There’s a lesson business can learn from government and certainly government needs to learn from business. Non-profit organizations especially need to pay attention.

Let’s start with a question. Is a little internal friendly competition a good thing? Think about your response.

I say that very little and very infrequent friendly competition can be a good thing ONLY if the stakes are very low. Generally I do not like internal competition. It is destructive.

Why? Doesn’t competition in the market spur creativity? Doesn’t the threat of competition keep prices down and innovation up? Yes, but that competitive pressure is from the outside. It is dangerous from within.

First, not all competitive pressure generates positive responses. Think about marketing campaigns that tout the faults of the competition. One of the first responses to a competitive pressure is to find weakness in the opposition. That is not a good thing on the inside unless it is handled very skillfully. Do you want salesman John finding fault with with saleswoman Sally? Don’t foster fault finding.

Look at how this applies to the near total dysfunction of our government which runs almost entirely on internal competition. Using the standard red and blue team analogy, consider what is at stake for each team. If the blue team cooperates with the red team in the interest of the country, and a positive outcome results, the blue team could lose position and power! There’s a severe penalty for cooperation. The ‘friendly’ competition has far too much at stake.

The government problem is our problem. We have created it. When we target for removal any Republican who compromises with the Democrats, WE are creating gridlock.

In business, if losing the friendly competition means humiliation or job loss, more damage will be done to the business than good. Even little prizes can bring attention to and further creation of under performance. In government this has led to near total paralysis.

It is far better to reward the total effort, the team effort, the group result instead of the individual statistic. At the same time understand that not all tasks are team tasks. Develop individual talents but remember the total score belongs to the team.

Let me summarize. I don’t like internal competition. That doesn’t mean you need to rush to teamwork or team building. Start by developing strong individuals. Finally, have no tolerance for anyone who tears at the fabric of the team. All negativity from within needs to be corrected or eliminated.

Chris Reich