Apparently, we perform better when there are fewer competitors. In the classroom, at least: Researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Haifa in Israel (highlighted in The Economist) found that test scores dropped as the number of students in the exam room increased.
Garcia and Tor set out to find out whether the results were due to the psychological effects from the perceived number of competitors or just distraction from so many people being crowded into one room. They designed two studies in which they told two sets of participants they were competing against a smaller or larger group of opponents. In both—one involved a general-knowledge quiz and the other an imaginary 5K race—the participants who thought they were competing against a smaller number of people scored better.
The study could have profound effects on the way tests are run in schools. But what implications does it have as a management idea? Would knowing you’re competing with one person for the top job help you perform better than if you thought the field was open? (Fewer succession races these days are sharply defined.) Would fewer teams of more people compete better than more teams of smaller numbers of people? And would do we perform better in markets where there are fewer outside competitors?
Several commenters on the story felt the applications to business were minimal. What do you think?
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