Competition vs. Collaboration – A warning for us all

March 23, 2011 by  

I heard this interview of Diane Ravitch on NPR in the car the other day about why she went from being an advocate in the Bush administration of No Child Left Behind to being a strong critic. Her logic:

“There should not be an education marketplace, there should not be competition,” Ravitch says. “Schools operate fundamentally — or should operate — like families. The fundamental principle by which education proceeds is collaboration. Teachers are supposed to share what works; schools are supposed to get together and talk about what’s [been successful] for them. They’re not supposed to hide their trade secrets and have a survival of the fittest competition with the school down the block.”

This is a great reminder for us about strategic thinking in so many spheres. The power of knowledge in the intangible capital economy is increased when it is shared. Some knowledge can and should be protected but most of it should be shared. This is especially urgent when the “product” is a public good.

Education and, I would add, health are public goods that should be much more focused on collaboration rather than competition. Businesses are also discovering the power of open innovation, collaboration and social media as sources for new business ideas and growing markets. In simple terms, any business that thrives from the creation of new knowledge (think Google’s original search engine) creates much more value than a business that tries to hold onto all its knowledge.

Don’t accept dogma about competition always being good. Think collaboration. Think about how to be the catalyst for creation of new knowledge–and build your business model around sharing rather than blocking collaboration.

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