Manage Rivalry & Rise Above Competitive Retaliation

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Mankind has been participating in rivalries since the first arguments, fences, walls, tribes and competitions came into existence. It is fair to say that rivalry is in our DNA. When healthy, these rivalries allow us to innovate, create and compete on a higher level collectively. Nonetheless, when unhealthy they can become all-encompassing and destructive — especially when the rivalries are internal.

The dark side of rivalry has been described as, “counterproductive tactics which leads to alarming behavior and competitive retaliation” by researchers at Pepperdine University. At times even leading to “dirty trick” campaign’s like those mentioned in the libel suit Virgin Airway won against British Airway in 1993. (In this particular instance B. A. went as far as calling V. A. customers and falsifying claims that their flights had been cancelled. In addition, false information was released stating that Richard Bronson — the president of V. A. — had HIV in an attempt to damage the brand.

So how do we safeguard our teams from destructive rivalry without curtailing innovation / competition?

Encourage Competition

By creating an environment where productive competition is rewarded; you prime your team to expect rivalry and spoils for victory.

Once incentives are in place the goals is to bring timid associates out of their shell and channel the impact of your more aggressive associates. With the aim of fostering an environment that accepts and promotes challenge throughout organization.

Compete From The Top Down

“I want them on their knees. Begging for mercy. Pleading for their lives. Confessing every sin. Kill! Kill! Kill!” — Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, “speaking” to fellow executives about Ingres, his company’s primary rival in the early ‘80’s.

Ellison’s choice of words may seem obsessive and overly abrasive, but you cannot deny that he is setting the tone for his peers and subordinates.

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