Cooperate More. Compete, Less.

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Who hasn’t heard the expression, “If you want something done right, then do it yourself?” It hearkens back to another age, but even then, it wasn’t right. It’s pretty hard to string a fence by yourself, let alone raising a barn. The truth is, whether we want to call it cooperation or collaboration, it is getting more difficult to work alone.

Our universities and many of our high schools offer (if not mandate) online courses, and undoubtedly many of our social activities are conducted, arranged or expedited through far-flung locations. Cooperation isn’t a luxury but a necessity.

In a quote given to Inc. magazine, Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked to comment on what happened following the untimely passing of Steve Jobs, “We’ve turned up the volume on collaboration because it’s so clear that in order for us to be incredibly successful we have to be the best collaborators in the world.” He was correct. However, we still find many who will say, “I don’t like teams, I don’t believe in sharing, I can get it done by myself.”


Going With The Flow

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching competitive sports, and I am “all in” when playing a board game. However, these days I like to work with people, not against them. Maybe it’s my age, or it’s more of who I am. I’m not at all interested in being better than anyone else; instead, I want to be better than I used to be.

While I will not quote the iconic poem “No Man is an Island,” I will note that this Scottish masterpiece dates to 1624. The poem is a plea nearly four centuries old that none of us exist on this earth alone. We need each other as much as dry soil needs rain. Another ancient plea is when a farmer is asked about how a crop is sizing up, the usual answer is: “It should be good if Mother Nature cooperates.” How does all of this impact us now? Psychologists explain that whether we’re training to get cooperation from a group of parents to arrange a bake sale, athletes to train together, or members of a sophisticated research team to cooperate, there are some practical steps we can all take. These steps include:


Reassurance – Many people don’t want to work with others because they have been shut down in the past. If other children reject a child over and over again, he or she will get the message they are not liked. Adults are no different. Reassure them that they have value and are valuable to the success of the team.


Knowledge – Sometimes, team members need to understand that pooled experience is more powerful than just one viewpoint or aspect. Maybe an extreme example, but the first successful heart transplant came about because of shared knowledge as did the critical lesson of how to properly cook cabbage. We all have some understanding the other person lacks.


Perspective – Yes, our team could function without you, but we respect your wisdom, experience, and viewpoint. Feedback from you is vital in case we haven’t thought of something you might have seen, felt, or practiced. The smallest change in perspective can transform a life.


Support – Sometimes, despite our courses, workouts, practice, and planning, we have to realize that successful outcomes sometimes rely on us asking for assistance. We can never be afraid to ask for help. It is neither a sign of weakness or fear, but maturity. How many of us have not asked for cooperation because we, not they, were afraid to ask? Imagine the songs Rodgers and Hammerstein would have never written, or if Orville and Wilbur had a big fight before that flight? Two are better than one if two act as one!


Competition may make us faster, but cooperation will make us better. Cooperate more. Compete, less.


For more information about Hall of Fame speaker and bestselling author Steve Gilliland and the Gilliland Foundation, please contact steve@stevegilliland.com / 724-540-5019 / www.stevegilliland.com.