Cooperation vs. Collaboration for a Meaningful Workplace

Successful businesses in the future will share a common characteristic: a cooperative approach to employee engagement, morale and gratification. Stowe Boyd is a super-smart researcher and author who focuses on “The future of work, and the tectonic forces pushing business into an unclear and accelerating future.” In his work he has made the following observation:

“In the collaborative business, people affiliate with coworkers around shared business culture and an approved strategic plan to which they subordinate their personal aims.

“But in a cooperative business, people affiliate with coworkers around a shared business ethos, and each is pursuing their own personal aims to which they subordinate business strategy.”

This is an important distinction to understand and embrace

The future is about more humanized business. That means workplaces in which employees can “pursue their own personal aims.” Guided by what Stowe calls a “business ethos”, the employees thrive even though they put themselves ahead of the business strategy.

This is not business as usual. But these are not ordinary times. We are living in a time when employees (being the humans they are) are seeking to create more meaning in their lives. In a business sense, this means creating meaning through how they spend their money (as customers) and how they invest their time (as workers).

Creating a human-centric and meaningful workplace

For employees, meaning comes from doing work that matters (a meaningful business ethos), in a way that increases the feeling that their efforts are helping others (including both the business’s customers as well as their fellow employees). So, rather than subordinating the personal aims of employees, successful businesses promote a cooperative work style.

The result? Employees become more involved. They contribute more ideas. They are more open with others. They help each other out. Every interaction with fellow employees – coupled with the power of the meaningful business ethos driving the team – fills the employee with a sense of purpose and meaning that is absent in a collaborative approach.

“Contented cows produce more milk,” is how David Ogilvy, founder of Ogilvy and Mather, put it.

To read our white paper on The Meaningful Workplace, download our paper.

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Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy firm


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