March 7, 2012 at 1:11 PM

Which Works Better: Cooperation Or Competition?

"I think that competition brings out the 'beast' in us and cooperation brings out the 'best' in us."

By Polly White

Santa Fe Business Musings

Polly White is a local business owner, active community member and astronomy geek.

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In business, we tell ourselves that we are competing with one another. We are competing for customers, market share, top-of-mind awareness, etc. I suspect that thoughtless competition may be costing billions of dollars and countless innovations in the U.S. economy these days. Yet most of us continue to believe that hard, ruthless competition leads to success. I think that competition brings out the “beast” in us and cooperation brings out the “best” in us.

Beating one another and coming in first gets us, what? An ego boost? Temporary recognition?

Perry W. Buffington, paraphrased here, wrote: In science, it’s those who cooperate that publish papers and win awards. Cooperative business people have higher salaries. From elementary grades to college, cooperative students have higher grade point averages. Personnel directors who work together have fewer job vacancies to fill. And, not surprisingly, cooperation increases creativity.  If we are to teach people to be cooperative, then education and psychology must work together. A typical classroom teacher is taught to keep students quiet and apart, fostering competition. Yet people learn best when they work cooperatively with each other. Children who experience this, or any, type of learning at an early age carry it with them as they mature.

Some great examples here in Santa Fe are:

Santa Fe Soul. “Our center focuses on the practice of complementary medicine, approaching your better health as an integrated effort – a preventive, proactive progression toward wellness.” This is an established non-profit that experiences success with their clients/patients every day because their practitioners work together, not in competition. Their core values statement includes words like bridges, sharing, and relationships. See more at http://santafesoul.com/.

Canyon Road. Artists’ communities world-wide have demonstrated this concept for decades; none better than Canyon Road right here in Santa Fe. Think about the benefits that Santa Fe has reaped because of these artists’ and gallery owners’  willingness to work together. The cultural richness (and tax revenue!) has been enormous. The Christmas Eve walk is a tradition envied everywhere, and even bring tears to my eyes sometimes. I am so grateful for this enclave here in our fair city. Anyone else remember The Pot Shop back in the 60′s??

Christus St. Vincent and the Medical Dental Center, etc. Some people joke that the whole area on St. Michael’s Drive is the Santa Fe physicians’ monument to themselves. But again, they have been on to a good idea here for a long time. By having all of the best medical-related services near each other, they benefit the patients and themselves. Having seven dentists in one building is not a bad thing~it’s a great thing. Generalists and specialists can refer patients easily. Like at Santa Fe Soul, the proximity of other practitioners only increases the quality of patient care. There are no down sides here. 

CoLAB. This is another example of independent professionals coming together to share space and overhead costs for the benefit of all. They are there to save each other money, provide feedback, and other support every day. It’s a great environment for cooperative work efforts, and it’s a win-win for the professionals and the clients. See more at http://colabatsecondstreet.com

Santa Fe Auto Park. For many years now, these dealers have known that bringing themselves together physically in one location improves business for everybody. Customers know that they will find a good selection, but they also know that these dealers will not resent one another for making a sale. Every sale improves the positive image of the Auto Park and of the other dealers there.

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