According to this article on The World Cafe we humans may be more inclined to collaborate rather than compete:
Swedish scientists have done extensive research on this and they found we first lived in small groups of 20 to 100 people who in any given week averaged 2.5 days for gathering and hunting and 4.5 days on talking. The conclusion they came to from this data was that the brain, the neurological system, and our hormonal systems have had 90,000 years of programming us for talk and collaboration, and only 10,000 years for competition and fighting.
Dave Pollard sees collaboration and facilitation as a skill that he has developed as he has matured:
The role of facilitator, as I try to practice it now, entails the following:
- Pay attention, listen, and understand why things are the way they are now.
- Probe to discover what the obstacles are to co-workers’ work effectiveness, and work to remove those obstacles.
- Imagine ideas, suggest frameworks, co-develop visions, and create tools, that might make things easier. Offer them, demonstrate them, as experiments, and then let the group do what they will with them — evolve them, adapt them, or fail them. Let what works work, and let what doesn’t work go.
- Appreciate — thank your co-workers and show you appreciate their work and their ideas.
- Collaborate when you are invited to do so. Invite others to collaborate to solve important workplace problems.
A few years ago I talked about collaborating to compete and it still seems more natural to me than trying to compete head to head with a winner-take-all attitude. The challenge is that our models from the past few thousand years don’t help us much. School is still competitive and so are sports and much of our business. Collaborative inter-networked technologies seem to be helpful in fostering collaboration but we really need to work on the social, cultural and economic models to reassert the importance of collaboration.
Places like the Commons could provide alternative economic models, but even that is proving to be a hard sell.