Pabitra Mukhopadhyay


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Competition or Collaboration?

Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities says, Collaboration is new Competition.
Genetic recombination theory says that given enough complexity of survival dynamics, genetic materials at molecular level recombine along a collaborative line, rather than competitive.
Do you think we are looking at a paradigm sift here?
From 'compete to win' to 'collaborate to survive'?

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    Dec 4 2013: I am hoping we are going to collaborate to thrive not just survive. Collaboration is our greatest strength as far as I can see and now because of some really great technology we can collabrate on a massive scale.
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      Dec 4 2013: If you mean 'living' by thriving, I think it underlines survival. I do not think thriving will mean winning in any case. Collaboration is of course our greatest strength because it is natural order of growth and survival.
      I think there is a common misconception about Darwinism and the 'survival of the fittest'. It is popularly thought as a competition and an adaptive trait of a species leading to its survival is thought as a 'win'.
      Nature is replete with wonderful and grand examples of collaboration. In fact it abounds everywhere starting from intra-species level and extending to inter-species level. So it is more like survival of the best collaborator.

      My good friend Salim has mentioned about competition and collaboration existing side by side in businesses and gave example of interdepratmental competition within an organization. I think that is 'soft' competition. When say competition, I mean the 'hard' competition, the one that has one and only objective of winning.

      I asked this question to examine a paradigm shift here, like whether collaboration is becoming the worldview replacing competition. Like say parents encouraging kids to collaborate rather than compete.

      What do you think about that?
      Welcome to TED and thanks for commenting.
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        Dec 4 2013: Thanks Pabitra. I think it is a paradigm shift. This maybe of course because I REALLY WANT IT TO BE :) Not that collaboration is a new thing at all we have always collaborated, but I think there is a myth of competition.

        In a smiliar way to the myth of talent, I think we (the media mainly :)) have run away with the idea that we are all motivated to win and be first, be number one. But while I am sure that is true for some, other people are just looking for some meaningful work to do. Also there seems to be a tendancy to attribute success to competition but hidden beneath that layer is a whole lot of collaboration. I like to think if we stop competing so much and started sharing and collaborating more we will astound ourselves with what we can accomplish.
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          Dec 5 2013: Or it may be due to a changing epoch when we have seen that there is no wisdom in centralizing the wealth (both economic and intellectual) with a select few and allowing us to be controlled by these elites.
          It is not so uncommon to reverse engineer systems along natural systems because these systems are easily the most common examples of sustainable growth models available to us. So yes, there no numero uno among the constituents of these systems and ranking human beings as number one in any field and worshiping that idea is rather silly.
          I think it is in the interest of humanity that sharing of the wealth (both economic and intellectual) after a point of accumulation is seen as a wiser imperative.
      • Dec 4 2013: Pabitra,

        I think we are getting to the point where we have to figure out how to better collaborate and get along with others. Schools out, the bulling days are over, if one wants to thrive in the real world one better know how to play nice and help each other out... Even the 'charlatans' day are rather numbered ... in fact we may already be counting forward from when it died and was buried. The thing is that we are still adapting to the new ways of being (and doing away with some old obsolete ways that still want to use them obsolete rules and ways).

        Yes there is a paradigm shift going on here and now... some details are still a bit indetereminant... and we still need to develop and create some of the fundamental tools, processes, and systems to better handle the new ways as evidently some seek to hang on to the old ways... though I think/hope/feel soon much will be clarified once and for all.
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          Dec 5 2013: I think the following should be given good thought :
          1. Sharing as opposed to owning
          2. Transparency as opposed to confidentiality
          3. Negotiation as opposed to manipulation

          Also we need to look for some common ground between extreme individuality and mass mediocrity.
      • Dec 5 2013: Pabitra,

        One of the underlying themes of some of the work I do involves the incorporation of a singularity which transcends dualistic compromises with distinctive determinations. For example instead of finding a common ground between hot and cold one just determines the particular temperature.

        When I see opposites I wonder about that singularity that transforms and transcends what be going on. I see individuals jointly collaborating with in and through society to achieve a bit more than the sum of the parts. In a way the truth of the matter isn't something to be negotiated; its accepted or rejected!

        I do consider that each of the six notions you put forth ought be given good through... and we need to add to that a bunch more including how to stand on common grounds. As you probably know I like assertions that happen to be true and give each what they want sometimes with a bit of a twist... those who want to win win, those who want to lose well they get to lose by wining (rather than winning by losing). In other words everyone wins; though some consider it as a win and some consider it as a loss. The deceived get to be happy while being deceived and unable to recognize the truth of the matter. Irony at its prime ...
  • Nov 28 2013: Compete with self , Collaborate with others.

    But where to collaborate and where to compete one should know.

    Each team member of a team should collaborate with each other and compete with self.And the if the team members does the opposite then the team disintegrates.
  • Nov 20 2013: I expect we are looking at a big shift here.

    On the compete to win side we have winners increasing their wealth. Economic growth is driven forward and consumption growth is achieved by the above average earners. The dowside is that resources and the environment come under strain, the below average earners do not have equality of opportunity and this is causing conflict in which we all lose.

    On the collaborate to survive side we are witnessing the birth pangs of change as the social business sector starts to emerge. Social businesses are winning ethical customers. They encourage responsible consumption and direct gains into collaboratve mutually beneficial productive activity.

    In Martin Nowaks' (Harvard mathematics) book Supercooperators he demonstrates that it is mathematically true that cooperators prevail over non cooperators. The success of the cooperation greatly improves when reputations of the individuals are visible to one another. Can ethical behaviour go viral?

    Its my view that when social businesses introduce visible reputation systems for their supporters/customers they can tap into the powerful emotion of peer pressure. Something like ted cred for ethical consumers - reputations being displayable on social media and on outgoing email. Ethical consumers will be enabled to build their online ethical reputations. Other consumers not wanting to be left behind or be seen as irresponsible will join in the scheme.

    Maybe we can arrive at a tipping point whereby best practice ethical behaviour changes the world... see my essay on this subject (essay on the loftily titled page 'world peace anyone?)
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      Nov 23 2013: One important aspect of the question is consumption. Do we co-opetae or compete to consume?
      I checked your link. Good work. You may find this interesting.
      • Nov 23 2013: Over consumption does not make anyone any happier - its simply a symptom of western culture which has been driven on by excellent marketing. Meaningful reduction in consumption may come about as social businesses and not for profit suppliers dispel the marketing myth that more stuff makes you happy.
        To reply to your question - A cultural idea change may come about whereby we cooperate by consuming what we require.

        I enjoyed your weblink - nice site. Feel free to cut and paste from my work onto your site if you wish.
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          Nov 23 2013: Thank you. Your site is neat too. We can share our writings, of course.
  • Dec 16 2013: In “How to balance inequality” on Youtube, A few calls to a friend in the White House about an inheritance cap to let people redistribute their wealth fairly, realigns man's mission here with his natural, higher purpose.
  • Dec 12 2013: Wanted to 'ping' this conversation...

    Pabitra pointed out how nature is replete with wonderful and grand examples of collaboration.
    and asked Is there a paradigm shift towards collaboration?

    I think that competition-colaboration is shifting into new modes of Interaction ... The days of 'moving away' and staying away from dealings are quickly drawing to an apex and tipping point. In a way the question has shifted from to interact or not to interact towards how to best do it effectively while doing it.

    In a post below Pabitra posited three 'dualities' that we ought to think about and given good thought and something I been lately constantly endeavor to do involves transcending dualities so...
    1. Sharing as opposed to owning - would turn into something of a shared ownership
    2. Transparency as opposed to confidentiality - would turn into something of a transparent confidentiality
    3. Negotiation as opposed to manipulation - would turn into something of 'a manipulated negotiation'*

    * This 'shared manipulated negotiation' follows a set of guidelines that everyone honors and gives rise to an actual shared deliberation towards definitive resolution determined by the best alternative.

    a shared ownership with a transparent confidentiality leading to deliberated resolution that cultivates individual and shared assets.

    In simpler terms figuring out how the individual can benefit from the group as the group benefits from the individual enabling each to achieve more than they could had done on their own and 'thrive'.
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    Nov 28 2013: Hi guys,
    Are you saying that competition is more suited for a short term and simple goal and collaboration for long term and complex goal?
  • Nov 27 2013: You compete to get hired, you collaborate to get the project/product done, then you compete for recognition and pay and promotion. Companies should rate collaboration but they rate results and pick one person of the team to reward.
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    Nov 22 2013: To become part to collaborate one need to compete , just think of to get a place in Indian Cricket Team :)
    Within collaboration also, there is competition....Pabitra da
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      Nov 22 2013: It is not just sports teams, Salim. There was a fellow who presented an idea in TED Conversations a couple of times that he was convinced that a private business that would hire anyone who wanted to work for it would outperform any other business, because morale would be so high. He left in frustration that no one here was willing to work out the implementation details and prototype such a business.

      In fact, employers usually try to choose employees from among more applicants, both qualified and completely unqualified, than they can practically speaking include, train, and supervise.
      • Nov 22 2013: The word for 'competition' in Spanish is 'competencia' which may be used to denote a confrontational win-lose contest as well as denote having the ability to perform a particular skill.

        BTW "He left in frustration that no one here was willing to work out the implementation ..." implies that he himself was unwilling to do the work!

        For a business to include everyone who wants in and outperform any other organization requires effective ways to integrate and collaborate among its members to capitalize on individual strengths while mitigating individuals weaknesses as each is enriched by others and contributes to enrich everyone. Its certainly doable with certain paradigms... the challenge is establishing those operational paradigms given existing ones and ensuring that future changes only happen for the betterment and wellbeing of individuals and groups.
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        Nov 23 2013: Hi Fritzie
        Yes agree. That was just an example...same applies in fiercely competitive business world.... Businesses need collaboration among team members with complementary skill....but even than there is always inter and intra team competition as well.
  • Nov 22 2013: I am reminded of the strategy that could not win winning the strategy competition ... tit-for-tat...
    First seek to collaborate with the other.
    Next do what the other did to you the last time.

    overall win-win be better schemes to get into than than win-lose... and when loser get it right everyone wins :-)
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    Nov 20 2013: I don't think that competition and collaboration are mutual exclusive.
    You can have both, just not simultaneously.
    As Fritzie mentioned, collaboration when it comes to complex tasks makes sense. For example, a company would be such a group.
    On the other hand, if you look for a mate, then collaboration makes no sense. This is a competitive endeavor.
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      Nov 21 2013: Where to compete and where to collaborate, Harald?
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        Nov 21 2013: You collaborate where you have common interests and you compete when you can expect a better result with competition than with cooperation.
        Example: take the gun industry in the US. There is full cooperation when it comes to lobbying (National Rifle association) and influence lawmaking. However, all gun makers compete with each other.
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          Dec 5 2013: Agreed Harald.

          A healthy competition is fruitful, it opens the doors to creativity and passion. Competition and collaboration are definitely not mutually exclusive.
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    Nov 20 2013: Collaboration among team members who bring different strengths and resources to the table has long been a model for approaching complex and interdisciplinary problems. Redundancy, though, continues to have its benefits.

    An example is the massive international collaboration of universities at the Large Hadron Collider but also the strict division there into the separate ATLAS and CMS collaborations so that the project can benefit from independent teams and distinct approaches.

    In terms of the private sector, there is an area of economics which is called the Theory of the Firm. That study addresses the situations under which a group of agents band together semi-permanently rather than interacting as separate agents.

    I mention this because a firm is essentially a collaboration among its employees Competition and collaboration have long coexisted.

    (P.S. I think you meant your title to be Competition or Collaboration).
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      Nov 21 2013: Thanks Fritzie, competition it is. :)
      I'd like to have your view in this context for business and commerce more specifically in the realm of market economy. It is believed that competition in the market brings fair and reasonable price. I find that hard to reconcile with the genesis of large corporations and MNCs. Their mantra seems like winner takes all.
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        Nov 21 2013: I think the standard model is not that the price is "fair and reasonable" but rather that the price is lower for a given level of quality and a wider array of options is available when there are multiple providers of a product or service than when there is only one.

        The scenario of "winner takes all" doesn't seem to play out in real life markets very often, because no one wants to be the loser. I have not studied the high tech industry, but if we look around us, there are multiple choices of laptops, of ipads, and of smart phones. A single winner hasn't taken all, because when one vendor starts getting more popular, another seems to think up some new twist to draw customers to itself. Because the offerings are not identical, customers will choose a product that represents the array of features and price that most appeals in the moment.

        The vendors do seem to be moving toward compatible platforms for lots of application, presumably because that creates a greater market for both than the alternative.

        Within workplaces, a collaborative atmosphere has, I think, become the most sought after way of working in the last several decades. For people on the same team to compete against each other has clear disadvantages. Still, some companies do a few things to create competition between teams or even individuals in the workplace. I expect what one sees in most workplaces is something of a hybrid model.