Competing collaboratively

Another great share from Wharton’s Adam Grant. In his podcast episode this week, “Become friends with your rivals,” Grant explores how even in those competitions that are zero sum, like Olympic marathon races, where there can only be one winner, rivals actually perform better when they help each other. My favorite clip:

“Some competitions are zero sum. But our feelings about competing don’t have to be. Supportive rivalries click into place when you’re working towards something larger than your own success. Find a rival you admire. Tell them why you respect them. Explore what you can accomplish together. And then bring on the friendly competition. And bring it on as hard as you can.”

If you’re a high school student with someone in your circle you identify as a rival–a fellow student who shares the top spot in the class with you, the actress with whom you always compete for lead roles, or a competitive runner on another school’s cross country team–what would happen if you found a way to help each other be better? Not at the expense of your own progress and success, but in support of it?

Imagine the student at the top of the class going to her rival and suggesting they pair up to help each other prepare for their most difficult exams, while simultaneously tutoring their fellow students who were struggling in those courses. Neither would refrain from trying to best the other on exam day. But they’d make each other—and their classmates—even better. And there’s not a single college that wouldn’t take notice of their commitment to competing collaboratively.