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Perhaps it is a sign of a different approach to competition when the ‘spirit of collaboration’ compels businesses to look beyond their immediate needs and think about the bigger global picture. When supposed rivals put aside their petty differences in the spirit of going after a bigger prize, then the landscape shifts from a narrow focus to a broader one in which strategic moves are dictated by who is working with you to achieve a mutually rewarding goal. The question remains, ‘Can organizations that provide a similar product or service make reasonable gains by engaging in a collaborative activity that better positions both in a highly competitive field?’
While this way of thinking is slow to take hold, the need for it is influenced by factors that have dictated an accelerated process for keeping up with the competition. Given the scarcity of resources, the expanding global marketplace, the ease of duplication of services, substitutes of products and technology leveling the playing field, the tall competitive shadow that once covered a market has been punctured by numerous players carving out their own niche. A change of thinking is required.
When two tier one automotive suppliers, both on the brink of bankruptcy, are struggling to meet the ongoing demands of its client company, their survival may not reside with who can out compete the other, but how can both provide what’s needed in a way that allows both to stay in business. The trick is in finding an overlapping area (i.e. engine design) in which both can share resources that allow both companies to reestablish a niche in the market. The thought process is being explored by a few tier one companies looking for viable ways to stay productive and profitable in Michigan.
In a tight housing market, a few mortgage lending companies, unable to singularly compete against the established giants, have taken to having conversations about some of the ways in which they can share resources and still provide quality and expedient service to clients in a collaborative manner. While their legal staffs help them wrestle with the long term ramifications, their ‘cross-agency collaborative teams’ are searching for the areas of overlap that will help both companies remain competitive in the marketplace.
In a highly competitive higher education market, the Greater Detroit Graduate Consortium is a group of 22 colleges and universities that work together to coordinate educational fairs at local organizations. In identifying areas of overlap, the Consortium realized that they all shared the same mission of helping their partner corporations meet their educational goals. Their area of collaboration is in helping to promote continuing education to employees by providing information on several different institutions available at one place at a time. This collaboration makes it easier for a company to coordinate an onsite education fair by visiting their website at
When two hospital systems find that they have the combined resources to provide a certain element of patient care without taking away from either of their missions, they strategically moved toward making sure the primary care of the patient was being addressed in a way that allowed for a higher standard of quality while becoming more efficient in their patient response. They would not have known what was possible had they not realized that collaboration was an available choice in a competitive arena.
The ‘spirit of collaboration’ in a competitive marketplace sounds counter intuitive to basic business, but the idea of global competition was never seen as a factor for consideration until its presence started to eat away at the foundation of many tried and true business practices. Laughing and pointing a finger at a struggling competitor was a lot of fun when the globe was larger, but as the globe shrank, the competition became bigger and numerous. What resulted from the spirit of the new competition is no laughing matter.

© 2013 Lee E. Meadows
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