Lisa Arie

Founder & CEO, Vista Caballo Innovation Ranch

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Collaboration or Competition.

In these rapidly changing environments, is it more effective to be collaborative or competitive in the workplace?

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    Feb 26 2011: -Depending on the nature of the workplace-

    I'd rather have a group of folks full of passionate collaborative spirits willing to compete with other teams. Though, it all depends on the nature of the workplace. i.e If you work in a stock market, maybe you'd rather be competitive than anything, but if you're working as a doctor for instance, there's no room for competition in the OR, but still your collaboration, passion, and striving for excellence defines you amongst all the other colleagues.
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    Feb 25 2011: Collaboration and competition work well in economics too. In my view, the economy and society would be healthier, much healthier if w had cooperative business models competing against conventional fascist models that strive to reduce people to mere beasts of burden. Our current capitalistic system is a model of inequality and abuse because individuals and the corporate-aristocracy are in a selfish greedy competition.
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    Feb 25 2011: competition is collaboration. is it Greek or Latin? Competition implies working together according to its origins. I value collaboration. Competition fosters undermining and manipulation. But collaboration should be in tandem with individual contemplation and innovation.
  • Feb 24 2011: I have a good example of Daniel's point: athletic teams.

    Being on the university's badminton team is that exact mix: as a team, all members of the team have a role, and the team functions most effectively when everyone knows their role and fulfills it to the best of their abilities. All members as part of a team act in unity for the team, and are first and foremost representatives of the team.

    Yet, all athletes (and this is even more the case in badminton as a single, or at best duo sport) strive to be the best - that's why you compete. So even in the team, you're always competing amongst each other because no one wants to be at the bottom - that fear of being kicked off, or if you're 1st, you don't want to be bumped to 2nd. This self-centred competition drives one to improve and push yourself. When you are training against a team member, they're an enemy and you blow them off the court as fast as you can.

    However, your team members push you too! When you train, they're the ones who are timing you, and pushing you to go faster, do more, play harder. They're the ones that say, COME ON! And in that moment, they do want you to do better - unconditionally, because you are part of the team. Instinctively you hate whomever is pushing you in that moment, but you appreciate them after.

    And then, when you go to compete, you're a solid unified front. You want each other to win because it's aligned with the team winning. More then that, you want everyone on the team to represent the team in the best way possible - win or lose - to be a leader on and off court.

    I think this model translates well into anything (to different intensities of course). Firstly, everyone should want to do their best. Seeing others teaches you things, and spurs you on. Collaboration is necessary to do a good job as well. The key I think is to know how to separate competition and collaboration as both purely professional things - nothing personal. Everyone wants to do the best they can.
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      Feb 25 2011: Totally! Competition, amongst friends or rivals, can push you to be your best. I played in a number of team sports when I was younger, and some of our exercises would pit us one on one against another. We were pushed to be the best amongst ourselves. But we also worked on teamwork, and whenever we competed, we strove to be the best team possible. My coaches tried to impress on us that winning was everything - on the field. Off the field, we should treat the other team with respect. As we were kids, that last bit didn't always happen, but at least the coaches tried.

      I liked the sports metaphor - it works rather well!
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    Feb 22 2011: Each situation calls for it's own mix of competition and collaboration. Sometimes healthy competition can spur us on to new heights and increase innovation. Sometimes working in a cooperative endeavor can inspire you to new heights and increase innovation. Saying 'be more competitive' or 'be more collaborative' neglects the subtleties of the work environment.

    One caveat to this idea of harmonious mixture: The extremes of either are rarely beneficial. Competition for the sake of competition will hamper innovation, as those competing realize that the surest way to be the best is to harm their fellow competitors instead of improving their own skills. Cooperation for the sake of cooperation is rarely distinguishable from capitulation to force. Each situation must be assessed on its own. Sometimes a competition is called for; at other times cooperation is best.
  • Feb 22 2011: It has always been, and always will be, more effective to be collaborative. However, since its possible to be both "collaborative" and "competitive", your question is somewhat ambiguous.