through Competition

Almost two months ago, enjoying the Olympic Competitions, we witnessed a special and unique situation that made many of us reflect on the essence of the Olympics Valuesas well as on wider human behaviors.

I am talking about the double (shared) gold medal awarded in the high jump to the Italian Tamberi and the Qatari Barshim. The solution, although it foreseen in the regulation, has been only possible thanks to the personal decision taken by both athletes to stop competing.


tiebreak, please
“Tiebreaker, please”

This decision sparked debates, with arguments both favorable and against it.

For example, an article written by Ramón Cid, appeared in the Spanish newspaper El País,entitled:

Tiebreaker, please:I find it obscene that the possibility of not continuing to compete in the high jump is raised and a tie is agreed for two athletes to win the gold.

While on the other hand we saw many demonstrations in the social networks applauding the celebration of the two athletes for sharing the gold: Olympism at its best

Going through the El País article, I found many points to be considered, for example that the fact of not continuing to compete did not make us see which of the two contenders would have prevailed over the other, who would have beat the other.


But just when PREVALINGone over the other pops-up as the ultimate goal of the competition, it is when it generates the doubt if that is its true and ultimate reason. Or if prevailing over the other is only a consequence that could occur, and it is acceptable, but maybe it is not the last real reason to compete.

The truth is that I do not feel that I have the moral authority to sustain one or the other position, but what I would really like is to use this Olympic story to reflect on when COMPETITION creates and when it subtracts COLLECTIVE VALUE, when competition is really a means towards EXCELENCE and not just an excuse for individual affirmation.

And how the responsibility of channeling it one way or the other, lies within every one of us.

Maybe the clue to finding a solution is hidden between the lines of the rules that have made this solution, sharing the gold, possible.

Let’s remember what happened and the competition´s rules: the two athletes overcame the 2.37 meters, jumping all heights without errors, so they were completely tied, but they failed the 2.39 meters, using the three possible attempts.

In this case the rules say the following:

  • execute a single jump to the last failed height, at 2.39 in this case, and then, if they fail again,start to decrease one centimeter at a time, always with a single attempt, until one has crossed the height and the other has not.
  • Or, the athletes can decide to share the Gold Medal.

This could be very enlightening. When the competition has taken us to a maximum level of excellence, momentarily unbeatable, the rules consider the possibility to start to reduce expectations with the only aim to recognize a single winner.


It is here where we can see the Olympic spirit in all its height.

That spirit that encourages competition to raise the maximum level of each individual’s potential and the Collective Excellence. And when do happen that the Competition no longer enables to raise the result any more it considers fairer, to stop competing instead to lowering the targets till the defeat of one of the contenders.

Does this also happen in Organizational management?

It is clearly and widely accepted that Competition is a fundamental and inalienable value of our economic and management model and that it enables progress.

However, if we read between the lines of the Tamberi-Barshim’s story, it is telling us that there are times that competition, between people or entities, if not well channeled or managed, can drive to dangerous behaviors or fights, with a negative impacton the overall results.



This is why, as managers, we must be aware that the type of competitive environment we are fostering within our teams will have a direct impact on the level of Collective Excellence achievable by the Organization.

Because this isthe ultimate goal organizations have, the Collective Excellence not individual excellence.

If it is so, in sport as well in personal life or in organizations, it is key understand when the Competition is HEALTHY and when it starts to be UNHEALTHY.

As managers, it is our responsibility to promote the most appropriate organizational environment and behaviors. The ones which will drive Organizations to Excellence.

Among the many,

I would recommend:

  • Lead with Purposeand Values (Purpose & Behavioral Based Management)

  • Promote the achievement of Collective Objectives(Team Based Management by Objectives – Team Mindset)

  • Act according to the best version of yourself. Be a better version of yourself. Stop comparingyourself to others, and if you are comparing yourself to others it must be not in order to stand out but to continue to improve yourself.

And what would I recommend to avoid?

  • Zero-Sum Game, my success depends, also, on your failure. This leads to seeing others as our enemies, not our allies. This situation blows-up Collaboration. This situation blows-up Collaboration.

  • Individualistic Management (Individual Based Objectives Management). It encourages maximizing personal, not collective, results.

  • Opacity and Secrecy in business and information management.

TAKE AWAY: Let’s manage Competition as the means towards the COLLECTIVE EXCELLENCE and PERSONAL IMPROVEMENT, not with the only aimto prevail over others at any cost.

SEEK EXCELLENCE and, sooner or later, YOU’LL WIN.

Luca Boer – Partner & Co-CEO Talent Republic

Human-Tech believer

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