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Is it just about winning?

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For a little distraction today, I went to a NESTA funded conference in London on innovation. Bob Geldof was there and was really cogent and inspiring. I suspect he always is but I hadn’t seen him speak before.

Gordon Brown seemed a little less in touch with the mood of the conference, I felt. He suggested (rightly) that innovation is about people; but I think he missed the point when he suggested that innovation was all about success for Britain in a very competitive global market place.

I suppose as Prime Minister, you’d expect him to frame the problem that way. But if his advisors had been listening a bit more deeply they’d have heard several people in the audience, and on stage, say that this was a global problem, shared by all of us living on the planet. Not simply a national issue. Tim Berners-Lee (by video-link from CERN or somewhere), for example, was passionate about global cooperation and collaboration. So was just about everyone else I heard.

Competition clearly plays a role in business. But most of the time I think collaboration is just as important – if not more so. Creativity in business requires collaboration. So does implementation of anything more complex than making a cup of tea.

In the afternoon I went to a break-out group about climate change, etc, hosted by the very, very reasonable David King (ex Government Chief Scientifc Advisor). On the panel were David Puttnam (a bit less reasonable, and therefore to me, more fun), Fiona Harvey (Environment Correspondent at the FT), Jeremy Leggett (CEO, Solar Century) and Juliet Davenport (CEO, Good Energy).

All good stuff. Including the now standard question about “shall we just get started now and turn off the air-con?” (I have a lot of sympathy with this question). Lots of talk about World War II and how we had better gird our loins.

Perhaps it was watching the PM doing his very polished turn. Watching him tell his highly practised jokes. Being the entertainer. But I was left wondering something about all the speakers (including Sir Bob), and hence probably really about myself. Am I really more co-operative or really more competitive? Is my personal view of this different from what I say it is (when facilitating, coaching etc). Don’t I really just want to be the best?

And if I am not alone, how do we square this? The desperate need to collaborate when we are also desperately competitive creatures.

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Author: Pete Burden

Strategy, Leadership and Organisational Coach I am an experienced strategy, leadership and organisational coach. I work with the MDs of purpose-led businesses - people using the freedom, flexibility, and practicality of business to disrupt the world in positive ways.

2 thoughts on “Is it just about winning?

  1. Interesting question this Pete. In my field, digital marketing, which is highly competitive, I’m pursuing an innovation-led agenda where one of my guiding principles is Smart Collaboration. Having so much competition on the outside, the enterprise has to focus it’s efforts internally to remove unnecessary competitive friction and really, genuinely collaborate in smart ways. We have achieved our most productive (ie impacting bottom line in near term / generating mid-term competitive advantage in the marketplace) innovations by uniting individuals to create new technology products or services and bring them to market quickly. I elaborate on this on my blog – freeranging.wordpress.com.

  2. Pingback: Best posts – year by year | Conscious-Business.co.uk

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