Co-operation Versus Competition


In almost all walks of life, co-operation trumps competition. Cooperating, even with rivals has been shown time and again to have a better outcome in the long run than trying to outdo each other.

I’ve experienced this myself many times in business. I recall putting two software houses with similar products together on the same exhibition stand at an Olympia show. After they overcame their initial suspicion, they shared the costs of stand building and transport and shared the sales leads they got from stand visitors.

They halved their costs, made more impact than as individuals, and both got extra business as a result.  I’m sure there are plenty of organisations who can tell similar positive stories.

When I ran a training company, I formed a partnership with a similar organisation – nominally a competitor. We exchanged delegates to fill courses, marketed each other’s workshops, swapped ideas, market intelligence and sometimes sales leads. Again we both benefited far more than had we stayed isolated.

Games theory, which plays out scenarios for classic problems like The Prisoner’s Dilemma, has found that the most rewarding course is to forget purely self-interest and, instead of acting selfishly, to pool their resources and work as a team – even when it seems counterintuitive.

For a long time I thought the same must apply to the European Union: if the big players did the heavy lifting and helped the smaller countries to develop, everyone would gain from an enlarged market for goods and services with no tariff barriers or customs formalities to impede trade. And so, for a few years, it was.

But there was a factor I’d reckoned without. When I put the two software houses together, and when I partnered with another trainer, I assumed that we would both be using our best efforts and acting for the common good – that neither of us had a hidden agenda. And because that was true, business prospered for both parties.

But the same cannot be said for the EU. The individual countries on the whole pull their weight and are willing to accept some compromises for the overall good of the single market. But a new player has emerged, who is not one of the partners, not one of the signatories to the cooperative venture, but who has an agenda of its own.

The new player is the EU Commission.  It contributes nothing in the way of cash or raw material or expertise, like the member states. It has no money of its own and consists merely of employees who sit in offices. It makes no compromises and does none of the heavy lifting, but it has placed itself into a position superior to all the member states who pay the bills and do the work.

Not content with having purely self-centred aspirations, the EU Commission has granted  itself its own national flag, national anthem, currency, army, gendarmerie, air group, and judiciary.  There is a parliament, but it is unlike any other parliament: the member states cannot make laws or represent their countries, they can only stand by as spectators while the unelected EU Commissioners direct everything and everyone else.

It is as though the Speaker of the House of Commons at Westminster has suddenly appointed himself King of England, purely because of his central controlling position, when he has issued no manifesto, has not submitted himself to election, and has consulted no-one.

To return to my first example, it was I, acting as a consultant, who put the two software houses together with beneficial results. But had I, as the trusted intermediary, tried to tell them how to run their companies or dictated policy to them, they would both have immediately walked away, and they would have been right to do so.

Walk away.

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