Collaborate or Compete?

by Edward Henkler on September 24, 2013

Most of us are preconditioned to compete but might we succeed more often by collaborating?  This question is at the root of whether you believe in the philosophy of scarcity or abundance.  Simply put, someone who believes in scarce resources is hesitant to share their knowledge and resources for fear that the other person will surpass them.  You may have heard this expressed at work as, “I’m not telling them the day-to-day details of my job as they can’t replace me if I hold some secrets back.”

I very definitely do not believe in the scarcity philosophy.  I believe that giving abundantly by sharing my knowledge, network, and time will far more often yield a successful outcome.  My goal has always been to work myself out of a job as I think that is more personally rewarding.  Further advancement is likely and you’re also creating opportunities for your team.

The decision to collaborate or compete is facing many non-profits today.  Traditional sources of financial support, including grants, corporate donations, and individual donations, have all diminished in recent years.  Although many non-profits have gone out of business, some have recognized the new reality and taken steps to improve their chances of success.  One of the biggest changes has been the search for partners, either in a traditional merger or through resource sharing.  This seems to be a win for all parties as it creates more favorable support staff: administration ratios, is more appealing to funders, and tends to enhance the portfolio of services the combined entity can provide.

Can a similar approach help us succeed as individuals?  Rather than competing with our peers, what if we worked together and were rewarded as a team?  Incentive systems often pair individuals, departments, and divisions against each other but shouldn’t you be collaborating on commonly held goals to outperform competitor companies?

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