Stop killing, just collaborate!

Understand the new rules of Competition and Winning

By Roshan Thiran 

In Post Capitalist Society, Peter Drucker’s wrote:  

“Every few hundred years, there occurs a sharp transformation . . . Within a few short decades, society rearranges itself – its worldview; its values; its social and political structure; its arts; its key institutions. Fifty years later, there is a new world…” 

Covid-19 has accelerated the above. Previously, the digital age seemed a remote possibility. Despite many organisations beginning to transform, the majority were in the 20th century. Given this change, how will companies win post-Covid 

In the past, triumph in the socio-political, business arena meant vanquishing competitors.  The Europeans defeated native Red Indian by assassinating its leadership. Similarly, in business the rivalries of Airbus and Boeing, Nike and Reebok, Pepsi, and Coke, called for outwit to win. However, the new age requires new engagement rules. 

In 2005, MGM, BMG and others sued Grokster, a small company providing peer-to-peer (P2P) services, allowing Internet users to share music and software files.  Previously, they sued and bankrupted Napster, a similar P2P provider.  Then, MGM and others sued other similar companies and some individuals. To their dismay, despite winning legal battles, more P2P companies were created worldwide.   

Enter Apple. Instead of eliminating P2P, Apple legalised the P2P model by contracting with recording labels to facilitate downloads at marginal fees via iTunes.   Apple instilled the conventional model with collaboration to win.   

In the example, the Apaches were the one tribe to remain undefeated for 200 years. How did the Apaches triumph against the Spanish and others? Through a collaborative leadership model, Apache leaders, called Nant’ans, evolved.  Geronimo, a famous Nant’an, was a spiritual leader, not a Commander.  Whenever leaders died, a new one emerged, not by appointment but through collaboration.  People followed a Nant’an willingly.  The collaborative leadership model enabled Apaches survival. 

Recently, terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda have co-opted this modelThe cave dweller and leader, Osama Bin Laden retains power by rejecting traditional leadership roles. Many CEOs today lead traditionally to their detriment.  The collaborative leadership model seeks engagement in the leadership process.  

Leadership aside, businesses are collaborating with customers on new products and innovation. YouTube and Twitter enable collaborative marketing while newspapers like Huffington Post use collaborative journalism to leverage thousands of “volunteers” worldwide, to write for free.  

Some collaborative businesses are run exclusively by the public.  Since Wikipedia was launched online as “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit,” it has become the largest information depository. Articles are written collaboratively by unpaid volunteers worldwide, edited to eliminate disinformation. Wikipedia is a 100 percent collaborative business where its founders are not its leaders, but the collective community of editors, writers, and police volunteers. 

Covid-19 has accelerated the need for worldwide collaboration. Supplier-chains have been severely impacted, bringing collaboration to unparalleled levels. The “we are in this together” sentiment has also resulted in real-time data sharing.  Increasingly, partnerships are maintained while trade secrets are shared for the collective success of business. 

Sharing & Giving 

The sharing of ideas and innovation between competitors is unorthodox. Research and Development is traditionally secretive, with a shared provision of proprietary information akin to commercial suicide.  

Rob McEwen, chairman and CEO of Goldcorp in Canada, reinvented the gold mining world when he challenged the youngest and the brightest worldwide by releasing all Goldcorp’s proprietary mining data. He implored for individuals to study the data and discover the location of the next 6 million ounces of gold.  He offered a prize of USD575,000 in the Goldcorp Challenge.  

The contest entailed big risks as it exposed the company’s proprietary information. However, the old way reaped little reward. The calculated risk was successful when Australian Nick Archibald, used 3-D software to identify key areas to mine.  Not only did the contest yield gold, it catapulted the under-performing USD100 million Goldcorp into a USD9 billion juggernaut.  

Leaders who embrace the collaborative model understand that success is not a zero-sum game but rather a worldwide collaboration which rewards engagement. This produces the best innovative output.  

So how does this apply to my organisation in the post-Covid era? Problems require plans of actions. The grouping of talented individuals and a nurturing of that collective creative energy is viable. Collaboration works through a combination of passion and purpose. Find passionate innovators with vested interests in problem-solving for your company to succeed.  

Collaboration is not new. Early history suggests that tribal systems of collaboration and cooperation, based on trust and kinship were the norm, not the winner takes all hierarchies of today. The effectiveness of collaborative movements, like the cooperative Alcoholic Anonymous, uniting millions through a shared ideology, highlights the contemporary need for collaboration. 

The pandemic has accelerated the creation of collaborative infrastructure for the 21st century. Anyone can participate in the economy now.  This introduces far-reaching collaborative opportunities for stakeholders.  The future of leadership skills is in a culture of shared collaboration and trust above all. In conclusion, “Killing” our competition… is killing yourself.  Instead, Think Collaboration and Partnership! 


Roshan Thiran is Group CEO of Leaderonomics, a cause-driven intelligence organisation focused on learning and engagement. He is excited to see how COVID-19 has “forced” us all to take partnerships and collaboration seriously. You can follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter

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