When the going gets tough, when markets contract, when budgets decline, when promotion is rare, our instinctive response is to retreat and defend what we have. Parts of our brain that kept us alive in a more dangerous world respond vigorously to the threats we perceive. They compel us to withdraw from any circumstance where we could be vulnerable, such as a situation where we share our knowledge and resources in collaborating with another.
This response to threat can be so strong it’s barely a conscious process at all. The strength of our defensive reaction leaves us with a certainty that it’s unquestionably the right one.
But is it? Does our hasty retreat from collaboration serve us?
Perhaps the most effective response to scarcity and threat is the exact opposite, to collaborate, to share what we have, to form new teams, to focus on our strengths, and allow others to do on our behalf what they do best, even though that requires sacrifice. Then the whole may succeed on the bigger stage and our individual outcome may be better than if we’d acted alone.
Suppose it does serve us to collaborate: How do we make this happen? How do we take our people along with us?
One key is articulating a compelling future so that the long term gain seems worth the short term pain.
We need high levels of integrity and to seek that quality in others. To be trusted and so involved in the best opportunities, we need to be seen as a mature and honest collaborator.
We need the skills to work intelligently with the interests and values of all and balance these to optimise the whole for the ultimate gain of all.
Are our defensive responses to increased competition with colleagues, other departments, other organizations, other countries, the responses that should guide us? Or are we better to resist our primitive instincts and collaborate rather than defend? And if so, how?
How do you respond to competition?