The Power of We

In my work as a wine consultant I observe the far-reaching tentacles of competitiveness nearly everyday.

In New Zealand, in particular, the emergence of large corporate wineries over the last 15-20 years has heightened competitive pressures, forcing silos in the larger wineries, and grasping in the smaller ones.

What is intriguing to me is not the opportunities that are lost as a result of this (though they are many), but the number of individuals and businesses for whom this overly competitive mind-set has become intrinsic.

“To build success and build on success, we need to reach out rather than hoarding resources or isolating ourselves.”

Our natural competitiveness kicks in as young children – when we begin to compare ourselves to others – and is reinforced in nearly all areas of life, from schooling, sports and arts, attention from parents, higher education and finally job seeking and career.  It’s no surprise then that this reflex kicks in when the going gets tough.

The feedback loop required to change this behaviour requires continuous reinforcement and is often at the heart of my role.  Shifting it can be a turnstile to new and very exciting opportunities.

So what happens if you help someone get ahead?  Does it detract from your success?  Traditional Western business strategy and cultural norms say absolutely it does. I disagree. We all bring a unique set of experiences, skills, knowledge and fundamental traits to the table.  To build success and build on success, we need to reach out rather than hoarding resources or isolating ourselves.  We need to locate capabilities, resources and networks that complement our own.

“Their collaborative approach defines their success, not the destination.”

In my work, I look for partners not clients or customers.  By partners I mean businesses or individuals who have a broader definition of success and a more realistic timescale for achieving it.  Experience has shown me they also seem to have a more positive attitude towards collaboration.

To these businesses or individuals it is not just about winning trophies and smashing sales targets in the short-term, it is about challenging conventions to enhance efficiency, improve team culture and build a sustainable economic model. There is a quiet patience and trust in the way they work. Without losing sight of the long-term vision they remain open to new relationships, new ideas, and the need to tweak along the way.  Their collaborative approach defines their success, not the destination.

“Does collaboration mean the death of competition?  Not necessarily.”

As barriers continue to break-down, starts-up and small businesses continue to proliferate, and the surge in digital commerce is unrelenting.  Success in the New Zealand wine trade will become less about stockpiling and more about access to the resources, technology, talent and information of others.  Access requires sharing paths, networks, and relationships built on mutual reward.  In short: collaboration.

Does collaboration mean the death of competition?  Not necessarily.  Rather, I see collaboration being an extension of good competition, where businesses and individuals push one another to be more productive by working together, while safeguarding each other’s competitive advantage.

Like the meerkats, our survival depends on it.

When you get, give. When you learn, teach.   Dr Maya Angelou