About competition, competitive advantage and the perils of short-term thinking.
Whilst competition may bring the illusion of short-term gain it must now be avoided in favour of an approach that makes the very best possible use of the limited resources that are, and 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 people, teams, organisations, and even governments collaborate great things can be achieved. Sadly, when the opposite happens, I see cheating, deception, abuse, and the proliferation of greed.
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 surgeon’s knife would you want the team striving to save your life to be working together as a unit or to be competing 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 some of our commercial organisations 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 for examples of innovations that have been achieved by team working: The motor car; insulin; space travel; champions league football – these have all been achieved as a result of collaboration over a sustained period.
Community – Great communities are forged by people forming groups for the benefit of all. Great communities can never consist of people working for personal gain.
Encouraging collaboration and cooperation 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.
How can we do this?
When organisations reward individual achievement then the organisation unwittingly or wittingly undermines collaboration. A strategy for ensuring collaboration may include the following characteristics — 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 surprise that the Hoppers argue that once these characteristics were abandoned in favour of short term individual greed that the seeds off the current financial crisis were sowed.
I wonder how many of our organisations or how many of our elected government members have clarity of purpose, see the group as more important than the individual, thoroughly understand — or even care about — their stakeholders, are great organisers, and finally, can embrace new technology?
The challenge for those of us interested in Societal Innovation is how can we co-operate even more?
Some further reading that may be of interest