Cooperation Vs. Competition: Alternative goal structures for motivating groups in a resource scarce environment

Geoffrey M. Kistruck, Robert B. Lount, Brett R. Smith, Brian J. Bergman, Todd Moss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

There is a growing consensus that cooperative goal structures are more effective at motivating groups than competitive goal structures. However, such results are based largely on studies conducted in highly-controlled settings where participants were provided with the necessary resources to accomplish their assigned task. In an attempt to extend the boundary conditions of current theoretical predictions, we undertook a field experiment within a base-of-the-pyramid setting where resource scarcity is extremely high. Specifically, we collected data on 44 communities within rural Sri Lanka who were tasked with contributing a portion of their resources to the construction of a school building; 24 were assigned to a competition condition and 20 to a cooperation condition. The results of our field experiment, and subsequent follow-up interviews and focus groups, collectively suggest that competitive goal structures generally lead to higher levels of motivation within a resource scarce environment. However, our results also suggest that cooperative goal structures can be highly motivating when groups are unfamiliar with one another, as cooperating with unfamiliar groups can provide access to valuable and rare knowledge within such settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1174-1198
Number of pages25
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Volume59
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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