An Invitation to Learn

In our communities, organisations and society we depend upon people to work together effectively. Many collaborative structures help us work together — teams, partnerships, federations, strategic alliances, committees, cooperatives, communities of interest, councils and parliaments, and many more ...

To survive and thrive at work and in our communities we both collaborate and compete.

We collaborate because of the imperative to work across boundaries. Working together on a shared enterprise we are better able to create something larger than what we could alone. We can share finite resources and individual skills for mutual benefit. Collaboration is reciprocity at work. But it also has its shadow side in collusions that exclude others or betray group values.

Collaboration is not easy. It requires us to give up proprietorship, narcissistic desires, fixed views and beliefs, and to be open to different ways of thinking and doing things. In collaboration we encounter the potential to be changed by ‘the other’.

When we compete we can experience the exhilaration of winning ambitious goals, a well-debated argument, or successfully achieving desired project results. It enlivens our endeavours, inspiring creativity, innovation and striving for excellence. Competition can positively stimulate desires to achieve higher levels of knowledge, skills, and performance. We also compete for scarce resources, to get a bigger slice of pie. The latter may lead to destructive rivalry, where the ‘winner takes all’.

Constructive and destructive aspects of collaboration and competition are visible in every sphere of life. They can be seen in the political and commercial manoeuvring to exploit the emerging resources of the Arctic as the sea ice retreats. We can see them in the manipulation of ‘big data’ and social media technologies.  Or in the effects of a global financial crisis caused in part by collusions and rivalries blind to their ultimate consequences. And, we know it in our working lives — our organisations promote and reward collaboration, partnerships, teamwork — but these may be sabotaged or subverted by competitive dynamics present in equal force within and outside the organisational system.

What is the relationship between collaboration and competition? What can we understand of the political tensions in collaboration? Of the impact of collaboration upon authority? What do we need to learn about competing that does not require the destruction of the other?

I invite you to work with us in exploring these and other questions in a unique learning environment — that of a group relations conference, where the learning is in real-time, experiential and long-lasting.

Jinette de Gooijer, Conference Director