The other day i was talking with a Japanese student about his dating habit. He said he needed the feel of competition, needed the adrenalin rush, so he likes compa. Compa is a special kind of group-blind date very popular in Japan. Generally a guy and a girl agree to bring over their friends, so they make a party of let say 5 guys and 5 girls. It is a sort of double date, except it is on the mass scale and it is not decided who is really trying to date who.  It is called compa after “competition”, i.e. the boys are supposed to compete for the girls like I guess fishes or ants do when they feel romantic.

So are you after the girls or after the competition?

We all learned about competitive markets, Adam Smith and evolution theory, so we learnt that competition is good. We actually often say this in everyday life, whether it is about teaching kids swim or about motivating colleagues. From “A beautiful mind” we also learned, that while competition is good, cooperation can have its place on this planet, too, and should not entirely banished. It depends on where you work, but sometimes I feel that in real life the only place for cooperation is during diplomatic talks about avoiding the nuclear holocaust and during the Oscar, when everyone is very thankfull to all the colleagues.

However, the example of compa points out that competition can be just a stupid way to avoid actual work. Coma often goes the way the guys start competing with each other, who is more funny, who is lauder etc. and they actually enjoy it. They enjoy it much better than interacting / dating with a girl. Compa helps avoid the problem at hand: talking to a girl or a blind date is scary,alpha-male your buddies is something you do every day, and it is fun. Silently compa takes out the dating from the dating, and creates and artificial reward to the participants. Both girls and boys feel much more comfortable together with their friends, and if no actual pairing happened, it is all cool: we all loose, but I was the best. All our friends can testify how witty we were, how chfunny or how cute little cloths we dressed in. Boys are stupid:  they wouldn’t appreciate how expensive brand cloths I wear – but my girlfriends do. Girls are stupid: I have these extremely funny off-color  jokes, and none of them like them – yet my friends laughed together. So even if it was a totally unsuccesfull date for a dozen of people, it can be still satisfying. More importantly, the rules of being successful at a date and enjoy a compa can be slightly different, so it not only rewards while one is not necessarily succesfull, but may rewards forsomething which is totally irrelevant and  unimportant from the perspective of winning with the opposite sex.   things that :   . So let’s do compa, and all our friends will know how cool we are. A 1on1 date is risky, scary, and noone will give positive, reinforcing feedback. So in short: compa is the way to avoid the real battlefield for the sake of a shinny, unimportant one for immediate satisfaction.

What is the key point here? It is a competition, but the judgmenet is artificial. No guys opinion ever count however alpha-maled him, if the chicks do not care. The guys should not be the judges, where a single chick is the supposedly target. Yet, we stand now with a glorious competition which actually reminds me many competitive field in life.

Do you remember school? Were you straight A? Did it do any good? Have you found useful ever that you learned to solve the sin(x)*cos(x)>1 equation? I work in a university at an engineering department and the only time when i have to use basic mathematics, linear algebra or such is when I teach the youth for this extremely important knowledge.

Have you been in a business plan competition? Have the most marvelous, innovative ideas made your jaw drop? After two years, how many of those ideas became a business? And were they more succesfull than an average “lets open a pizzeria” idea?  I do not say that it is a total waste of time to go to a MIT or Harvard business plan competition, yet let us be frank and admit that there are typical business ideas for business plan competition and typical business ideas that make a good business. It is like there are typical research topics and business ideas for proposals, and there are working ideas. I am with David Heinemeier Hansson and his fellows on this: e.g. Zappos have never sounded good on paper. Selling shoes is not sexy. They hardly got any VC money, and they struggled from months to months to get founding.  They sell shoes, they are not Facebook-Twitter-like  wunder-child of the new web 2.0 or what age. And unlike Facebook or Twitter, they had a constant stream income from day 1, because they actually fill a market gap and they have an actual service!

Don’t get me wrog. One can learn useful things at school, esp. in a good one, or at a business plan competition, esp. in a good one. Yet sometimes it is a good idea forget the competitions. Competitions often give fake, biased and distorted feedback, so people should go out to the battlefield if they want to learn the art of war. And going for the competitions is a very dangerous way of being busy. It is very engaging and satisfying to have straight A or to win some nice, big thingy that has your name on it. But being straight A in school is not much more real than being a karate champion in a video game.

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