To compete or to collaborate?…can we choose?

We are living in a context of accelerated change, where we often ask ourselves how far this will go, what we have to do, how we have to adapt. Are we competing every day? … or are we collaborating? If we compete, we develop abilities of protection, as well as strength. If we collaborate, we need to share, show trust, be willing to listen and give. What would we have to do to be able to live in a competitive environment, and at the same time develop our level of trust to collaborate?

This is for me a moment of CHANGE. And I put it in capital letters, because more than ever we need to develop trust in our organizations, in our society, to keep moving forward.

Do we function like a bacteria?

In an interview with Elisabet Sahtouris, an evolutionary biologist and futurist, she told us how theories of evolution based on competition (Darwin) and cooperation (Kropotkin) complement each other in the sense that “life forms had to pass from a juvenile to a maturity stage to survive. In the juvenile stage all species are competitive and creative, then they move on to maturity, where they realize that cooperating is more energy efficient. “And this is what the bacteria have done according to this biologist: competing and collaborating in a  cyclical way until our present day … and will continue to do so in the future.

(You can see the complete interview here)

If we take Nature as a reference, and try to take the simile to our companies, our organizations, we can see ourselves reflected and extract some learning that we can apply rapidly:


If we look at the new business models that have emerged, such as Uber (alternative to the traditional TAXI model), or Airbnb (alternative to the traditional HOTEL model), Carpling (alternative to the traditional payment model for car parks), or any “Collaborative” business model, what we are shown is that, as a society, we are moving towards greater trust among people, sharing space previously “private”, which in turn, saves resources, and makes us turn to less expensive services. The technological mobility also allows it to become a reality. Our reaction can be “open”, to explore what it implies, and how to live with it, or that of “closure”, protection of more traditional models, more focused on “I want to stay as I am.”

We can conclude that collaboration makes us rethink our concept of competition:

  • Competitors in today’s market are not those of yesterday, nor will they be those of tomorrow.
  • Our vision of competition has to change and adapt to a collaborative environment.


If we now forget for a moment the context in which we operate and look inside our organization, we will also realize that sometimes situations of competition and collaboration occur at the same time.

Is it a situation that generates results? Or is it a situation that limits them?

In organizations where people collaborate, they have abilities and skills in place that allow for daily trusting, listening, learning and developing new ideas.

In those where they compete internally each day, people develop skills for protection, abilities of non-objective approaches to keep a “position” in an supposed internal ranking.

The organization is also a living system, and as such develops both situations, competition or collaboration, according to what each of the people who compose it believe in and in all the roles that exist in the company.

We can conclude that the duality of competing and collaborating exists in our companies, and that, as a living organism, it is in constant movement, pushing more one model or another depending on many variables.  But all have to do with how it is led on the one hand, and on the other hand how the constant change is lived.

And our organizations need to be constantly on the move to survive. And trust, as the basic element of collaboration, is a key element for this.


We, as people, are also constantly changing, even if we do not want to accept it. Our bodies change every day. And our mind too. The “How” depends on how we nurture ourselves, and we take care of ourselves, both body and mind.

I believe that our mindset is what makes the difference. We can choose to be in growth or in a fixed mindset. Carol Dweck, in her book “Mindset” defines it more or less like this:

• Growth Mindset behaviours:

  • Embracing changes, which are positive and help personal development. Persistence to overcome obstacles is the key to personal growth
  • The effort is what makes you become an expert in a topic
  • Being critical with oneself and accepting criticism is a source of inspiration
  • Development and constant learning are the source of growth of your potential
  • Trusting and believing in yourself

• “Fixed” mentality:

  • Believing that a person has an innate ability or cannot develop it
  • Thinking that you always have to get the best result, that you cannot fail
  • Not being open to criticisms or comments about our actions
  • Avoiding obstacles
  • Believing that with effort you cannot improve what you believe is innate
  • Losing self-confidence in the face of adversity and settling into the complaint mode.

We can conclude now that we can learn to live in the change. And that collaboration allows us to develop our skills to be receptive and open to  change, even our own change. And that is a source of growth.

Compete or collaborate?

I think that we are facing another type of reflection: to be a person open to change and learning, or closed in the “status quo” … and you? What about you?