Competition orientation, as opposed to cooperation orientation, means the decision or the decision-making pattern in which a system focuses on itself and ranks the linking with its environment as secondary. This can be observed in people, teams and organisations. Under which circumstances is this orientation activated, or developed? Every system is dependent upon its environment. The looser the connection, i.e. the easier the environment can be exchanged for the system, the more urgent it will be for a system to seek orientation in its own pole, and thus to enter into competition for scarce resources with other systems.
When interests are focused on the optimisation of its own pole, it provides the system with resources which are used immediately or in the future.
The extent to which a system depends upon the development of internal reserves (=future), depends a lot upon which assumptions are made about what will happen on the side of the environment in the case of scarcities: will you be left alone, will you be cared for, will you be ‘consumed’, or will you be ‘helped’? For this reason, it is important for every system to reflect upon whether these basic assumptions and the decision-making patterns which build upon them, are (still) appropriate for the present environment.
In summary, it is theoretically important, in the short term, not to see your own interests and competition orientation, as identical. It is in the interests of each system to compete as well as to cooperate! A system which is only orientated towards its own pole will, because of this, also always destroy itself in the long-term. A survival danger is also hidden in the approach by those who only aim for cooperation, in a world in which it is clear that not everyone cooperates. To hold up one of these two orientations as morally good or bad, is untenable in system theory.