Competition is always a good thing. It forces us to do our best. A monopoly renders people complacent and satisfied with mediocrity.Nancy Pearcey
As Nancy Pearcey said, competition has been at the heart of most company’s objectives, and even more so as the world has become increasingly globalized. Many of us might have already had to tackle such questions as how to retain new talent, how to be more creative, how to get ahead in the market – and the list goes on. All of these mind-bending questions deal with one thing: success in an increasingly brutal arena . However, although we repeatedly hear about competition, companies’ responses have often been to increase production, pile on the pressure, and, oddly, put little to no emphasis on collaboration and connection.
While finding a competitive advantage is a common objective for various business administrations, we rarely hear discussions about finding a collaborative advantage – and yet, it’s crucial in a completely connected world like ours. There are many examples of how multi-level collaboration – made possible by cross-departmental projects – has helped increase the overall productivity and business of a company. By adopting a two-tiered vision of staying competitive while being more collaborative, ideas travel swiftly and fluidly within a company which increases employees’ efficiency and creativity. All of this happens without tapping into outside expertise. In short, to innovate and to compete, we need to collaborate.
Competitiveness today is directly related to what the CEO of Cotential, Erica Dhawan, describes in her bestselling book as connectional intelligence.
To understand what connectional intelligence is, let us take the example of Ron Wallace. Ron Wallace is the farmer who, in 2012, beat the record of the biggest pumpkin ever grown. It weighed in at over 2,000 pounds (1,000 kg). The question is: how did he do it? The answer is simple: by learning how to grow a pumpkin. Slowly but surely, he connected with a range of people, created a network, kept his community up-to-date on his findings and collaborated with scientists from all over the world. It took his capability to combine the world’s diversity of people, networks, resources and disciplines, and of forging connections on a global scale to create unprecedented value and meaning: in short, it took connectional intelligence.
Of course, we might be tempted to say that this concept is very abstract. After all, it’s one thing to know we need to have something, but quite another to acquire it. There are 5 golden keys to accessing to our connectional intelligence. They are the 5 Cs:
- Curiosity, the ability to ask new questions and gain new perspectives,
- Courage, the ability to spark diverse conversations despite forces that aim to silence or control,
- Combination, the ability to bring different ideas together to create an entirely new concept,
- Community, the ability to unite people, spark new ideas and develop care and understanding,
- and Combustion, the ability to combine the first 4 keys to mobilize your diverse networks to pursue your goals.
Connect and Create!
Networking is the basis of connecting. For years, networking has been seen as a career-related activity, even a chore set aside for certain occasions, but this was a counterproductive way of using such a skill. There are actually many ways we can network, and we can do so without having to develop a whole set of techniques. Just by reaching out to other people from departments you are not familiar with, you open yourself to new ways of thinking, and therefore, broaden your mind and your ability to problem-solve.
By now we can agree that networking is a viable, long-term solution, but how can it be useful in the short-term or in an emergency? Nothing suggests that connecting will have long-term effects, and yet it does. Take the example of the well-known brand Oreo. During the blackout at the Super Bowl in 2013, Oreo was the first brand to respond. Within a matter of minutes the company posted a clever response on Facebook and Twitter featuring an Oreo cookie with the caption, “You can still dunk in the dark”. By doing so, they generated a wave of “likes” and an increase in product consumption.
So how is this relevant? Well, if it wasn’t for the collaborative approach Oreo had taken prior to the 2013 Super Bowl, teaching its employees to collaborate and come up with ideas within a limited time, it would never have been able to achieve what it did that night. Oreo was able to overcome one of the biggest challenges a company can encounter – promoting a product within a very limited amount of time. They not only did so admirably, but were also able to create a new business approach and won the best Super Bowl advertisement of the year.
By understanding the logic of internal collaboration, you will have the keys to foster new business solutions, solve problems more efficiently and increase the skills of your workforce. Furthermore, with this competitive edge your company will have the potential to set itself apart from the crowd. And remember, it isn’t the sheer amount of collaboration that counts. Never let quantity trump quality – good, fruitful communication is the key to successful collaboration and to harnessing the potential of connectional intelligence.