Have you ever heard the story of the Tower of Babel? You know, the story that at one point in time all people on Earth spoke the same language, shared the same beliefs, and shared common goals. One of those goals was to build a tower that could touch the heavens, and – as the story goes – they came very close to accomplishing it.
Then, with a decisive strike of furious power, God destroyed the tower, causing an explosion that scattered all of those people randomly across the Earth, on their own separate lands, thus ending the great unity amongst humankind.
Although I claim absolutely no authority on the faith-based meaning of the story, what I do believe is that we – as a people – have an immeasurable amount of potential to do amazing things when we unite under a common language, set of ideals, and common goals. When I speak of community, this is what I'm talking about.
I believe the same unified efforts that built the great tower (if the stories were true) are the same efforts that are responsible for anything great we have ever done throughout human history, and business is certainly no exception. In fact, I would venture to guess that very few would argue the contrary, and yet a mentality of scarcity, not abundance, permeates much of our greater network. And for what?
Why would we forgo leveraging the power of community just to have “ownership” – whatever that really means anymore – over an opportunity, market, customer-base, etc.? I get it: We all have to eat at the end of the day, and holding on to what you can seems like it puts food on the table. Although that seems intuitive, and logical, I think it's totally backwards.
You see, I believe we not just receive, but earn opportunity when we respect the great power that a sense of community provides. If we fight the power of community, then any benefit we see comes in spite of that resistance, not because of it.
Frame this assertion as effective teamwork, and it's generally accepted as far as an ideal to be applied within an organization. Strangely enough, however, is this assertion is rarely extended to the professionals in our networks, and thus our “tower” is never built.
Let's look at it a different way: I think people want to “go it alone” because of a cultural impatience that is ingrained within us by the very same school system that discourages collaboration, and encourages egocentric “tunnel-vision.” It's akin to a pandemic, infecting the very fabric of who we're becoming, and make no mistake about it: This is really bad.
The downstream effect of this cultural impatience is everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, but no one wants to treat it like a marathon rather than a sprint. Now, is there a causal relationship between impatience and a disconnect from community? No, however there is certainly a correlation. Even worse, this impulsive impatience tends to have the exact opposite effect than desired, making the process of growing something truly great take much longer. There are way too many businesses to count that spend more time “fighting fires” than they do covering new ground, and this is a downstream effect – a result – of management prioritizing short-term gains and being unwilling to ask for outside help.
As the great Dr. Deming said, this is a deadly disease.
And to those who are asking, "Why outside help?"
A 3rd party has a fresh set of eyes for the problem, and can often provide a deeper perspective than those who are “too close to see.”
Although we remember Steve Jobs quite prominently, we emotionally seem to forget that it was the community around him who made the “visionary Steve Jobs” possible. His “dent on the universe” was made via the great power of unity, and through the even greater virtue of patience.
Ultimately the question is this: Do you have what it takes to think big? To think of the “whole,” the community, network, etc., rather than of your own isolated silo? Are you going to back that up with actions that are consistent with a business of “we” rather than a business of “me?” Do you have the resilience, patience, and tenacity to truly adopt long-time perspective, rather than focusing on short-term gains?
This is about not just improving the quality of our communication with one another. It's about improving the quality of the solutions and experiences we provide customers, becoming better consultants in the process. A trite as it may be, unity accomplishes that exponentially better than isolation.
After all, our customers only want us to solve their problems as efficiently and effectively as possible, and they want those solutions to stand the test of time. They never said we had to compete in order to do it.