The Decline of Hardball

November 20, 2006

I was sitting in a cafe inside a Barnes & Noble recently, and a woman left a pile of business books on the table next to me. The one on the top of the pile was entitled Hardball For Women: Winning at the Game of Business. It really seemed to me to be an archaic and out-dated concept, as I realize that the culture of business has started to move toward an understanding of social pattern and social intelligence.

So, I reached over and picked up the book, and read this in the introduction:

Society has shifted. The first edition of Hardball for Women was angrier and more polarized than this one… In the past, organizations have said, “Okay, you women, if you want to succeed in this business, you need to figure out how to fit in because our culture is what it is.” Today, organizations are realizing that they can no longer steadily afford to lose women, especially those who are successful…

I’m glad to know that even the author finds the concept archaic. It seems to me that, rather than learning to play hardball, we all need to spend more time learning to play softball – to build relationships and create connections that allow us to collaborate rather than to compete. The benefits of a relationship-based, collaborative strategy have never been more clear to me as they have been since I have started blogging. All sorts of relationships and collaborations have formed around this blog and my efforts here that I never would have believed, and I am developing friendships with those out there who, in an age of “hardball” would have likely been viewed as competition.

How well would this blog work if I spent all of my time “playing hardball” with the other people who might be “competing” for your attention? Rather, I find that it creates more value for you, the reader, as I provide links to my friends in the blogosophere who you might find interesting and worth reading about. And all of us benefit from that – as the supply-side economics people suggest, “a rising tide lifts all boats.

We have truly entered into the age of Coopetition – and those without the skills to create those relationships, who know hardball and bullying only, are going to be left far, far behind.

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2 Responses to “The Decline of Hardball”

  1. alan shimel on November 20th, 2006 1:31 pm

    Mike- I think the thing to keep in mind though is, don’t confuse the social networking aspect of blogging with real “competition” in the market. I think there are times and places for both.

  2. Mike Murray on November 20th, 2006 1:58 pm

    There wasn’t a confusion there – I genuinely believe that we bring the wrong metaphor to much of business. Certainly, there are times when “competition” is a useful thing – when selling or branding, you obviously want to highlight your strengths.

    The realization I’m suggesting, however, is that the idea of the zero-sum or finite game is at its end. For most products these days, the issue isn’t so much that you won’t buy mine if you buy the other guy’s, but that I need simply to convince you to purchase mine.

    The game isn’t as zero-sum when selling software, an information product, or knowledge – having more choice is often a positive. (This is obviously not the case when selling something more tangible)

    That’s exactly what I’m suggesting – the market and society are undergoing an evolutionary period. I’m not suggesting that the old rules don’t apply so much as that the new ones apply more often, as we peddle more in information and less in the “tangible” things.

    The idea of playing “hardball” with your competition is stupid in those rules, because tomorrow, you may need to work with those same people to accomplish some other diverse task – the idea of undermining your competition on a level of credibility with their customers is simply short-sighted.

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