Growers Win By Competing Together Against Other Industries, Armitage Says

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Individuals in the horticulture business are competitive people. We may not have “The Wolf on Wall Street” ruthlessness and we may not operate to “win at all costs,” but we certainly have no intention of letting others outperform us, and we certainly don’t want to lose sales to other industries, like wine and movies. We work hard getting where we are, and a good deal of that work, perhaps subconsciously, is done to stay ahead of the other guy.

This is true in nearly all aspects of life. In sports, the very word competition means bettering the other fellow. In school, grades are based on a curve, and we must get better grades than others to do well. Need I say anything about our court system or, even worse, reality TV? Their success and appeal are based on competition.

I believe an evolutionary biologist would point out that this is the way it has always been, from caveman competing with the saber-tooth tiger to Darwin’s survival of the fittest to a friendly game of cards. Friends and family not withstanding, we are a competitive species, and we are hard wired to be the best

A Little Competition Among Friends

My wife Susan and I visited our friends Elise and Fred for an evening of games (yes, we still do that) and carrying-on. Elise and Fred are two of the most competitive people I know, so when the playing cards came out, I expected a blood match. Instead, we played Hanabi.

In the game Hanabi, each person receives cards and faces them outward for everyone else to see without knowing what they hold themselves. Everyone’s job at the table is to help the other by providing hints as to what cards each player should discard. Rules of the game aside, the object is for the group to work together as one, until all of the cards are discarded.

That evening, there was no competition among players, only competition against the cards. It required thought and skill and with each game, we got better at helping each other. If the group won, we all won.

Our Industry Can Work Together To Best Our Outside Competition

Perhaps this idea of pulling together is why I still enjoy this business. All I need do is go to a single trade show and I see Hanabi in action. There is competition on the trade floor, to be sure, but I have never been to a single show where people don’t share some of their secrets of success. Good grief, we even have educational sessions taught by growers/retailers/breeders, telling others how to grow/retail/breed even better. This as an altruistic endeavor. We don’t go to shows bursting with new information to make our neighbors better — this is simply how we compete as a group against other industries competing with us.

Attending get-togethers with colleagues is eye-opening on many levels. I am always struck by the fact that so many of the people there are very successful, yet they still want to learn more. And isn’t it astounding that these very same people will share with others as much as they learn.

We need each other and as such, we all need to learn to play Hanabi.

Allan Armitage (allan@greenhouse grower.com) is a professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.

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