What we need is more collaboration not more competition

Collaboration not Competition –

guest post by David C Roberts

Whilst competition may bring the illusion of short term gains it must now be avoided in favour of an approach that makes the very best possible use of the limited resources that will be available to us all in the coming years.In my experience of working with organisations over the last 30 years it has become clear to me that when individuals, teams, organisations, and even governments collaborate great things can be achieved.

Lets have a look at a few examples of how collaboration works to improve the everyday life of citizens:

Healthcare – If you were under the surgeons knife would you want the team striving to save your life to be working together as a unit or to be in competition with each other?  Just close your eyes for a few moments and imagine what would happen if the theatre team behaved in the way that you, or some of your colleagues, do.

Innovation – How many of the great inventions of our time have been developed by an individual working alone? Not many.  I can, however, think of many examples of innovations that have been achieved by team working: The motor car; insulin; space travel; champions league football –
all of these have been achieved as a result of collaboration over a sustained period of time.

Community – Great communities are forged by individuals forming groups for the benefit of all. Great communities never consist of individuals working for personal gain.

Encouraging collaboration and co-operation is the responsibility of all of us and in particular the responsibility of senior management.  At home this is the job of parents, at school it is the job of the teachers, and at work it is the primary responsibility of the senior management team- the leaders.

How can we do this?

When organisations reward and recognise people for individual achievements then the organisation unwittingly or wittingly undermines collaboration. A strategy for ensuring collaboration may include the following charachteristics, which were identified by Will and Kenneth Hopper, that the early Puritan migrants to America found so effective.

First, the organisation needs crystal clarity as to its purpose; secondly, there needs to be an acceptance that the group is much more important than the individual; third, those leading should only be leading if they have a thorough understanding of the organisation –  also known as domain knowledge; fourth the organisation needs to galvanise its resources; and finally new technology needs to be embraced.

It will come as no suprise that once these charachteristics were abandoned in favour of short term individual greed the current financial crisis ensued.

This post was inspired by the following publications.
The Times Business Book of the Year Will and Ken Hoppper’s The Puritan Gift

David Roberts works to help individuals, teams, organisations, and communities  collaborate and achieve more. He can be contacted by email at david@wentworthjones.com

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