Which business culture delivers better results – competition or collaboration?

Humans have deployed both competition and collaboration with incredible success in our short appearance to date on the planet (a reminder for context that in a 24 hour world history clock, we’ve only been here since 23:58:43).

This binary discussion is of course, too simplistic. The answer is certainly more nuanced. Any business practising nothing but hostility (‘killing’ the competition) to outside influences, is surely doomed to fail. Confirmation bias, poor leaver legacy, and increased social awareness inevitably take hold. Equally, a business that only collaborates in a genuinely altruistic manner, in the face of faint competition from its closet comparators, will find market share evaporating quickly. It is worth noting that the Covid-19 pandemic has seen genuine altruism from many businesses, escaping the ‘Prisoners Dilemma’ that such apparent mutual interest projects are usually discouraged by.

As the business zeitgeist is even shorter than a generational one (mere mortals tend to live longer than we work), the search for ever innovative ways of working inevitably leads us towards what others aren’t doing – and thus we seem ever destined to oscillate between one end of the competition/collaboration spectrum and the other. We cannot endlessly ‘compete’ or ‘collaborate’ more. A switch of emphasis is inevitable. This steady identity transition provides USPs for employees and customers alike. Worth noting that different industries may well have entirely separate cycles.

This tug of war has seen clear ‘Competition’ winners like Netflix against Blockbuster and the business blockbuster of the year, that saw a more literal interpretation of killing the competition, with Carole Baskin’s triumph over Joe Exotic in ‘Tiger King’. There are, of course, clear ‘Collaboration’ winners also in the shape of Red Bull and Go Pro and Coca-Cola and Heinz.

Clearly business would not exist as we know it without competition. The cynical might observe that most high-level business collaborations are usually to leverage efficiencies, in pursuit of a competitor closer to home. It is also true to say that business would be as dated as Joe Exotic’s shirts if it wasn’t for collaboration. Tim Berners-Lee and subsequent ‘open source’ software being key examples of how we have all benefited from the benevolence of genius.

If we accept that we need both competition and collaboration in business, perhaps we should be asking ourselves two separate questions instead:

  1. Would you like your team to display greater competitive or collaborative traits?
  2. Would you like your suppliers to display greater competitive or collaborative traits?

In our experience at Beagle, however you answer question 1 (usually dictated by a desire to achieve a better team ‘balance’), most in 2020 would answer that they would like their suppliers to display more collaborative traits.

Crucially – true collaboration is not just having a CSR policy, or opting for a ‘staged procurement’ model where service facets are outsourced. This creates a vacuum of skill leading to dwindling service levels, hidden behind a veneer of familiarity with key personnel.

Collaboration requires an honest assessment of strengths and weaknesses, the pursuit of greater efficiencies, and a focused search for a symbiotic and complimentary partner(s). When you work with a business that collaborates on service, you have a supplier that understands how important value is for customers. It is difficult to identify the value to their customer, of any sales/supplier team waking up each day solely to beat their competition. Conversely, those who are motivated by making their customer’s experience better have a firmer grip on true value.

For the team at Beagle, that means wider industry knowledge, linked professional services, an extensive network of complementary businesses, and growth services that have a vested interest in helping scale your business.

Service is the creation of value. Suppliers should listen and deliver your agenda, instead of broadcasting theirs.

If you would like to discover how Beagle can drive greater efficiencies from your supply chain and MarTech stack, driving your competitive advantage, drop us a line at [email protected]

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