response.

    1. Thanks so much for bringing this up Chris. I was hoping someone would. I intentionally left my post somewhat ambiguous because I was hoping to provoke thought, and possibly disagreement. Let me tell you the impetus for making this poster.

      I spoke to a stakeholder the other day who had reservations with the importance I put upon collaboration in my learning environment. Their main contention was that collaboration is nice and good, but how does that prepare students for a competitive ‘real world’, and particularly the workplace? This is a mindset that I believe is pervasive; the myth that learning collaboration skills is in conflict with being a highly successful, competitive, self-realizing individual with a great job.

      This is essentially how I responded:

      Seeing your classmates (or staff, colleagues etc.) as competition ironically will make you less competitive. Learning higher order collaboration skills makes you paradoxically more competitive. In your day to day life, who do you see as being successful? Are they the people who have great difficulty working with others, or are they the ones who listen well, are responsive to others’ needs, communicate honestly and clearly, and who use tools that help them collaborate on a larger, seamless scale?

      I did not receive a response to that.

      I completely agree with you that a high stakes competitive learning environment is a dangerous place where the wrong learning gets done. Thanks so much for the comment.

      1. Gotcha… I love how people state this competitive “real world” is a good thing… child poverty, government debt, war, bailouts – all a result of this competitive real world. When will we realize that people working together are much more powerful than working alone? Why not work with our kids so they work together to create a better world outside of school? Thanks for the discussion!

  2. Hey Royan — I really liked this post. My partners and I built FirstClass, one of the earliest & most successful education collaboration systems in the world. We’re now building a new product, Edsby (www.edsby.com) to solve the very problems that yo are talking about. I notice that you are in Richmond Hill, so are we! It would be great to talk to you and have you drop by.

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