A couple of weeks ago there wasn’t much on the tube so we cranked up our new Apple TV and saw a rerun of “March of the Penguins”. Narrated by Morgan Freeman it was beyond fascinating. The Emperor penguins travel back to the same spot in Antarctica every year to breed. They mate and in an elaborate dance the mother passes off the fertilized egg to the male much like Peyton is going to tuck the pigskin into Keshown Moreno this weekend. The male then keeps the egg warm for a period of three months all the while standing without any food and in temperatures reaching -60F. Talk about Mr. Mom. The female returns some 80 miles to the sea to search for food to replenish the stock. Incredible.
The remarkable teamwork was stark contrast to Richard Seymour’s version of events last weekend. Now this is not a pile on of the aforementioned Seahawk. We all have our styles. A few of his 50-60 teammates and coaches probably chuckled. A few were probably more than hacked off inside. It was like he won the game singlehandedly. Not. More importantly it struck a chord of my thinking lately…the difference between collaboration and competition. Which is the better way?
Let’s assume for the moment our future on many fronts is going to be determined by innovation and discovery. What is the best way to get there? We will have to find new sources of energy, water and food. We will have to figure out how to make our current resources go further. We will continue to strive in finding ways to cure disease and maybe clean up our environment. Our educational system has to come up with a better way to deliver the product. Both qualitatively and quantitatively.
I am struck by cancer research. Each university or hospital group as well as the biotech industry is looking for the cure. Instead of attacking the same problem on divergent fronts what if we poured all our monies into funding research on specific cancers by majoring so to speak in this or that? MD Anderson would concentrate on lung cancer. You want to study it you go there. Sloane Kettering can work on the brain. Brigham Women’s, breast cancer. Are we making more progress or less having a number of groups work on the same problem? Some might say lone rangers offer different approaches and the competition is what makes them tick. Others consider this a tragic waste of resources. Not so simple is it?
It is noted that a city like Denver has about 650,000 residents but has a large number of hospitals are doing heart surgery, cancer treatments and stroke rehab in competition with one anther. On the heart front it is ironic that as more hospitals push their group there are actually less surgeries by a given doctor. If he or she is doing less procedures are they as proficient?
Now we go to the purely human side. If I compete solo and win is it the same euphoria as having put together a team and having all share equally in the glory? An interesting wrinkle on this is the Ryder Cup. The USA is a group of superstars both in perception and actuality. They arrive separately and practice alone. The Europeans are more like a fraternity house. They travel by motor coach rather than limos. They clown around and seem to enjoy each other’s company greatly. The results are obvious.
My family felt that way to me but probably moreso by my birthing order of number four out of five. I had a well known father and successful and popular brothers and sister. Sibling rivalries aside I wonder if we really understood each other’s strengths or were we trying to beat each other out. I do look back and wonder if we had put something together that tapped into all those talents where we would be now? It’s crazy but not as whether or not we would be richer monetarily but personally?
Are we an efficient society or should we even debate the concept? If my history serves me right we first started as pilgrims of a sort. We came in one or two ships at a time not by arrivals or departures per hour. We settled in colonies for security as well as survival. We didn’t have every body doing their own thing but splitting up according to need and abilities. I guess you could argue if this was the best business model or not but hey we are here today.
Egos play an important part. We want to excel and be rewarded but if we have a good team doesn’t that count for something? It’s been said that competition breeds speed but at the same time stress. Collaboration begets accuracy and self esteem. Every one wants to do their thing until they are in trouble and then they reach for help wherever they can find it. As a matter of fact they demand it. Interesting to say the least.
A few weeks ago Fr. Pat threw out the idea of a self made man or woman. You know I got to where I am all by myself. But then think about the means to that goal and how many people went into preparing that meal you dine on or building your house and the materials in it? Who wove the fabric for your suit or designed and built the 80 inch TV you are watching? You can hit a baseball or golf ball but who made the clubs and the ball and the tee and the bag and your shoes? How many little people are in that organization that got you to the top? Penguin or Seahawk? Now come on, you know who I am picking.
Ted The Great
In recent disasters non governmental aid organizations (NGO’s) competed with one anther for notoriety and impact made. You see if they were out in front then they would get more donations to further their cause.
100,000 people die in the US as a result of errors in medical treatment. There is no malfeasance here but rather a decision made with or probably without collaboration. I know what I am doing and don’t you dare question my diagnosis.
Our method of government is based on competition. Each side puts forward their platform of ideas and solicits the public to back them. If they win the spoils are theirs and if they lose they spend the next two to four years trying to thwart the enemy. Collaboration does imply working for the common good.
There have been a number of critiques on “March of The Penguins” ranging from the moralistic to monogamy, prostitution, child abuse and the entire social order. What a dope I am. I just watched it for the fun of it.
Some of the most innovative companies we have in the US, Apple, Google, Facebook, IBM,3M fall under the heading of collaborative.
In addition to your astute observations that egos and competitiveness get in the way of collaboration, I’ll add one more explanation …fear of Socialism.
In the US, inventors typically use their own moniker when naming a product, or company…Ford, Wrigley, Singer, Colt, Waring, Schwinn…and on and on.
In France, ever since people started making things to sell, the product was named for the Village or Region from whence it came…Limoges, Baccarat, Aubusson, Charolais, Camembert (+ 90% of all other cheeses), Chantilly…and on and on. This was because of the reality that no single person could claim to have created the finished product. Even though this practice began long before the word “Socialism” was coined, we now view it as such, and avoid any hint of it in American culture.
Acts 2 verses 44-55: Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
Mon Cherie: As usual you come in with the most eye opening comments of all. A few Sundays ago our fabulous priest questioned the phrase “self made man”. Much along the same lines that if there weren’t other people cooking your food, making your clothes, cutting your lawn, making your golf clubs, founding your Wall Street firm how the hell would have become so self made.
Watching as I do the world go by I am at the same time excited and amazed while my alter ego gets pissed and frustrated. Was just writing to someone to imagine if we all cooperated and pulled on the same oar what incredible things we could accomplish. Kind of like I was writing. Thanks as always for your thoughts and bon homme. Wish we could have a cigarette and glass of wine. We just can’t invite Nonie Ward.