Is Competition or Collaboration the Key to Success On and Off the Court?

Some may believe I am obsessed with collaboration. In my work and in my life I encourage CEOs, companies, organizations and individuals to come together to collaborate for the best results. Books like Co-opetition (Adam Brandenburger) and The Death of Competition (James F. Moore), as well as my own book Link Out report that when competitors work together, innovation results. Collaboration is often missing from the workplace, particularly between the genders. At least that's the complaint of many women in many industries. Studies reveal it is true.

I was heartened by a recent sports story in "The New York Times" about John Howard's vision for a Mixed Gender Basketball Association. Howard believes such a league has societal benefits as well as potential commercial value. Howard says, 'My model is not antagonistic or just competitive. It's collaborative.' Competitive AND collaborative. According to the "Times" article, "After playing basketball for the University of Cincinnati and the Harlem Globetrotters in the 1960s, Howard had a long career in education as a district superintendent, high school principal and college professor. While working for the Michigan Department of Education in the late 1970s, he helped start a gender equity project and was not convinced that segregated paths in the realm of sports worked best for the greater good."

The only professional sports experience that I recall including men and women was World Team Tennis created by tennis superstar Billie Jean King. Men and women played on the same teams, but women played women and men played men except for the mixed doubles competition. Mixed gender basketball as described by Howard matches up women and men on the same team and on the same court. They collaborate on their team and they compete together against another gender diverse team. Men and women each bring different strengths and different natural talents to the game. The same is true in the games of business and life.

Sports analogies have has always been a key part of workplace communication whether motivating the workforce or planning strategy. Here's hoping that John Howard makes a slam-dunk in influencing more male-female collaboration not only in sports, but also in the workplace, especially in the C-suite.

Leslie Grossman is a Vistage Chair based in New York City and author of "LINK OUT" (John Wiley) ,