Traffick - The Business of Search Engines & Web Portals
Blog Categories (aka Tags) Archive of Traffick Articles Our Internet Marketing Consulting Services Contact the Traffickers Traffick RSS Feed

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Want to Win? Don't Compete

It's been nagging at me that there's something not quite right with the underlying message in "how to create a winning company" books such as Trout's Differentiate or Die or Godin's Purple Cow. They get it half right, but in a way, they fail to recognize the radical message behind their wise counsel.

Late last night on the local cable access channel, I caught a lecture by Alfie Kohn, an educational psychologist and author of numerous books including No Contest: The Case Against Competition, and a light came on. The perpetual need to careen from victory to victory is like an addictive drug for many in our society, and it's built into the way we're schooled. Many of the most powerful and wealthiest members of society feel the most inadequate. It's a vicious circle. But it's a cultural habit, not a fundamental characteristic of human nature. Given my early programming, it's not a habit I personally expect to break easily.

So anyway, it hit me that Godin's message in Purple Cow actually lays bare the oversimplifications of his previous book, Survival is Not Enough. In particular, he alludes to Darwinian imagery to prove various points about the need for companies to adapt to better "compete," or else die - "survival of the fittest," if you will. But as we now know, the "survival of the fittest" talk is more Spencerian (the late sociologist Herbert Spencer, who actually used the phrase) than Darwinian, and more ideologically loaded than scientific. Darwin was adamant that adaptation was a fundamental aspect of evolution, but didn't take a narrow view of what kinds of adaptations were best.

Trout's Differentiate or Die carries similar baggage with it. Yet the real point of the book, like Godin's latest, is that the best adaptations are those which rescue companies from the need to compete at all. The concept of differentiation in business shows us one kind of adaptation that leads to success. But our list of non-competitive forms of adaptation should go beyond differentiation: it should also extend to forms of cooperation. Obviously there are countless examples of businesses which succeed through "coopetition" - and they succeed not based merely on exchange relationships (I give you something, you give me something), but because this helps avoid the destructive impacts of unnecessary competition.

(Want more proof? Do a Google search on phrases like cooperation and rationality, robert axelrod, altruism and human nature, game theory, experimental economics, facial expressions, etc. The universities are full of interdisciplinary work on these matters.)

The overcrowded ranks of tenured scholars likely have special access to this type of insight. An Alfie Kohn can't rise above the din, necessarily, by going head to head against radical education theorists like Ivan Illitch and Bowles and Gintis. Instead, he creates a slightly different lexicon, a slightly different persona, and presto. An original. (It probably helps if your name is Alfie.) And tenure is no doubt a great way of shielding the less competitive, but still highly productive, members of learned society from the Glengarry-Glen-Ross-esque imperative to be a "top quintile producer." At a certain point, though, people in certain professions really do have to produce more, and win more often. Management has the prerogative to negotiate "win-win" partnerships, but rank and file salespeople must make their quotas. At a certain point, for certain people, ivory tower theories spawned from computer game theories and anthropological accounts of the communicative benefits of trustworthy facial expressions and gestures amongst gorillas break down.

In any case, the "business differentiation" theorists teach us important lessons - but what they don't teach us (in fact, quite the opposite) is that there is a perpetual need for good people and good companies to destroy one another for their own good and for the general good. Even Microsoft knows this. It doesn't kill all of its competitors. It cripples them, then takes an equity stake to give them a perch to ensure that they remain "cooperative." :)

So, if you're still clinging to that adolescent infatuation with Ayn Rand, move on. Keep it up, and you're likely to die broke and lonely.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




View Posts by Category

 

Speaking Engagement

I am speaking at SMX West

Need Solid Advice?        

Google AdWords book


Andrew's book, Winning Results With Google AdWords, (McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed.), is still helping tens of thousands of advertisers cut through the noise and set a solid course for campaign ROI.

And for a glowing review of the pioneering 1st ed. of the book, check out this review, by none other than Google's Matt Cutts.


Posts from 2002 to 2010


07/2002
08/2002
09/2002
10/2002
11/2002
12/2002
01/2003
02/2003
03/2003
04/2003
05/2003
06/2003
07/2003
08/2003
09/2003
10/2003
11/2003
12/2003
01/2004
02/2004
03/2004
04/2004
05/2004
06/2004
07/2004
08/2004
09/2004
10/2004
11/2004
12/2004
01/2005
02/2005
03/2005
04/2005
05/2005
06/2005
07/2005
08/2005
09/2005
10/2005
11/2005
12/2005
01/2006
02/2006
03/2006
04/2006
05/2006
06/2006
07/2006
08/2006
09/2006
10/2006
11/2006
12/2006
01/2007
02/2007
03/2007
04/2007
05/2007
06/2007
07/2007
08/2007
09/2007
10/2007
11/2007
12/2007
01/2008
02/2008
03/2008
04/2008
05/2008
06/2008
07/2008
08/2008
09/2008
10/2008
11/2008
12/2008
01/2009
02/2009
03/2009
04/2009
05/2009
06/2009
07/2009
08/2009
09/2009
10/2009
11/2009
12/2009
01/2010
02/2010
03/2010
04/2010

Recent Posts


Our friend the hyphen Cam Balzer's defense of d...

Lycos Joins the Slippery-Slope-to-Spam Club It ...

New Traffick Article Posted: "In Defense of Dashy ...

And now... Deep Thoughts with Kevin Lee Unlike ...

Did You Know? Buy Portal and Search Engine Gear ...

Spammers Adapt by Keeping Pace with the Times Y...

A Plethora of Interesting Articles Today News.c...

Minimum Bid Increase Buried in Flurry of Positive ...

On the Third Day, CNET Looked at Browser Upstarts ...

New Traffick Article Posted Who is Sarah Willia...

 


Traffick - The Business of Search Engines & Web Portals

 


Home | Categories | Archive | About Us | Internet Marketing Consulting | Contact Us
© 1999 - 2013 Traffick.com. All Rights Reserved