The Surprising Key to Business Success

Business Success and CooperationDerived From
James Surowiecki
, Wisdom of Crowds

PROFIT : If there was one key to business success, what do you think it would be? Most of us probably think it has got something to do with money, profit  or value. A big swing in the past few years suggests the key is people and Surowiecki points us in this direction as well – except with a surprising twist.

How to work together is a potent question we are all faced with every day in our personal relationships, in our business dealings and in our communities.
And, a key element to cooperation is the importance of a future focus.
Studies show that people who expect to engage with someone only once will consider a different set of responses to those expecting ongoing exchanges.
For instance, if you were running a retail outlet would you serve a tourist differently to a local?
On the one hand you have a tourist who may live on the other side of the planet and is unlikely to come back to your store ever again. In contrast, a local may come back every day of the week to buy a newspaper or carton of milk.
If you didn’t care about future transactions you might be happy to serve either person in whatever way takes your fancy.
If you’re in a good mood that might be to serve them well or if you’re in a foul mood…
If you were thinking about the future you are more likely to take greater care of both customers.
Obviously you want the locals to come back as they can be your bread and butter customers and the backbone of your business.
Similarly, you just never know what impact serving that one tourist may have. It might simply be good karma or it may spark a recommendation throughout their network.
Particularly with the rise of online social networks,  everyone is only a couple of clicks away. And, you never know how that one transaction may come back to you.
At a business level a similar thing happens. If your business strategy is all about self and your immediate concerns for cash flow then you are less likely to engage in cooperative behaviour.
Political scientist Robert Axelrod suggests in his book The Evolution of Cooperation,

“The foundation of cooperation is not really trust, but the durability of the relationship…”

Axelrod suggests the key to cooperation is the ‘shadow of the future’ where the promise of continued interaction keeps us in line. It pays to play nice AND punish non-cooperative behaviour.
If cooperation is essential to business relationships perhaps a future focus may be one of the keys to business success.

Actions : Establish a long-term future mindset.
Think karma and whatever you do today will come back to you in some form in the future. This may not simply be spiritual hopefulness; it may be the basis for good business and a healthy community.

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