I was running through Yarra Bend park the other day (that very same one Sonya Hartnett lurks in) looking up at the public housing estate, feeling small before this great monochromatic fortress,  wondering how such a place is intended to foster life.

That oft repeated childhood directive ‘work hard or you’ll end up in there’ suddenly came to mind – and phrases to that effect. Win or lose. Dog eat dog.

But who is the competition? And what competition is truly healthy? At the agency it doesn’t feel like we have competition in the ‘who’ll cross the finish line first’ kind of vein. We’re not measuring ourselves by another agency’s success. Time is absolutely the most valuable commodity we trade with one another. So, is it a race against the clock – is that the competition?

When I look back on each week, it’s about how much learning can we balance against client work to make the combined result impressive (within budget constraints ;-)). Technology, social change, global design trends. It happens very, very fast. And it’s very clear when you see work that hasn’t had enough insight and love poured into it. An empty vessel.

It’s a very personal business consulting. Particularly when your name is on the doorplate. It teaches you a lot about yourself very quickly. How resilient you are, what you want from life. How persistent you will be in order to feel the euphoria that comes with a tight, clean, beautiful solution.

When we meet one-on-one in here, the question at the centre of the conversation is ‘are you reaching your goals, and are they still aligned with agency’s’?

I doubt very much Apple would have gone anywhere if it saw the competition as Microsoft. Maybe the sales guys do. But at the heart of the company you’d expect the target was bettering the technology to solve a problem. You’re competing against the problem. You will not beat me.

The competition is not the other guy, it’s the next stage. Surpassing it. Smarter, more efficient, effortlessly creative.

Image credit: elefun69Flickr Creative Commons