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Collaboration over Competition

In our first blog of 2018, we re-emphasized our commitment in making work experience better for more of us. In that, we listed five ways we can improve our conditions, the first being ‘vocabulary’.

We believe deeply that we need a whole new vocabulary in business, in leadership and for our management practices. Today, we want to talk about one of those words we feel needs to drop from our dictionary.

It is called ‘competition’.

People will tell you there is ‘healthy competition’ and ‘unhealthy competition’. We find all forms of competition to be hostile. They may seem friendly on the surface but the prime motivation of any competition is often to be ‘better than someone else’, which is against our core purpose of ‘being’ as human species. It is true duality leads to better performance, meaning human beings tend to do better at cognitive tasks when they operate in a tension between comfort and pressure. This is not same as honoring the word ‘competition’ though…

Nature has a ton to teach us about collaboration. The principles of ecology and many other sciences would show us all elements at a molecular level is in collaboration with one another. It seems we may have misunderstood the concept of ‘survival of the fittest’. We have not been able to grasp the richness of evolution and natural selection. Because when we look closely, we see the sophistication of how nature uses cooperation as much or more than competition to keep a balance in whole. There is no necessity for aggressive or ruthless behavior.

As an example, if we look at a group of plants, we see each plant has a need to use the resource of soil for nutrients. When researchers dig up and study the roots systems of adjacent plants, they consistently find a mix of some that were shallow, others that were deep and some in the middle. The plants along themselves have a way of developing a cooperative system for all to access the same resource (depending on their need). Healthy diverse ecosystems repeat this pattern for other resources such as, sunlight or pollination services, reducing stress on its constituents.

Not to mention Darwin, in his very own book (later published) Descent of Man and in Relation to Sex in 1871, wrote “those communities, which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members would flourish best…” 

The issue is we are not trained to think this way. We are trained to think linearly and with a fixed mindset, which in simplest terms says ‘for me to gain something, someone has to lose something’. In reality, most of the time, there is enough space, resources and of the capital pie for us all to share as long as we are willing to cultivate trust, which brings another issue.

We don’t have confidence in self, in one another, nor in the system. When we hear words like compassion, kindness, heart, soul or love in the workplace, we think we are going ‘soft’. We start to fear the unknown… We make ourselves believe these virtues have no place in business because we are hear to ‘win’ and to win, we have to be tough. What we are ultimately saying is that we have more confidence in anger, in aggression, in inequity, and in hate. What we are implying is that we actually believe anger is more powerful tool than say, love. And because we subconsciously believe this, we (often subconsciously) choose to lead from a place of fear rather than love.

We need a whole new philosophy to the way we do business, to the way we lead people. But first, we need a whole new vocabulary and a whole new mindset.

Dr. Carol Dweck, author of the book ‘Mindset’ shared in a HBR article in 2014 “inside those organizations where a growth mindset could be exercised, supervisors expressed significantly more positive views about their employees than their peers in fixed-mindset companies, rating them as more innovative, collaborative, and committed to learning and growing”, over time leading to more collaborative and profitable environments.

Further, in the recently published, Handbook of Compassion by Oxford University, Dr. James Doty states “it has become evident that acts of collaboration, nurturing of one another and care is critical to the health and long term survival of human species.” 

Whether we accept it or not, we are connected. We need to acknowledge it, take time to understand it.

We believe it’s time for us, as business leaders and people managers to eliminate the word ‘competition’ from our dictionary. We are programmed to belong. It is our relationships that make us thrive. It is time for us to evolve our thinking to recognize people for their contribution rather than praising or pushing each other into a competition. As much as we all love praise, it is really the recognition that motivates us, human beings – the factual observation of effort rather than a compliment or a value judgement!

Learning is a human act and it is fueled by a sense of wonder. Connection is a way of being. Only if we feel safe, we will allow ourselves the space to connect, reflect and learn.

Let us help each other explore into areas of growth without a fear of ‘failure’ then. Let us choose collaboration over competition.

There is so much more cooperation happening at a cellular level in our bodies and around us in nature; let us cultivate it more actively. Now!

Date

  • 15 January 2018

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