5 Cs of Healthy Competition

Collaborate to CompeteJust imagine this – your son comes home and says “Mom today my best friend and I collaborated during exam and both of us will get full marks in maths” How will you react to this? This is Cheating and not Collaboration!!!!

Consider this example – A company launches a contest for sales team basis achievement of stretch individual targets and the winner gets to go to France!!! This is stiff competition.Most of the organisations feel that launching one-dimensional contests and creating competition is the only way to motivate sales people. In fact, there can be multiple collaborative ways to applaud multiple competencies – from of course target-achievements to best customer-service or even ethical sales!!

So if you really observe above, we knowingly or unknowingly are promoting competition which mostly turns unhealthy in the longer run. In fact this statement of collaboration vs. competition itself is driving competition!!!!!

Does that mean all competition is bad? Can competition be healthy? Can we collaborate to compete?

Well, Healthy Competition driven with Collaboration with a laser focus towards achieving business results is the key!!

We have been taught that Competition drives excellence! There are adequate examples of extraordinary innovations including super products, out of the box business strategies created due to intense competition… However, if unchecked, competition can also drive a close, selfish mindset as we become obsessed with our own personal success.

The days of ‘survival of the fittest’ are getting over.More and more business leaders are coming to terms with this statement.

Even large firms are realising that competition is nothing without collaboration. Collaboration allows organisations to create synergies, drive innovation, generate game-changing business ideas and ground breaking concepts.For example, Microsoft and Adobe abandoned highly competitive strategies like stack-ranking years ago, and are implementing strategies to create more collaborative workplaces.

In our view, Competition and Collaboration are complementary to each other. Collaboration, with a healthy dose of competition, can be the compass in navigating the way through a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world.

Here, we recommend the 5C Model to promote healthy competition driven by Collaboration for leaders who are promoting Collaboration in their team or are looking to collaborate with their competition/peers/like-minded people:

  1. Courage: One can collaborate if one feels secured; one has to believe in strength from combined efforts. Collaboration can’t be created out of fear, suspicion and mistrust. Hence to begin, assess whether you have the courage/strength/belief in collaboration. And how can you infuse courage in your team? It can really take a lot as you get deeper into the process of Collaboration, of course, the fruits are bounty and the pie bigger!!
  1. Conversation: We all have heard “a lot can happen over coffee!”. Begin open and transparent conversations. We all go through similar challenges, similar learning, we can find out common areas to work with, we can create joint opportunities to create a win-win!!
  1. Co-Create: Create a wide range of products/services by joining hands with others and similarly, encourage others too. See how you can create a bigger array of products/services.
  1. Compatibility: Conflicting views can have a detrimental impact on any business. Before joining hands, clearly talk about the culture and values that you have, understand the other side and evaluate the collaborative partnership. Once the thoughts are shared and the conversations are yielding results, make all the efforts to bring compatibility alive.
  1. Code of ethics: Both the sides need to discuss and agree on mutual objectives, be transparent on SLAs,KRAs, data base, prospects, financials etc.

The 5C Model is to bring clarity on how to develop a climate and culture of Healthy Competition by promoting Collaboration. More coming up soon for understanding the role that language and intentions play in promoting Collaboration.

Meanwhile, let us know if you would like us to conduct a bite-sized Gamified workshop in your organisation on Collaboration!!

4 Rules of Collaboration

Rules govern our lives: home, society, work; you name it and we have it. The rules of markets are about cash and contracts. The rules of hierarchies are about authority and accountability. But at the core of the Business Collaboration are rules about three entirely different things:

  • How individuals and small groups work together;
  • How they communicate; and
  • How leaders guide them toward a common goal.

Rule 1: It all starts with the leadership…..Leaders as Connectors.

LeaderLet me share with you an incident which happened at a power plant of Aisin Seiki, parts supplier (P valves which are required by all Toyota vehicles) to Toyota. Toyota had only a day’s inventory owing to just in time principles and thus faced a shutdown for months. Within hours, Aisin engineers met with their counterparts at Toyota and Toyota’s other tier one suppliers. The group agreed to improvise as much production as possible and within hours the first consignment had arrived from one of the smallest partner vendors.

So what did leaders of this highly successful organisation do? They instructed team members— by example. They articulated clear and simple goals for each project based on their strategic vision. And they connected people, by merit of being very well connected themselves.

So to make a Collaborative and Successful business, leading should not be treated as a discipline distinct from doing. Rather, the credibility of leaders derives from their proficiency as practitioners.

Rule 2: The Power of Trust ….it’s all about the Team

trust that lastsRich, flexible collaborations have positive psychological consequences for employees. Those consequences are rich common knowledge, extraordinary motivation, and high levels of trust.

Free flow of information forms the basis of trust: when information flows freely, it becomes the basis for trust. While most organisations struggle in and out to create collaboration among its employees how does this happen seamlessly in a community which makes open source software, for example Moodle?

Monetary carrots and accountability sticks motivate people to perform narrow, specified tasks. Admiration and applause are far more effective stimulants of above-and-beyond behaviour. Psychologists also emphasize the motivational importance of autonomy. Open source software programmers decide for themselves how and where to contribute, and they enjoy the satisfaction of producing something whose quality is defined not by a marketing department nor by accountants but by their own exacting standards. Those factors drive up trust. Trust drives collaboration.

Rule 3: Constantly Challenging Yourself…I am the Owner

qustionI keep coming back to Toyota for an example, although I have a genuine reason for this.

The Toyota philosophy of continuous improvement comprises a thousand small collaborations. Toyota engineers are famously drilled to “ask why five times” to follow a chain of causes and effects back to a problem’s root. Each meeting addresses just one topic and drives toward a specific outcome, even if that means the same people meet more than once in a day. This specific approach to collaboration is goal oriented and seeks to derive at a solution rather than making it a pleasant chit chatting affair. Also, it shifts the onus of responsibility of collaboration from organisation to the individual. What is an organisation? At the end of the day, it is formed of individuals working in teams to achieve the organisation vision and if each individual becomes the owner of the organisation, imagine the collaborative momentum that it will get to move forward to achieve the vision.

Rule 4: Find the Right medium (we can find a better word for this)

coffee-careerTo me, the last but not the least important rule is identification of right instruments to make effective collaboration work. What comes to mind after studying multiple successes of collaborative organisations is that collaboration also relies on two infrastructure components: a shared pool of knowledge and universally available tools for moving knowledge around.

This is predicated on the principle that while product knowledge is someone’s intellectual property, process knowledge is shared. As an organisation, there need to be enough formal and informal ways in which explicit and tacit knowledge can be shared to promote collaborative exchanges.

To Conclude, Successful Application of the 4 Rules of  Collaboration testimonies Albert Einstein’s quote:

‘You have to Know the Rules of the game and Then

You have to play better than Anyone Else’.


We will be sharing more thoughts and visions about making Collaborative Workplaces.

Meanwhile, let us know if you would like us to conduct a bite-sized Gamified workshop in your organisation on the 4 Rules of Collaboration.


Rupinder Kaur

ASTD Master Trainer | OD Expert

Founder & Partner-Collaborative Climate