See my latest mailshot which seems to be generating some interest.
|Is competition what it’s all about?
I’ve just taken some time out to go skiing. You might think the Sochi Olympics was my inspiration, but I am sorry to tell you it wasn’t. More the desire to swop the British rain for the fresh air and sunshine of the French Alps. It also gave me some time out to think about a something I have had on my mind over this last month. The role of competition and collaboration in business?
Nowadays, we seem to be on the receiving end of incessant messages about being the best, from the minute we wake up in the morning, till we go to bed at night. Targets, quotas, reviews, appraisals, investigations, reports, league tables, goals, aims, achievements and tests. We’re constantly being encouraged to measure our success in terms of being better than the next person. You only have to look at the modern NHS and Schools where the new operating model makes competition the “be all and end all” for success.
Recently, I have been working with a couple of small Companies who come together to service a major client. One of them buys its sales and marketing expertise from the other. An agent arrangement. Individually, in their own right, each business is striving to deliver what they think their customer need. But put them together, without a shared vision and their natural behaviour is to compete against each other instead of collaborating.
As Nyden, Vitasek & Frydlinger say in their book ‘Getting to We’ – Businesses too often ask themselves and each other ‘who is winning? This pits them against their competitors, employees and suppliers’. They suggest its more effective to ask ‘How can I leverage the power of a business relationship so that everyone wins?’ .
It made me question, as a parent, whether we are giving our children a distorted message from the outset.
At a recent talk at Bath University Margaret Heffernan author of ‘A Bigger Prize’, argued strongly that competition isn’t everything and how it is possible to change your mindset. She talked about Finland in whose education system ‘students don’t take any standardised tests until they are eighteen and, while they get written assignments, they don’t get grades. This means teachers can’t compare, or rank…. neither can the students themselves – or their parents. Finnish schools are not inspected and there are no league tables.’
This doesn’t mean to say Finns aren’t competitive – after all they invented ‘Angry Birds’. Its more that ‘Finish parents define learning as developing the individual; sharing, helping, doing things together and being part of the community rather than trying to do better than your neighbour’ and aren’t these the very qualities we need to make our lives more productive and preferable.
It seems the key for my two companies, is for them to use their individual strengths to drive their business forward in a collaborative way, by building trust, having transparency in their motives and actions and finding that sweet spot of compatibility.
Perhaps more Olympic Bobsleigh than Slalom!