If you could question one thing that seems to be unquestionable, what would that one thing be? I’m not talking about the kind of inquiry that provides some additional data. Or even incremental insight. I’m talking about the kind of question that has the potential to provide a complete new understanding of something that conventional wisdom has always taken for granted. And you have too!

The kind of question where people would have questions about you for even raising your question! Don’t hang me out to dry yet … just hang with me for a bit here.

Sometimes, what seems real isn’t always true. I explored this in the March 2017 issue of The Front Porch. Recently, I was at a client preparing to deliver an international webinar. They rightfully put great weight on scientific research. We were discussing their benchmark for the content of the presenters they hire. I liked what my client said:

We are looking for the proven … not the popular.

It was well-put and well-advised in the context of the speed at which we move. The proven sometimes takes time. Sometimes a lot of time. Especially when the research begins to question what is popular, convenient … or just so well-ingrained that no one would dare question it.

For instance, I have often wondered about the cost of competition. It would be easy to write a book on the benefits of competition. There is no question that the competitive spirit stretches individuals and teams to reach deeper and farther than they thought possible. That is both real and true. It sits at the very heart of sports, reality TV and in the reality of business … including not-for-profits and even churches too. No question, it can bring out the very best in team and organizational camaraderie.

At the same time, it can bring out the worst in all of us.

Yet, have we ever really questioned the cost of competition … executed consciously or subconsciously? Competition by definition divides. For example, sports fans … in college and professional sports. Yet, you will also find them in the stands of Little League baseball games and sitting in the lawn chairs lining the sidelines of 6-year-olds playing soccer. You will certainly see it on the fields and in the rinks. We would also find it in the hallways of academia and the laboratories of medical research. You will also find it in classrooms and corporate offices coast-to-coast. In some cases, unintended competition with unintended consequences.

What discoveries have been missed where well-intended competitors sit individually holding the missing cards of an unknown collaborative breakthrough? What seeds of division, hate and bullying are planted as early as high school crosstown rivalries. Fortunately, it is rare for competition to evolve into such an extreme case in which a Dodger baseball fan beat a Giant’s baseball fan into a coma earlier this decade. But there are plenty of fights that happen on and off the field.

What does competition do to the heart of the direct or indirect competitor?

Certainly, in some cases, it creates a sense of respect for others who compete in the same arena. But not always. And certainly not in the case of many fans who cheer them on. What is the relational cost paid by competitive siblings or coworkers.

More importantly, what is the price our human race has paid when the seeds of competition have germinated into the seeds of division. Those seeds sometimes become the weeds of destruction rather that the wildflowers of discovery. Competition measures success in W’s and L’s. Coaches and consultants, alike, know that. Collaboration works towards everyone winning. Cures being discovered. Scientific revelations.

I know competition seems good on the outside. The question becomes, what is the long-term impact on the inside. It may be hard to prove and not popular to investigate.

I know it sounds so crazy to even question. Who questions the merits of the competitive spirit? Who would ever think that innocent competition could ever grow-up to unintentionally undermine or prevent some of the most important collaborative breakthroughs of the human race. It almost sounds un-American to question such a thing. Although, I think I just did.

Anything popular, yet unquestioned, eventually drifts to its own dark side. That’s true of a concept, a celebrity, an athlete, a business leader or a pastor. And the same is true for competition. For competition without a soul drifts.

Maybe competition, with a soul, eventually ignites the seeds of inspired collaboration. In the meantime, it might be worthy to explore. There have certainly been examples where one-time competitors joined efforts to ignite a new sense of collaboration.

In your own mind, what have you questioned that might be unquestionable?

It could very well initiate some spirited … and, yes, competitive … conversations. And, eventually, with some collaborative dialogue, it might spark a completely new concept. Regardless, they would be perfect conversations for any front porch!

Please share your question of the unquestionable below.