Goodbye Capitalism? How Collaboration Outperforms Competition

There are two very big reasons the “Competition leads to Better” myth is harming business, society and politics. Especially right wing politics which keeps on selling us the need for competition. Big business also glamorizes it. Yet reality shows us two very big reasons why this misconception needs to end. Just for starters, consider this: there are currently more and more regulations and laws put in place protecting big business than there are protecting individuals. And in the current USA, it’s even getting worse by the day. In large international economic treaties, the dangers are the same.

I think these big corporations are both stifling competition (in their own sense of the word) and they are stifling collaborative bottom-up growth and rights of people.

One might wonder whether the whole ‘competition means progress’ is either fear of socialism or the smartest and most elaborate ‘divide and conquer’ mechanism ever created. Because when big corporations collaborate on price fixing, law influencing, establish from rock to flatscreen chains, then why shouldn’t the people collaborate more? Why do we think our governments do that for us? What would happen if we started more bottom-up collaboration ourselves?

Competition isn’t what makes most people run!

Several years ago me and a friend, Jan Paul de Beer, invented Switchball, a sport that you couldn’t win at ‘the cost of’. It was beyond the tribal team sports model. The purpose of the game is to make everyone shine as much as possible! So while you couldn’t win by scoring the most, and thus running faster might not make an essential difference, people kept running, scoring, sweating and making huge efforts to do what? Same with many children, they run for joy, pleasure, body development, playfulness. My estimation is that only a minority of people really get moving when they can win. The majority uses winning as an excuse because playful enjoyment seems frowned upon in our society. I think that is because the powers that be, those that benefit from the competitive organization of our society, love selling us that as the core. I believe that harms the majority, who’d rather play in such a way that everyone can enjoy the game and feel part of it.

You win by optimization of alignment and cooperation.

How do you compete? By cooperation. To win a race the runner must align mind, muscles, breath and intention. Thus champions are optimizations of inner cooperation. Teams that win championships often learned to put team over personal interests. Hey, even your body is 2/3 bacteria, all being part of an ecosystem collaborating to be you. Cells that don’t die when it’s their time, and who cling to life are actually called cancer. Also, how does competition actually work for companies? Most work to even stay in the game is about the quality of alignment to each other within the organization and with clients.

Nations are mass collaborators. Even corporations are predominantly huge clusters of cooperation. They strengthen themselves by making deals with suppliers, with traders, with regulators, yes sometimes even with competitors (illegal or not). On the other hand we can see Health Care as a very good example of why competition doesn’t work to improve care. Take how clients now also pay a lot of money that is wasted on advertising and marketing. Corporations also hollow out quality to optimize profits for the owners, often thus damaging their own goods and the services they ought to provide.

If you’d see your country as a collaborative whole, then healing ‘sick’ parts becomes a smart thing to do. Then a very effective functional healthcare system, addressing poverty and inequalities that diminish optimal use of all potential within the population become a very smart and logical thing to do.

Natural systems versus Competitive Systems

On a small, or personal, scale predators may fight over food. On a huge scale each predator plays a role in a subtle yet very complex system that actually leaves space for all to make it. Lions don’t win, when they eat all prey animals. They eat enough of the older and weaker ones, and actually benefit when the rest prosper for future meals. Real fights may make a difference on the level of individual survival, yet on the bigger level destruction of the shared conditions is dangerous for everyone. When there’s too little grass, rabbits die and without rabbits, foxes soon follow. Nature scrambles back, when then grass returns, rabbits grow in numbers and surviving foxes thus find food again.

It’s the same for humans, yet we seem to keep on fishing until the seas are empty, spread lead, poisons, hormones into our environment in ways that makes nature bouncing back much and much harder. We humans allowed our corporations to strive for unlimited growth, much like cancers. They try to outsmart the natural balance, by preventing losses. Unlike lions, humans, and especially the capitalistic profit system, it starts eating deep into healthy herds, as long as they can eat. No wonder that in the last decades over 40% of all wildlife disappeared. So, then what is more healthy, fight for infinite growth or collaboration to restore to a healthy balance? Thus we should not compete against each other, but work to create as healthy and abundant of an environment as possible!

“Competition is better” favors the wrong and too few people.

The second reason is that “competition is better” is a lie that raises good people to be thieves and thugs. While this may sound (and probably is quite a bit) over the top consider that most people want to help, support, and work together, yet school educates them to compete for better results. While getting a job is a competition, most jobs are not. Companies and societies are organized and successful as cooperative systems. Within organizations, people align to make a joint effort possible. Yet, we want people to consider each other as competition and potential dangers. We train children to outdo others. That’s pure divide and rule politics. We herald the richest as the best.

In fact the only ones that truly benefit from this believe are the real thieves and thugs in corporate and political life. They have created a climate in which we consider it okay that huge income differences make sense (not!), that to create unfair advantages is okay and selling dangerous/polluting/bad wares is good business when it enriches shareholders.

The conviction “competition makes us better” as a central idea is not natural. We mistakenly hope that laws balance the real crooks out. But laws cannot balance out the wrongness at the core. Nor can laws make a difference when the wrong people can buy laws in their favor.

Most people live honest lives helping neighbours, family, and friends. They want to and do contribute to their community and society in a positive way. All the while schools and politicians tell them that striving for better (at the cost of others) is the best way to make that happen. We train this in games, sports, schools etc. We pressure employees into selling stuff to people who don’t want it, need it and which damages society as a whole because it pollutes. We think being better at that game is good. We reward the champions of this behaviour. That gives us a false illusion. Most people who look at the ‘winners’ may dream to be among them, yet in reality prefer to stay where they are, because they feel helping people around them makes more sense.

We need to liberate ourselves towards friendliness.

We should no longer be ashamed of wanting to be a positive contribution together with each other, rather than at the cost of). For in the end, that gives the biggest and best reward of a vibrant network around you, who appreciate you for who you are. It is even much better sales in the long run, if what you sell really helps. The best businesses are those that get help from friends when they are in trouble, not those where people start selling stock when they get lower results. The best businesses are those where values are lived and where the values include the environment, the workers and the society, where considering financial reward is just one of the targets, not the only one. In our hearts, most of us know this. It is time to speak it out loud.

The core conviction “we are part of a bigger system that we help with our role and position” sounds to me a much better one. Heck, most of us are living it. So stop thinking you’re not strong enough to compete yourself to the top. You may have more natural higher values than that. Avoid those that pressure your core values to enlarge sales. Consider yourself as a helper of the whole. It is the most lasting value proposition we have.

Now go and watch this: