Competition vs. Collaboration - A warning for us all

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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Comment by Debra M. Amidon on April 11, 2011 at 3:05pm

This has been a pillar of thinking about the Knowledge Economy. 1st was the notion of Intellectual Capital - the multiplier asset - and how it might be measured, albeit rough estimates of what 'counts'.


2nd was that innovation needed to be redefined according to the flow of knowledge, not technology per se. Innovation is no longer solely the purview of R&D. It is enterprise-wide, operates as an innovation value system (not chain) and is more ecological than outdated industrial models of management...including education!


The 3rd - and perhaps the most difficult to embrace - has been the value of collaborative (not competitive) advantage. We have reached the law of diminishing returns on competitive strategy. Progress and success have become more a function of leadership than monitoring market share, technology life cycles and even GDP. We have reports galore calibrating competitive indicators; but we have not one world knowledge innovation collaboration index – which I would argue might be the most valuable competence of the next decade.


Who has interest in being partner in THIS opportunity?


For those with interest, take a look at my case for the Millennium Bretton Woods:  

Comment by Jorn Bettin on April 3, 2011 at 5:36pm

Very good observation.


Often there is an unhealthy amount of knowledge hiding between knowledge workers. In fact, many organisations that operate software intensive systems create strong financial incentives for individuals to build closed kingdoms of knowledge.


This tendency is enabled and amplified by the poor representation format of linear (non-graphical) programming languages and by the love affair between geeks and complexity. Luckily there are a few exceptions to the latter, but opening up kingdoms of knowledge is only rarely welcome by the kings.

Comment by Daniel Lundberg on March 26, 2011 at 4:48am
 any business that thrives from the creation of new knowledge creates much more value than a business that tries to hold onto all its knowledge
Very quotable :)

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