competition or co-operation? both!

March 15th, 2010  |  Published in Commentary, Finnland

Ok, here in IBS we have the following class setup:

  • 7 teams of 4 to 5 students each
  • 1 team of coaches (7 regulars, some additional visitors)
  • 1 learning module with a main case study as our project and additional smaller tasks based on lectures around recurring themes

That group of people comprises the typical learning environment we find ourselves in.

The last module ended like this: each group gave a presentation ranging from about 20 to 60 minutes on the theories and findings used to analyse the case given to all groups. As mentioned earlier, there was a lot of overlap.

We are now starting in the next module, with a case about Staart, a Finnish interactive marketing agency.

So what should be different this time (from my point of view)?

All the information we dig up should be shared as much as possible. We use a private wiki as a platform, so only students and coaches can access it. No need to hold back any type of confidential info – if one group gets it, the other should, too.

Nobody should need to explain the basic theory about some model (we have references for that). Everybody can read up on it beforehand, if it seems interesting. If not, they can still learn things later.

Any type of source and material used by the groups should be linked and shared beforehand. Why not? Digging up stuff on Google is not an art form. Using the right thing, in the right context is a real skill.

Nobody is expected to know about everything. That’s what the wiki is for. If you have fun reading a whole encyclopedia, go ahead. Instead, pick your specialty. Let the other groups know about it, so you can discuss topics further. Let people know what you want to get out of the case, so others can forward stuff to you.

Nobody is a specialist anyway. Let’s be honest: Have you written books about the topic? Worked in the field for 10 years? Does it matter?  - No, because those guys are out there, writing scientific articles, blogs, books, sharing stuff on slideshare, rambling on twitter. Go out, find them. Use their stuff, link it up.

But here’s the catch: How do they know I did this?

All fine and dandy, but here’s a problem. As some students said in other conversations “I really don’t like it when that guy makes changes to my stuff.” or “What if they use my stuff?”

So why do it in the first place? Why share?

Everybody is doing it. You hand out the simple stuff to everybody for free and the special stuff is what you keep to yourself. The hard decision is this one: What do you keep? Basically, only what you (as a person or group) can add that is valuable and genuine. Good explanations, a well-though-through argument, or whatever. Anything that can only be done live and on a stage (this is how authors an musicians make money in the future, via live performance).

So just add your stuff. And if you are afraid of other people mis-using it: Copyright it. But make it simple, with Creative Commons. Now tell people about your learning goals and the license you want to use for your stuff.

That’s the personal part. On to the group thing.

So are we all one big group now?

If it’s up to me, yes. We always were, including coaches. Because in the end, everybody is as much a teacher as they are a learner. So helping each other out does no harm. Everybody benefits. But yes, in the end, still each group and individual gets evaluated separately.

As Reijo said “I really like the idea of the wiki, because suddenly groups are really competing against each other”.

Well, sort of. This is called co-opetition. That means, you share some stuff. You work together for a while, then you do your own thing. And if it makes sense, you form a group with other people. Like a task force on sales forecasting. Or a group that looks deeply into how an AdWords campaign works. Stuff like that.

Never saw this kind of thing? Well, that’s how the CD was born. Sony and Philips agreed to collaborate, so you don’t scratch your head about square shaped silver plates fitting into your new machine and everybody can sell more.

Addendum (for the interested): So how does this fit in with IBS?

  • the coaches are our customers
  • the material, information we use comes from suppliers (any source, no need to pay, I hope)
  • the other groups are sometimes competitors and sometimes complementors (you decide)

Now your group has to figure out how they add their value (in the final presentation and analysis) and what tactics they use (to work with other teams).

But to be honest, you have to do this anyway – even without this fancy theory around things. And without the wiki.

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