Rivalry at Work and Anti-Rivalry

Rivalry at Work

“The more we compete, the less we gain”
Peter Thiel, Zero to One

Everyone should mind her own business! How dare you interfere in my business? We need to watch out for the other team! We are good as we are! I am not indulging with your business, so no one should indulge with mine!

Such and similar phrases are usually avoided to be voiced, still heard at workplace here and there, and they reveal rivalry and defensiveness.

When you care about these words and listen to what is being told, -which are usually served with an accompanying throughout stories from recent past- in case you are not careful, you might suddenly start to see yourself as taking a side. In these stories, everyone is right; whichever side you listen to, that side seems to be right. You either have to choose your side or stay with “who cares” mentality, which basically means “listening” to both sides yet you not minding much about either side.

However, if you pay attention, you will start to feel an absurdity. Yes, only if you pay attention and it will not be automatic, you will need to stop and look, and ask, what does this story really tells me? What’s this defense about? Is another story really not possible? If the sides of this rivalry are people or teams under your management, than paying attention is a must for you. You must realize and you must ask yourself “what’s really going on?”

Defense is described as “capability of resisting attack” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Definition itself is pointing out a very interesting absurdity; who is attacking? You are defending, so there has to be an attack, right? So, in this case your work-fellow (!) is the attacker!

Well, why is this defensive status, this rivalry happening? We might try try to find answers by looking at one or more of the following.

First of all, if there is defense there is also fear of losing. I have to defend, attack or run away for not losing because if there is perception of an attack, everything in the brain stops. Let’s repeat, stops, your brain stops, it does not work! Excuse me, let me correct, everything stops but amygdala. Everything else in the brain give way to the great amygdala (indeed its size and its shape is similar to an almond, and actually it means almond in Greek) and amygdala is all alone in the battlefield. However, amygdala to which we own our thousands of years of existence, does only know two things, fight or flight! (hmm, can we say fight or resign when the battlefield is our workplace?)

Secondly, there is the feeling of insecurity. I’m not trusting that my fellow, the other team will fight fairly. I am consciously using the word “fight”, consciously because if we talk about insecurity, perceptually there should also be a fight. My fellow colleague, the other team is my rival. My colleague is not someone that I create, I co-create with, and the team I’m competing with is not my collaborator towards a bigger purpose.

Thirdly, I’m not yet aware of the benefits of co-working and and not even concentrating at my own work instead of rivalry. There is no answer to the question of “what’s in it for me?”. Or, just a second, not the answer, even the question itself does not exist. Does not exist, because I don’t have time, I don’t have energy. My time and energy are spent on the fight; even if I do like to spare some energy nothing is left on my reserves, I’m busy in a sense. Maybe, I do like to act like this, because messing around with others tastes like french fries, you can’t resist, you salt, you dip into ketchup, mustard whatever you like and you keep eating. And, I’m acting childishly, my mother (or father) cooked wonderful dishes, the dinner table looks great, and I’m stubbornly and only eating french fries. All I care! I’m not working with you, I’m not playing with you, I’m not creating…

Fourth, I’m not aware of this: you need to love your colleagues. Months ago, thinking about workplace, I was describing it like this; the demand and expectation around us becoming so extreme and we need a true and diverse support (including emotions) from our colleagues, which is not happening without love. Otherwise, results are very usual, far from being great.


First of all, ask yourself; what’s this defense all about for God’s sake? What will happen if you don’t defend and refuse to fight? Do you really want your amygdala to manage you? Have you asked? Have you really asked these questions? If yes, you do not need me for the answers, if no, go back to the beginning of this paragraph.

Secondly, stop fighting. Simply dismiss it, drop it. Fight draws you to the bottom, fight is weights you are holding that draws you. Drop it. Drop and rise. Similarly, ‘distrust’ also draws relationships, draws any progress to the bottom. Sucks energy. Which is more preferable to be drawn with distrust and struggle or to stay stable at surface and swim through trust? For a second, let’s assume that the attack continues from the other side (whoever they are), your head is being submerged into the water, your head remains under the water for a while, you struggle and you are up again. Instead of counterattack, what happens if you continue swimming and leave the wrangler behind where he is? Which one do you prefer, fighting childishly and endlessly where you are or progress? Go on and choose one of them!

Thirdly, focusing at your work, becoming better and deeper at what you do will mean that you do increase your uniqueness, your wisdom and insights about it. We’ve just started to swim, now it’s time to catch a flow and start flowing. That will result in arriving earlier where you do intend to arrive. You will be seen astonishingly strong and smooth and as the flow you catch will remain invisible to other eyes. Once you catch this flow, you will also start to realise beauties around the river, you will enjoy and you will have the chance to benefit from those. Still, it is your call if you want keep saying “all I care” and keep eating french fries only. The choice is yours, the choice was always yours, the choice is always yours.

Fourth, just love, what’s the big deal about it? “Loving, everything begins by loving somebody” said Sait Faik, in one of this short stories. Work life is very challenging as it is anyways, how long can it be sustained without love and positiveness? Isn’t it preferable to have hours full of affection and possibilities rather hatred and anger which only bring deadlocks?

In case you are in a leading position, “what to do?” should answer a double meaning for you. First, follow the steps yourself. Second, use all the leadership techniques you know and encourage these steps in your team and in every member of your team.

As a later topic to write about, it’s also possible to define bigger hoops when you look at this rivalry-defense-attack triangle from a bigger perspective. Take the companies in the same industry performing rivalry-defense-attack against each other; could it be resulting in similar harms as in a single organisation, bringing stagnation, hindering progress for the whole industry which inevitably will mean stagnation and inhibition of progress for every single player in the industry? If we like to see even a bigger hoop, can we look at national economies? (Surely if such a thing called national economy still exists against economies of multinational companies). It seems -even though we have some countries who think and play as they are defending against some attacks, positioning themselves as defenders and keeping a rivalry from a nationalist point of view- today, the main players in the world are some companies and few countries -like Singapore- which are focusing at their own progress and advancement. They are not rivaling, quoting Peter Thiel once more, they are not considering competition as a sign of value but as a destructive force.


Chop your learning – Öğrenmeyi parçalara böl

Learning about a material in 6 x 10 minutes, makes learning more permanent (and usable) than learning the same material in 60 minutes at once.

Learning something is a very simple thing, it is also like a very very first step of a long journey. The long journey of being able to use newly learned information and skills when you need it throughout your life. The information has to be recalled from your memory in different occasions and being used as ingredients of a new creation, as new tool, as new add-on to your current mind progresses.

When you learn new things in a rushing mode, at once, it is less likely that you will be able to recall when you need the information. It’s like driving for an hour with speed of 100 miles/hr, and upon arrival trying to remember small details of surroundings around the way of 100 miles. Probably you will be good at recalling last 10 minutes but not the details in first 10 minutes.

Instead, if you drive 10 minutes (still 100 miles per hour is valid, or alternatively you may slow down to enjoy immersion of surroundings into your memory; your choice!), then stop for a while and record your memories in your journey book, you will keep remembering (and be able to use) your notes for much longer time. Good news is that, when you divide your learning, recording into the book of journey is almost automatic as your brain will keep working on this unfinished journey, and keep getting curious about next page (procrastination in purpose). And that makes it to have strong ties in your memory, more ready to serve you when you need it.

Whatever you need to learn, break it into pieces and let your brain to store it properly for later use.

(Learned from MOOC, Learning How to Learn by Dr. Barbara Oakley & Dr. Terrence Sejnowski)

Bir materyali 6 x 10 dakikada öğrenmek, tek bir oturuşta 60 dakikada öğrenmeye göre, çok daha kalıcı (ve kullanılabilir) oluyor.

Bir şey öğrenmek çok basit bir şey, ve aynı zamanda uzun bir yolculuğun en birinci adımı gibi bir şey. Uzun bir yolculuk, öğrenilen bilgi ve becerilerin hayatınız boyunca kullanılabilir olması ile gerçekleşen yolculuk. Bilginin, farklı durumlarda hafızanızdan geri çağrılabilir durumda olması ve zihinsel süreçlerinizde bir yaratıcılık malzemesi, bir araç veya bir eklenti gibi hizmet etmesi demek.

Yeni bir şey öğrenmeyi aceleye getirerek ve bir oturuşta yaptığımızda, bilgiye ihtiyaç duyduğumuzda hafızadan geri çağırabilmek daha az mümkün oluyor. Saatte 160 km ile bir saat araç kullanıp, tüm o 160 km’lik yoldaki küçük detayları hatırlamaya çalışmak gibi. Belki son 10 dakikalık bölümü hatırlamanız daha kolay , ancak ilk 10 dakikalık bölümü hatırlamak çok daha zor olacaktır.

Bunun yerine, 10 dakika araç kullandıktan sonra (gene saatte 160 km hızla olabilir, veya alternatif olarak çevredekilerin zihninizde iyice yer etmesi için daha yavaş kullanarak, tercih sizin) bir süre durursanız ve gördüklerinizi seyahat defterine not ederseniz, bunları hem daha uzun süre hatırlayacak hem de kullanabilir olacaksınız. İyi haber şu, öğrenmeyi parçalara böldüğünüzde, seyahat defterine not düşme işi neredeyse otomatik olarak gerçekleşiyor çünkü beynimiz arka planda o bitmemiş konuyu düşünmeye devam ediyor ve bir sonraki adımda ne gelecek diye merak ediyor (bir nevi bilinçli erteleme). Bu süreç, öğrenilen şeyin hafızada çok daha güçlü bağlar oluşturmasını sağlıyor, böylece ihtiyaç duyduğunuzda size hizmet etmeye hazır daha fazla ve kullanışlı bilgi oluyor.

Öğrenmek istediğiniz şey her ne ise, onu parçalara bölün ve beyninizin doğru bir depolama yapabilmesi için ona fırsat tanıyın.

(Öğrendiğim kaynak MOOC, Learning How to Learn by Dr. Barbara Oakley & Dr. Terrence Sejnowski)

You have a genius, if you call! Bir dâhiye sahipsin, çağırırsan gelir!

You can actually call your genius, it will respond if you do it correctly.

Elizabeth Gilbert starts her TED Talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius” by describing how ‘having a genius’ turned into ‘being a genius’ with the Renaissance and put an unbelievable pressure on us. In some ways this small change from ‘having’ to ‘being’ stopped many of us from trying to be creative in our areas. Once you ask whether you are a genius or not, first thing you do is to compare yourself with well known geniuses (Leonardo Da Vinci, Newton, Einstein, Michelangelo, Kasparov, Chomsky, Hawking or whoever you call to your interest) and probably end up admitting that you are not, which then sets a mind barrier in trying to perform your best, create your best, or start your dream (Salto Mortale).

Instead of asking with ‘being or not’, if you ask whether you have a genius or not, the story is changing dramatically. Think of some moments, when you had some inspiration and created small like a bits of something which might be as small as a single idea in a meeting, a creative new way of doing a task in different way, few nicely created words for your beloved, anything. I guess you’ve already counted several, if so, here is the good news, that inspiration is given to you by your genius! Yes you have it too!

Now, how to call your genius? Think your genius as your team member. Teams exist around an objective. Whatever you objective is, your job, your meaningful action, just do it (Gilbert says ‘just do your job’), start doing it, keep doing it, get better at it, and at some point your genius will appear to play her own role and bring herself, bring your genius to you.

Dâhinizi gerçekten çağırmanız mümkün, doğru yaparsanız çağrınıza karşılık verecektir.

Elizabeth Gilbert, “Ele Gelmez Yaratıcı Dâhiniz” isimli TED konuşmasına (linke tıklayarak doğrudan Türkçe alt yazılı versiyona ulaşabilirsiniz, başlık ‘Deha Üzerine’ diye çevrilmiş ama benim çevirimin daha doğru olduğunu düşünüyorum) ‘dâhiye sahip olmak’ ifadesinin Rönesans ile birlikte nasıl ‘dâhi olmak’ ifadesine dönüştüğünü ve bunun üzerimizde nasıl bir baskı kurduğunu anlatarak başlıyor. ‘Sahip olmak’ ile ‘olmak’ arasındaki küçük değişim, bir bakıma pek çoğumuzu kendi alanlarımızda yaratıcı olmaya çalışmaktan alıkoydu. Bir dâhi olup olmadığınızı sorduğunuzda, muhtemelen ilk yapacağınız şey kendinizi bilinen dâhilerle (Leonardo Da Vinci, Newton, Einstein, Michelangelo, Kasparov, Chomsky, Hawking veya kendi ilgi alanınızda aklınıza kim geliyorsa) karşılaştırmak ve dâhi olmadığınıza karar vermek olacaktır. Bu da bir nevi zihinsel bariyer oluşturacak, en iyisini yapmaya çalışmanızı, en iyisini yaratmanızı veya hayallerinize giden yolda adım atmanızı (Salto Mortale) engelleyecektir.

Eğer ‘olmak ve olmamak’ şeklinde sormak yerine, dâhiye sahip olup olmadığınızı sorarsanız hikayenin şekli tamamen değişiyor. Küçük şeyler yaratmanıza vesile olan esinlenmeler yakaladığınız anları düşünün; bir toplantıda yarattığınız minicik bir fikir, bir işi başka türlü yapmak için bulduğunuz yeni bir yöntem veya sevdiğiniz biri için yarattığınız birkaç kelime güzel söz. Herhangi bir şey. Tahmin ediyorum bir kaç şey aklınıza gelmiştir. Eğer öyleyse, işte size güzel haber, o esinlenmeler size dâhiniz tarafından verildi! Evet sizin de bir dâhiniz var!

Şimdi, dâhinizi nasıl çağıracaksınız? Dâhinizi ekip üyesi gibi düşünün. Ekipler bir amaç etrafında var olurlar.  Amacınız her ne ise, işiniz, hayatınıza anlam katan eylemleriniz, her ne ise, onu yapın, yapmaya başlayın, yapmaya devam edin, o işi yapmakta daha iyi hale gelin ve bir noktada dâhiniz ortaya çıkacak ve kendine düşen kısmı yapacak, dâhinizi size getirecek.

Creativity & Mistakes – Yaratıcılık & Hatalar

It’s only a recent discovery for me to learn that creativity is not about being a creative person but rather working and keeping working through an objective. Or having a question put on the table in front of your eyes and then starting to seek answers. Nothing can be created without starting and trying. And we can’t get better if we don’t start making mistakes. So, put the question, start making mistakes, seek for the answers and choose the best fit. Few more words from S.Adams about the quote and leadership: “…we’re all idiots and we’re going to make mistakes. That’s not necessarily bad… Keep your people fresh, happy and efficient. Set a target, then get out of the way. Let art happen. Sometimes idiots can accomplish wonderful things.”

Yaratıcılığın sadece yaratıcı kişilere özgü bir özellik olmadığını çok yakın zamanda farkettim. Yaratıcılık kişiyle ilgili değil, çalışmak ve bir hedefe doğru çalışmakla ilgili. Veya masanın üstüne, gözlerinin tam önüne bir soru koymak ve ona cevap aramakla ilgili. Başlamadan ve denemeden hiçbir şey yaratılamaz. Ve hata yapmaya başlamazsak daha iyi hale gelemiyoruz. Kısacası, soruyu sor, hata yapmaya başla, cevapları ara ve en iyi cevabı seç. S. Adams’tan alıntı ve liderlikle ilgisine dair birkaç söz daha: “…hepimiz ahmağız ve hepimiz hatalar yapacağız. Bu illa kötü bir şey demek değildir… Çalıştığınız insanları taze, mutlu ve etkin tutun. Bir hedef belirleyin, sonra yoldan çekilin. Bırakın sanat kendini göstersin. Bazen ahmaklar şahane işler başarabilir.” 

Learning language – Dil öğrenmek

Learning a new language keeps your brain fit and young. Learning new things generally does the job. The more you are unfamiliar with the newly learned topics, the more your brain tries to catch up with you by producing more synapses and by making new connections for learned material. Language learning stimulates different areas in the brain and ensures increased brain activity, which triggers creation of baby synapses and which helps you for in memorizing and creativity. Learning language is also suggested for elder people in preserving brain functions and inhibiting Alzheimer.
Yeni bir dil öğrenmek beyni genç ve zinde tutar. Yeni bir şeyler öğrenmek de benzer bir etki yapıyoru. Öğrenilen şeye ne kadar az aşina iseniz, beyniniz size yetişmek için o kadar uğraşıyor, yeni sinapsisler yaratıyor ve öğrenilenleri birbiri ile bağlıyor. Dil öğrenmek beyinde farklı bölümleri harekete geçiriyor, daha yüksek beyin aktivitesi sağlıyor, yeni sinapsislerin üretilmesini tetikliyor ve tüm bunlar daha iyi bir hafızaya ve yaratıcılıkta artışa sebep oluyor. Yeni bir dil öğrenmek, ileri yaştaki insanlar için de tavsiye ediliyor, hem beynin fonksiyonlarını korumak hem de alzaymır ve benzer hastalıkları engellemek için.