At the start of my career, I felt an acute sense of rivalry, particularly within the PR industry. As I sought to establish myself and help my agency be ‘the best in the business’, I felt like I was in direct competition with the other Executives at the agency and definitely with those competing with me for coverage in our clients’ target titles.
Over the past couple of years though, I’ve felt – and observed – a real shift…
In the sector
A good example of this came as recently as last week. I was at a conference where my company had partnered with the organiser (who is, technically, a competitor) to create a wellbeing summit and secure a number of speakers, as well as deliver the official video content. In a conversation with them about how this partnership had worked, one phrase stood out:
[Working with external partners] brings a wide breadth of expertise that we wouldn’t otherwise have… it adds massive value.
The lack of ego in this statement really surprised me, in the best possible way. Why wouldn’t we all seek to fill our own ‘gaps’ by bringing in external experts, regardless of where they come from, after all?
In our own teams
The same feels true within my department now. Rather than comparing ourselves to one another and feeling threatened by the skills and experience that someone has and we don’t, in my current team, our various and differing skills make us much stronger as a whole. Thanks to the humble and honest leadership of our director, we’re upfront about what we bring to the table and where we need support.
Indeed, when I was looking to recruit an Executive last year, I wasn’t hoping to find someone exactly like me. I was looking for someone who would complement the personalities and skill sets already there, but also deliver a new and inspiring approach.
In the wider world
One of my favourite recent examples of competitors addressing one another publicly comes from BMW. With the CEO of Mercedes retiring, BMW not only saw an opportunity to make a video that could go viral, they took the time and effort to say this:
Thank you, Dieter Zetsche, for so many years of inspiring competition.
I think there’s a lot we can all learn from these interactions and I hope this sense of ‘competitive cooperation’ is a trend we see continue to grow.