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BUSINESS FIRST June\July 2012 www.businessfirstmagazine.co.uk


COMPETING! STOP


Competition is universally believed– even by governments - to be the magic bullet that cures all ills. James Burwood is a non- believer.


Growing up in the 1980s, my introduction to capitalism was very much of the red-braces, huge mobile phones and Porsche 911 variety. Competition was good, and the more competition the better. It was for everyone, right? Recently, though, I have been pondering, ‘If competition is so good, why exactly is it so good?’ What is it about competition that delivers the economic advances that mean I can speak to my friend 12,000 miles away, via live video, for free? Then get to travel to see her for less than an average week’s wages? Truly capitalism and consumer economics must be miraculous!


Foiled Again!


The mistake here is to consider capitalism and competition as synonymous. Capitalism tends towards monopolies;


hence regulation, which exists to maintain competition.


And competition is always good, right? Well, no, it isn’t, particularly in the corporate world. Superior performance is a result of better collaboration, which can sometimes be inspired by the challenge of competition. In many contexts, competition is actually divisive as it directly hinders better


collaboration between staff, customers and suppliers.


Let’s examine when competition is not so good. Let’s look at somewhere close to home, perhaps within an already successful company, perhaps one you know intimately. Perhaps one you own or manage. Do people or departments in your organisations have targets? Am I right in thinking they have individual or departmental targets rather than company level targets? All very nice and competitive, right?


A friend of mine used to manage a coal mine. Individual teams of miners were pitted against each other via a system of daily targets. He would tell amazing stories of cunning and ingenuity that


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