As is made evident by a consideration of imitation we are eminently social creatures. We imitate the acts of those about us. Imitation is, however, only the first stage of our social relationship. We first imitate and then compete. I purchase an automobile in imitation of the acts of my friends, but I compete with them by securing a more powerful or swifter car. By erecting a new building because some other banker has done so, the second individual does more than imitate. He competes with the first by planning to erect a more magnificent structure and on a more commanding site. Or a great retail store, announcing a ``February sale'' of ``white goods'' or furniture, invariably tries to surpass the bargains offered by rival establishments.
We do indeed imitate and compete with all our associates, but those whom we recognize as our peers are the ones who stimulate us more to the instinctive acts of imitation and competition.
_Our actual equals stimulate us less than those whom we recognize as the peers of our ideal selves--of ourselves as we strive and intend to become. The man on the ladder just above me stirs me irresistibly_.
The effect of one individual upon others, then, is not confined to imitation. There is a constant tendency to vary from and to excel the model. My devotion to golf is mainly due to he example of some of my friends. My ambition is to outplay these same friends. Imitation and competition, apparently antagonistic, are in reality the two expressions for our social relationships. We first imitate and then attempt to differentiate ourselves from our companions.
The manufacturer or merchant imitates his competitor, but tries also to surpass him. Indeed it is a truism that competition is the
life of trade. In the shop and in the office, on the road and behind the counter, in all buying and selling, competition is essential to the greatest success. Competition, the desire to excel, is universal and instinctive. It gives a zest to our work that would otherwise be lacking. In every sphere of human activity competition seems essential for securing the best results.
_We assume ordinarily that competition exists only between individuals. As a matter of fact, a slight degree of competition may be aroused between a man's present efforts and his previous records_.
While not so tense or so compelling as is competition between individuals, it has the advantage of avoiding the creation of jealousies. In all the more exciting and stimulating games, rivalry between individuals is a prominent feature. In golf the game is frequently played without this factor, the only competition being with previous records or with the mythical Bogy.
Such competition adds considerable zest
to the game, and the same principle is applicable to business. The most compelling rivalry is between peers; without this, however, it is possible to pit the possibilities of the present month against the achievements of the previous four weeks or the past year or even against a hypothetical individual ``bogy.'' This bogy may be fixed by the executive, and the man induced to compete with it. Thus the dangers of competition may be minimized and the advantages of the human instinctive desire for competition be gained.
In the average well-organized business the carrying out of such a plan would not be difficult. Studying the previous records of his men, a manager or foreman could determine what each individual bogy should be. The employee should know just what the _*record is_ that he is competing with, and that his success or failure would be recorded to his credit or otherwise. Above all, the bogy must be fair and within the power of the man to accomplish.
_Competition need not be confined to individuals._
_Frequently one city finds a stimulus in competing with another. Nations compete with one another. In any organization one section may compete with another_.
In an army there may be competition between regiments.