Collaboration > Competition... Or Is It?
For quite some time, I wasn't too big on the idea of collaboration. In fact, I was pretty openly against it. I thought the entire idea was a little odd — I'm supposed to join forces with other people in my industry? I'll pass.
I held a pretty independent mindset for all of my life, too - not just in business. I despised group projects when I was in school, and I think that's what led to the bad taste in my mouth when it came to collaborating. I felt that when it came down to my craft, I could + should do things by myself. (That's cool, right?)
A few years back, I had a really good conversation with my friend, Nick Brown, who's the Founder of DRONEBOIS, an Aerial Data company in Oklahoma City, serving clients nationwide. During our conversation, we talked a lot about competition — healthy vs. unhealthy competition, local + national competitors, and so on, but out of everything he said, one thing stood out over all:
Collaboration > Competition
That was it, plain and simple. There were no modifiers, no buts, and no conditions. That was his principle, and that's what he really believed.
If you're not super aware of how the Drone industry is today, know this — it's incredibly over-saturated. Ever since DJI, the global leader in Drone Manufacturing, rolled out their line of pro-sumer drones, everyone and their dog has been picking one up with the intention of making money by selling aerial footage to companies, real estate agencies, wedding videographers, and so on — which is why his stance on competition baffled me so much.
All I could think was he has so many competitors now, and he wants to collaborate with them?! He's out of his mind. I was a big proponent of the mindset that business was all about keeping to yourself, being the best on your own, and so on — and there is some element of truth to that. You should be independent and push yourself to be the best in the business, but not in a way that's unhealthy.
Nick has held that mindset since the start of his career in Drones, far before most people even entered the industry, and there's no argument that DRONEBOIS, objectively speaking, is the best in the business in Oklahoma. People — competitors definitely included — love to work with DRONEBOIS, because DRONEBOIS is all about collaboration and helping others, and I think that's what really sets them apart.
Since my conversation with Nick, I've definitely adopted a Collaboration > Competition mindset. I'm a big fan of collaboration, because so long as it's structured correctly, everybody wins and everybody learns from their experiences. Who wouldn't want that?
With all that being said, I still value competition very highly. I love seeing what other Marketing/Branding/Design agencies around me are coming up with, because they're killing it at whatever they're working on, and it encourages my team and I to become better at our own craft and kill it from all angles. I'm still fiercely competitive, but for me, it's different now.
I value relationships, education through collaboration, and making positive influences in my community and my industry.
If you can recall our Behind The Brand Interview with Paul Zimmerman of Leaf + Bean Coffee, I asked him about why he started the Latte Art Competition in OKC. His whole answer is phenomenal, but what he said at the end sums up what collaboration + competition is all about:
Competition and Collaboration are not mutually exclusive ideas. Be damn good at what you do, connect with + help others, and never stop learning.