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Why collaboration is better than competition—and how I've built a career out of it
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Why collaboration is better than competition—and how I've built a career out of it
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Why collaboration is better than competition—and how I've built a career out of it
Pass it on
Pass it on
15 July 2015

Why collaboration is better than competition—and how I've built a career out of it

By collaborating with others, we can open ourselves up to magic.

Written by Pip Lincolne

This blog post is sponsored by Xero

What does this mean?

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

This blog post is sponsored by Xero

What does this mean?

Competition is not what motivates me.

Nope. My entire professional life has been fuelled instead by collaboration. For me, that’s where the magic happens.

Working with someone on a shared project, finding that sweet spot between your idea and theirs, sharing skills and ideas without expecting anything in return. It’s the place where your powers combine and something unexpected happens, something that neither of you would have hatched on your own.

In my wandering career, the most magical moments have pretty much always come about when something I did + something someone else did = something super special.

For instance:

The handmade community + me = a fledgling craft and vintage shop on a busy street that grew through working together.

At a time when there were very few retail outlets for the handmade community in Melbourne, part-time crafters made small runs of their work to stock in our inner city shop, Meet Me at Mikes. Between us we grew a unique retail space that helped showcase the Australian handmade community. Word of mouth, hand-crafted treasures and our shop’s popularity then helped me to launch my blog and numerous (five!) books to the world. It would never have happened without the handmade gang.

My blog readers + me = Softies For Mirabel, an amazingly useful and affirming project hatched with my readers to make special gifts for The Mirabel Foundation kids–kids orphaned or abandoned due to parental substance abuse.

The collaborative magic came from the global show of interest, care and crafty cleverness. Hundreds of handmade toys displayed en masse were something special behold and a cute bounty to hand over to Mirabel. It’s become an annual project, shared across the world. (Surprisingly my blog, writing and work were shared globally, by default, too.)

The Big Hearted Business gang + me = a speech that became my next book.

Clare Bowditch’s Big Hearted Business Conferences are collaboration in action, a beautiful space for curious and smart people to support each other creatively. When Clare encouraged me to make a speech at the first B.H.B Conference, little did I realise that it would become the outline for my latest (and my most favourite!) book, Craft For The Soul, again proving that collaboration sparks things you didn’t know were lurking inside you—and that two heads are better than one.

Competition is useful too, don’t get me wrong. It can be a truth-telling yardstick, health-checking your business, helping you measure your skills, mission and growth (in response to someone else’s!)

Competition is also handy if you’re the type to rest on your laurels, with the perceived “threat” of challengers keeping you shifting in your seat, aiming for more, staying on track. There’s nothing like someone clever snapping at your heels to make you check yourself and take things up a notch, right?! (It’s less of a threat and more of a favour, if you look at things the right way!)

For me, competition also marked a big career turning point. For a while, Meet Me at Mikes was unique. But then similar shops began popping up, eroding our point-of-difference, stretching an already niche market further and making the commercial realities of running our shop MUCH harder. At first I responded with queasiness to this heel-snapping “competition” (ie. pretty nice people who were actually chasing similar dreams to me).

But I soon realised that it was actually a kind of early warning system alerting me to just how important it is to build in uniqueness, be yourself and do what you most love. I had to reassess and shift gears as competition took hold and our turnover began to suffer. If our specialness could be appropriated so easily, I needed to find a way to make my work more about myself and less about transacting other’s work.

So we closed our shop and I began making and writing and editing full-time instead. I guess I really started telling my own stories and backing myself a lot more. It was a giant leap of faith, and I could not be happier about the way things turned out.

I wrote lots of books. I began writing for other publications and sites like Frankie, The Age and JustB. I had more time to make things because I didn’t have customers walking in and out of my day. I had more time to work on my blog. I was even making more money. Yay!

Despite all this, I still think competition is best used sparingly.

It can slow your progress as you anxiously peer over your shoulder, checking to see who’s catching up. Constantly protecting your professional secrets or monitoring what your competitors are doing can at best, distract you from your most important work and the joy of creating freely and, at worst, block your bright ideas.

Throughout my professional life, the collaborative connections are what has kept me going–the thrill of doing good stuff together. While these collaborations have brought untold benefits to my business and profile, that was a complete bonus. It’s the co-creating, the friendships and the delight it’s all brought (to me and my readers or customers) that made me feel most accomplished, inspired and satisfied.

When I look at the collaborations I’ve been involved in throughout my career, I can see that every idea was potentially risky. Things may not have worked out. There may have been creative clashes, projects may have been poorly subscribed to, shops may have been avoided, students may have rolled their eyes. There were so many chances for things to end badly. And yet we pushed on.

Possibly, if I had considered the risks too deeply, the threat of competition too seriously, I would be sitting on the couch, unable to string two words together. No books, no ace partners in crime, no shop (now ex-shop), no blog, no ace columns in magazines, no radio spots. Just a different, scared me, waiting for a sign. I much prefer the proactive approach of clearing a fresh path, teaming up and trying fun stuff with other people.

It’s the joy of connecting and creating, the thrill of collaboration that keeps my heart in the game (and people interested in the things I’m doing.)

Follow the collaboration. You never know where it will lead.

Pip Lincolne

Pip Lincolne is a one-woman crafting, writing whirlwind. Read more about her—and get updates at meetmeatmikes.com.

Feature image by Pip Lincolne

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