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As an undergrad enrolled in Game Theory class, there was a lot of talk about competition vs. cooperation. Although cooperation would nearly always yield a better outcome in those theoretical scenarios, it seemed to defy the way human nature worked in reality. A Bigger Prize turns that assumption on its head. Not only does Heffernan provide evidence that competition is not as productive as it is often touted to be, she also provides inspiring examples that show what has already been accomplished by good collaborators. She argues powerfully for dispensing of the idea that we are stuck in a zero-sum game (in order for me to win, you have to lose). Instead, she proposes and supports with evidence that greater outcomes (or bigger prizes) can be enjoyed by both of us when we work together.
Heffernan covers a wide variety of industries: education, music, entertainment, academia, medicine, scientific research, plant and animal farming, pharmaceuticals, and even religion. The recurring pattern that emerges from these examples is that competitive models promote conformity, cheating, fraud, selfishness, and risk intolerance. Conversely, cooperative models promote creativity, innovation, a higher degree of investment and accountability, intrinsic motivation to produce quality work/products, and freedom. Cooperative models aren’t without challenges, however. They require good communication, units that are small enough to safely fail, willingness to share resources, and most importantly of all, TRUST. A cooperative environment, therefore, has the best chance to solve our modern world’s most complex problems.