To compete or collaborate, that is the question.

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“Talent perceives differences; genius, unity.” -WB Yeats

Yeats highlights a key issue in business, and quite frankly, in our society in general, and that is the belief that we are better on our own or with “our own kind” than we are together with a diverse, multifaceted group.

In the case of society, this can show up in only listening to and communicating with those who have a similar political stance, religion, race, gender, sexual identity, financial status, or education. In business, it can be separating along departmental lines or hierarchical ranking.

Regardless, it is all too easy to see and demarcate along what separates us. It is human nature to fear what’s different and unknown. What lurks in darkness (even the darkness in a closed mind) could harm, so why tempt fate? This is the enduring rally cry of those who would forever like to see separations in society and the workplace.

However, as Yeats tells us, in genius we find an understanding that we are better together, learning from and taking advantage of different strengths, knowledge, perspectives, and ideas.

Imagine we had never evolved from thinking only of ourselves, our family, or our tribe, how many great inventions, how much great art, how much of our rich history would have never happened? In fact, could we have even survived without working together? Could we have been able to fight predators, the elements, and the scourges of disease without a willingness to work with others not like us?

We are better together than in separate silos. To fight the saber-toothed tiger took a group effort. To defeat the Nazis took a world effort. To get the best ideas and innovate takes diversity and as many perspectives on the table as possible.

So what’s the point? If we want the best humans can deliver, we must include others, we must tear down walls that divide whether in society or the workplace. We must rid ourselves of the notion that results are ours and instead create results that are everyone’s. We must welcome those not like us, those who are different, those from outside our circle even if that circle is only our department at work. We must, as Yeats suggests, find unity of purpose and common objectives.

Put simply, a chief ill today is following the urge to separate and compete instead of choosing to come together and cooperate in collaboration. As history tells us, the latter has proven most successful. What do you choose?

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