Collaboration is the New Competition

Remember when people worried about having their idea stolen? Gasp! Was there anything worse? Perhaps the only thing that could have been worse was looking like you stole someone else’s idea. Oh, the horror! How would your career or your ego ever recover?

Historically, in the ad industry, it’s been about having the best idea. The idea that no one has ever thought of before. The idea that makes your competitors, whether brands or agencies, look like chumps. The idea that you alone own…the idea you get ALL the credit for.

Those days are gone. Like 30 is the new 20 and navy is the new black- collaboration is the new competition. Maybe it started with mash-ups…perhaps technology drove this new behavior as technology tends to do, but regardless of where it started, we’re beginning to see it everywhere.

Take Boulder Digital Works- a program I’ve talked about a lot in the last six months since I attended the executive workshop. The program is focused on creating the industry’s brightest, boundary-pushing digital talent…and the way they do that is by exposing their students to industry-leading minds from the most innovative agencies and companies around the world. This means that people from Modernista!, Mullen, Crispin, and many more have to work together. And share. Their ideas. Openly. They do this because they believe that without collaboration- this industry is going to be in a world of trouble.

Take J.Crew who recently ran a 2 page spread in New York Times Sunday Styles Magazine that promotes its products and website along with websites of several boutique retailers that don’t seem to have any relationship to J.Crew. When asked why they did this, Millard Drexler, CEO, said this: ‘We like to edit and find things that are not big and famous. So we put together a list of our favorite Web sites that did other things and that we thought were creative. They’re small companies and they’re not out there as much as they deserve to be…. We wanted to share with our customers the things we love.’

These are just two (of many) examples of the new level of sharing, transparency and collaboration that we’re seeing in the industry. Because nobody has the corner on smarts. Two heads are better than one. And it’s better to have contributed 50% to an amazing idea than 100% to an okay idea.

I would love to see more examples- feel free to post.

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