Competition Doesn’t Fit in the Puzzle

by Emily Jasper on October 18, 2010

When I looked at where I might possibly earn my MBA, I wanted to make sure I was going to get as close to a real working experience as I could find. See, I had heard a little rumor that MBA programs can vary across the competitive-to-collaborative spectrum. After watching companies struggling to survive during the recession, the ones who kept their heads above water put collaboration into full gear.

I do believe we need to have healthy competition to innovate. We have to see obstacles as challenges, not roadblocks. However, when competition moves into the “stab-lest-ye-be-stabbed” realm, I don’t understand how companies manage to sustain success.

It isn’t productive.

I was reminded of this when watching the “Invasion” episode from season six of Grey’s Anatomy. All the Mercy West doctors come in guns blazing, already on the offense, doing what they can to set the us vs. them boundaries. We all know last season of Grey’s could be a case for how not to handle mergers and the strife they causes within the ranks of your people. While your own company may not have lost lives each time employees went at each others’ throats in an attempt to survive, your bottom line probably suffered.

Now that I’m back in the academic world, I don’t understand how a program could pride itself on creating an environment where the students are more focused on one-upping each other than on building teams. If you’re a leader focused on sabotaging those around you, no wonder the world thinks there are no ethics in business.

My own experience is already teaching me how important it is to want to work together. People have various strengths different from your own. Rarely are you going to be such an expert in everything that you don’t need other people. I already have colleagues here who could be the finance and operations complements to my marketing self. I continue to see how each of our skill sets become puzzle pieces, and the picture changes with how we combine our efforts.

No matter the combination, I can already tell that we can make amazing pictures.

You can’t make amazing pictures if you’re pulling the puzzle pieces apart, soaking them, ripping them, or burning them. They won’t fit.

If you’re in a position where you can change the culture, where you can help promote collaboration, do what you can. Build the collaborative spirit by leading others to be teams. Business isn’t about every man for himself, but about great people doing great work together.