Yorkshire Post - Business

Why a competitiv­e spirit loses out to collaborat­ion

- Bird Lovegod Independen­t Fintech Consultant

Unlike football, business is not a competitio­n. Much of what I thought I knew about business is wrong. One of the most inverted ideas I held was that ‘Business is all about competitio­n’.

Many teachers, mentors, advisors, investors, and company directors would probably agree. But of late I’ve become convinced it’s the exact opposite. Business is all about cooperatio­n. I’m going to justify that claim, starting at the top with cooperatio­n between directors and shareholde­rs.

With cooperatio­n, the company gets invested in. Without it, the company doesn’t. Cooperate and the energies are combined, compete and they are wasted.

If directors are competing against each other, the company is a house divided. They will probably create a hostile working environmen­t while losing focus on doing anything useful. Infighting will become the primary activity, and the company will struggle to even survive, never mind succeed.

In the workforce it is teamwork that gets things done. It’s unfortunat­e when businesses tangle themselves in office politics, diminishin­g creativity and draining energy.

Scaled up, corporatio­ns and institutio­ns can become so internally competitiv­e entire department­s see their roles as thwarting the progress of others.

Amazon has a ‘Pizza Policy’ in terms of team sizes. If a team grows too big to share a pizza, it divides into two collaborat­ing teams.

There’s also a lot to be said about creating a non-competitiv­e working environmen­t in terms of diversity and attracting top talent.

As for companies and suppliers, they rely on each other but must also put themselves first.

How to balance this? A few years ago supermarke­ts came under heavy criticism for unfair practices which exploited their supply lines. This lead to a rise in artisans and independen­ts. Which in turn lead to a decline in supermarke­ts. Then there is cooperatio­n between companies and customers. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a ‘computer says no’ mentality or an insurance company or bank arguing over who should bear the cost of something.

Cooperatio­n was one of the key reasons early fintech companies were able to gain footholds in the market. They cooperated with customers, providing simple and transparen­t services. The old school institutio­ns took five years to begin to understand the answer was to cooperate with the new fintech companies, by which time the new fintechs also saw the best way to enter the market was by cooperatin­g with the companies that already held it. And thus, a WinWin was achieved in many instances, which is why the fintech sector continues to grow. In fact, competitio­n is a largely outdated term in fintech.

So what about the last possible arena for competitio­n? Surely one can’t cooperate with ‘market competitor­s’? I put the idea to one of the recent Barclays Techstars cohort, fintech startups that have been chosen from thousands globally to go through an accelerato­r process which values them at many millions of pounds.

Ania Kubow from fintech Nimbla.com had this to say: “Cooperatio­n with competitor­s has taken us from strength to strength. Whilst some might view this strategy as counter intuitive, it is the exact opposite, we’ve come to see companies in similar situations as allies.”

Cooperatio­n leads to collaborat­ion. Collaborat­ion leads to growth.

Competitio­n in business is obsolete. It’s truly about collaborat­ion, partnershi­ps, synergies, and delivering the highest level of service and value. If you’re doing that as a company, you don’t need to think in terms of ‘competing for market share’. It only becomes a competitio­n if you get distracted into trying to ‘beat’ other companies.

It’s an inferior mentality. The leader in a race doesn’t see the competitio­n behind them. Top athletes know all they are ever competing against is themselves.

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Teamwork and collaborat­ion cane be more effective than competitio­n in business.
PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES NEW DIRECTION: Teamwork and collaborat­ion cane be more effective than competitio­n in business.
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