Human nature is to compete. Especially among motivated and high-performing people competition is always “on”. Its tempting to value collaboration over competition, but I think that misses the point. One is a consequence and the other is a cause of being successful.
Human’s compete. Compete for resources, dates, money, power, influence, and notoriety. Without an outlet for competition it doesn’t mean that the competition goes away, it means it goes underground. It becomes political and potentially insidious; cancerous even.
I’ve worked at both very large public companies and very small start-up companies. Good ones and bad ones on both sides. Reflecting back on my time at the bad ones, there was this forced collaboration and “lets all get along” corporate culture exercise that, now in retrospect, I think caused a lot of the problems that made the company bad to begin with. The bad companies simply forgot how to win. Then they pushed the remaining employee “winners” out to door with a culture that tamped down competition.
Competition is healthy, and it doesn’t have to be overt or “in-your-face”. It does have to be open and honest, with the goal of winning individually aligned to the team goal of winning as an organization. A great team to me is full of highly competitive people. Their collaboration and “gelling” as a team comes from a sense of winning.