“If you want to be incrementally better: Be competitive. If you want to be exponentially better: Be Cooperative.” – Unknown
A client recently raised the question of how a company’s culture can shift from being highly competitive internally to being more collaborative without taking away the competitive “edge” which has helped with their success in the marketplace.
An interesting question and one for which I didn’t have an answer at the time. It intrigued me enough to spend time reflecting on it and, I think, coming up with a reasonable response.
Collaboration according to Webster means to share, work with one another, cooperate and assist. While to compete means to outdo one another for acknowledgement, a prize, supremacy, or engage in a contest to compete in business.
In my opinion you can do both successfully because the end goal is the same – to innovate and strive to be the best through competition and to collaborate by working in a competitive way in order to innovate and be the best.
How To Do Both
Allow Risk Taking
Encourage friendly collaborative competition amongst employees and allow them to take risks and make mistakes. Use mistakes as “teachable moments” rather than penalize employees for trying something new.
Hold Employees Accountable and Reward Them
Collaboration doesn’t stand a chance when employees have separate agendas. To prevent that, hold employees accountable and reward them for collaborative behaviors.
Introduce Corporate Social Networks
Use corporate social networks to encourage collaboration and foster innovation. Forward thinking companies such as Microsoft, Qualcomm, Booze Allen and Agilent all use social media tools such as messaging, wikis, blogs, etc. to encourage communities of sharing and learning.
According to Jane Hart, CEO for the Center for Learning and Performance Technologies, “Christopher Goh, Agilent’s director of global learning and leadership development, believes leveraging on such social networks allows his company to ‘facilitate collaborative learning and knowledge sharing’ amongst its employees, especially the younger generation.”
So, yes I believe you can collaborate and yet continue to compete.