Thursday, February 19, 2009

collaboration over competition

Something that has been happening recently that's really indicative of the wave of New Change sweeping through: people are confused about whether they should work together or put up walls and work alone. On many different levels this is happening. What I am discovering is something I had always imagined was true:

Collaboration wins out over competition.

This is the case between people, families, tribes, cities, counties, regions, nations, and hemispheres. It's not just touchy-feely (though it's that as well...), it's a competitive edge. Yes, I just almost contradicted myself with the word "competitive". What I'm saying here is that although there are somewhat limited resources that in the end are being somewhat competed for (clients, energy, money), the way to "win" those resources is to collectively gather and distribute them. There is more room than you think, and more resources that can be gathered/saved if we collectivize in a targeted way.

This is not just an Obama thing, but his presidency certainly tips toward the collaboration end of the spectrum. This is a survival thing. We are not going to make it out unless we gather up, in all kinds of ways.

We are in the middle of a very strong but very slow hurricane, and we need more people to put sand in bags and fewer people looting.

This is not a "sky-is-falling" plan, this is a "we're in this together" plan.

In my business here in Seattle, there are lots of newly-minted energy auditors and consultants. I entered this field late by my own admission, but I entered it based on collaboration from the outset. I saw lots of people trying to make a living on their own in this new field of residential and commercial energy auditing, and they were struggling. They still struggle. They ask me "how do you get new clients?", and I tell them that I have to do three distinctly different things at once: collaboration, education and sales.

When I sold cars, I didn't need to do as much education; people knew they needed/wanted a car. What they didn't know was which one. They need to be collaborated with, listened to, and finally helped into buying their car.

In the conservation world, they aren't really sure they need an energy audit, or aren't even sure what one is. My own close friends and family are dragging their heels on getting an audit from me, not because they don't trust me, but because they don't know what's at stake. It's harder to collaborate when you have to educate so much, then they think they have to let it sink in over time before they get an audit. I am managing to make a modest living because I can connect with people no matter where they are. This is essential if they don't already "get it" right off the bat.

When the price of fuel rises again (and it most assuredly will), there will be yet another spike of desire for energy savings, electric cars, and energy efficient appliances. When the price of fuel dips a bit, people will slack off again on the idea. People need to realize once and for all that energy efficiency and conservation works no matter what the price of fuel/power/energy/resource is. The very life we live is at stake, and we need to act. The trick is now that we have such massively connected hubs of people, we need to act collectively.

This doesn't mean I think we should abolish the market. I just think it's a market advantage to work together. At least at the baseline. We all have particular skills and intelligence in particular fields and that will continue to be valued, but the constant clamoring to be the best at the expense of the rest is a horrible waste of energy.

That's the bottom line: it's patently inefficient to spend so much energy on competing when we need to collectively act in so many arenas. Those that grok that point are going to succeed in this new economy/world. Those that don't will likely find their success fleeting and constantly at risk...

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