You’re absolutely on point with this article. Especially in Part 1 where you say,
“I remember these prizes being alluring — people were less willing to talk about what they were building, less willing to help others debug, because that was time they could spend building their hack.”
And it goes even beyond hackathons. It happens in the student culture in general. Just replace prizes with scholarships or grades. Or even business in general. Just replace prizes with bonuses.
The fundamental premise of education and business in North America, seems to be focused on competition above all things rather than collaboration and education.
“Pit people against each other and they’ll create a better product.” But if my experience has showed anything, it’s the exact opposite. Pit people against each other and they work on their own with out a care for others.
The winner may create a better product in comparison to everyone else, but it never is the best. Not to mention the bridges that get burned on the way. And I think it’s because, in part, feedback has turned into a result instead of a process.
“I’ll know I did a good job when I get that call from [insert company].” becomes the form of feedback rather than, “hey [insert colleague (or dare I say, competitor], what do you think of this?”
There nothing inherently wrong about competition until, as you say, people begin to care about something else and lose what is at the heart of what they are doing. Creativity becomes sacrificed and collaboration is lost. Ultimately resulting in an inferior idea that looks great only due to the tunnel vision that competition created.