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a case pro and against business awards

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

Competition is a natural state of human nature, and logically the state of our social organization. We compete for parents attention if/once we have siblings, we compete with peers in video games and contests, in application to a prestigious school or college, and this list goes on. Not surprisingly, large organizations compete for a prestigious award and small startups compete in a cash prize competition. 

Below is the list of the benefits and misfortunes associated with participating in contests (for the purpose of this particular brief note such words as "award", "contest", and "competition" are used interchangeably).  

1. A large private and public sector organization participating in an award competition

What does it gain?

  • PR and media exposure (who would say no to that, especially when it is a good one?)

  • Reenergizing and re-engaging employees (unless the management team have to "torture" them in a race to prepare to meet qualification requirements). Because neurologically humans are wired to have a feeling of belonging to something good, worth boasting to friends and family about. An employee is more likely to curse their own boss rather complain about a company, his community.

  • Gaining deeper insights into the state of the industry, your industry peers.

  • Last and the most important benefit is a terrific opportunity for the management team to get unique insights of own state of business, discover the real status of affairs, get yourself humbled by the level of operational efficiencies, transparency and accountability. And THIS ultimately allows the management team to address identified challenges and make the organization more fit and competitive in the market. Bingo!

Where can award participation go wrong?

  • When a company's employees are put under unhealthy pressure in order to prepare for participation in a competition or award. This eventually leads to a drop of enthusiasm and negative moods across the organization. The management team can secure glory on a stage yet gaining a strong setback in employee satisfaction and engagement.

  • Related to that, if during a competition preparation phase "the flaws" are being identified internally, but masked for the sake of the competition and management team doesn’t have interest or courage to address those after the contest - for employees, an award becomes a synonym of a mascarade or Potemkin Village. 

  • When management has not won the award translates the disappointment to the staff and starts looking for a scapegoat department or an individual. Same result as above, leading to the development of employees' contagious fear of all kind of competitive rankings and awards.

  • Additional PR most of the time brings scrutiny across the company’s all units and operations. It is essential not to attract attention at the wrong time.

2. When entrepreneurial projects and startups compete

Benefits are numerous and excessive

  • Gaining so needed PR, media exposure and visibility for a startup business. Unlike large corporates, the "small guys" rarely have a dedicated person or even a dedicated budget for that

  • Attracting potential investors and customers

  • Gaining market validation from jury and experts

  • Potentially getting cash

  • Improving presentation and pitching skills

Where can startup's competition go wrong?

  • It is addictive (just like raising capital) - it takes time from building business, improving the product. There are two classical cases, when a winning team, getting reassurance, can startup keep chasing more competitions in pursuit of another victory. Case #2 is when a losing team being overtaken by a feeling of revanchism and in order to prove to the organizers, to peers and themselves just happened injustice will start chasing more competitions. This is when it can become a race with no finish line. 

  • It hurts ego when you don’t win. If founders can’t cope with the possibility of not winning - disappointment debilitates creative energy of themselves and the team.

Are competitions and awards good or bad for the companies?

Verdict: They are good,

as long as 

you find a contest suitable for you.

With competition is like with a three-piece suit. You need to ensure it fits you, your objectives. You are not trying to redesign yourself to get you into a costume that, if not for you, will make you look rather sloppy than fabulous.


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