In many organizations today we need less competition and more collaboration. Ron Ashkenas makes this case in a blog post for HBR titled, Learning Not to Compete. He gives examples of organizations in which collaboration, not competition, has become the way to success. He writes:

As organizations have become more global and more reliant on cross-functional processes, teamwork and collaboration are increasingly becoming the currency of success. Organizations can't 80-ron-ashkenas operate effectively unless people share information, work together to solve problems, and help each other get the job done. So instead of competing with colleagues in other functions, more often than not we need to be cheering them on, supporting them, and actively helping them to flourish professionally. 

Ashkenas writes that the tendency towards competition is hard to change because it begins with our earliest family experiences competing with  siblings for our parents' "attention". What he calls "attention", I would call "love".  And I think the need for "love" goes for organizations as well as families, especially organizations that are run like families. Employees want their bosses and CEOs to respect and care deeply about them. They want to hear the words and see the actions from their leaders that proves this is true. So they continue to compete. 

This learned need to compete is very hard to undo. Some would say that we compete in organizations because of departmental silos (e.g., administration, finance, R&D, operations, sales, marketing, and HR). I would say that we create departmental silos because we have a need to compete. In either case, we need to find ways to break down these silos and collaborate more and compete less. Ashkenas offers some suggestions.

 

 

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