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Research Finds Competition Fuels Motivation When Resources are Scarce

Research Finds Competition Fuels Motivation When Resources are Scarce

Research by Todd Moss, assistant professor of entrepreneurship, has been accepted for publication by the Academy of Management Journal. The paper, titled “Cooperation vs. Competition: Alternative Goal Structures for Motivating Groups in a Resource Scarce Environment,” finds that competitive goal structures generally lead to higher levels of motivation within groups in a resource-scarce environment. Co-authors are Geoff Kistruck (York University), Robert Lount (Ohio State University), Brett Smith (Miami University) and Brian Bergman (Miami University).

Moss and his coauthors undertook a field experiment within a base-of-the-pyramid setting where resource scarcity is extremely high. Specifically, they collected data on 44 communities in rural Sri Lanka 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, and subsequent follow-up interviews and focus groups, collectively suggest that competitive goal structures are more effective at motivating groups within a resource scarce environment. However, the 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.

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