CompetitionOpen Access

Competition

We strive with and against one another for limited resources and status

We can’t avoid comparing ourselves to others. And once we can compare, we’re driven to compete to enhance our relative sense of self-worth.

Swab & Johnson (2019). Steel sharpens steel: A review of multilevel competitiveness in organizations. Journal of Organizational Behavior.

The study

Setup

121 students were shown one of 3 adverts for watch brand Swatch. Either a control with no sales event, a limited-time sale (6 days) or one limited in quantity available (100) triggering competition. They were then asked how likely they’d be to buy the watch.

Results

Those in the competition condition were more likely to buy than those under time pressure.

Study graph

Key Takeaways

A little competition can be fun.

We are naturally competitive; where there are numbers, there are games. And though it shouldn't be the only driver of behavior change, subtle uses with measurable goals, leaderboards and appropriate Rewards can provide benefit. What positive behaviors do you want to encourage? Tell the Story of why the competition exists to help motivate further. Ensure that the competition also aligns with others' own aspirations.

Takeaway image

Allow everyone to ‘succeed’, regardless of ability.

Bad competition creates clear winners and losers, which can demotivate the latter and reduce behavior change. Good competition includes ways to celebrate all efforts to reach a goal. Be sensitive to our desire to compare, e.g. only show individuals their relative place in a leaderboard.

Takeaway image

Make competition team-based.

Too much competition can reduce internal motivation. However competing as broader teams can prevent this. Collaboration is a powerful tool to use with competition to foster new collective norms around the intended behavior.

Takeaway image
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Competition

Competition

We strive with and against one another for limited resources and status

We can’t avoid comparing ourselves to others. And once we can compare, we’re driven to compete to enhance our relative sense of self-worth.

The study

Setup

121 students were shown one of 3 adverts for watch brand Swatch. Either a control with no sales event, a limited-time sale (6 days) or one limited in quantity available (100) triggering competition. They were then asked how likely they’d be to buy the watch.

Results

Those in the competition condition were more likely to buy than those under time pressure.

study graph
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We don’t like uncertainty and generally stick to what we know

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We don’t like uncertainty and generally stick to what we know
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