We’ve all heard the idiom “iron sharpens iron”, but many run from the type of positive friction that develops us. How boring would life be without a little healthy competition? Beyond the thrill and rush of your team winning, competing respectfully has inspired some of the world’s greatest innovations and it’s time entrepreneurs gear their minds for the role competition has in innovating.

Imagine how complacent Apple Inc would be without Samsung breathing down its neck. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is on record speaking of competition this way: “The reality is that we love competition, at Apple. We think it makes us all better.” Cook is right, but since taking over from his pioneering predecessor Steve Jobs, he’s learnt that the key is “healthy competition”.

From the beginning of time, survival has depended on the fittest going head-to-head, selecting, choosing and evolving into the next day. One of my favourite examples of the power of healthy competition occurred between two iconic artists – Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti, known simply as Michelangelo. Just over 500 years ago, Da Vinci, then in his late forties, returned to Florence from Milan to learn of a 25-year-old celebrity artist named Michelangelo.  Michelangelo had already carved the now famous Statue of David, the world-renowned sculpture every man is measured against. The aging da Vinci wasn’t impressed as he believed his art of painting was superior to that of carving statues.

The noise of growing disdain for each other spread and the governing leadership commissioned them to go head-to-head, constructing their version of a battle scene. Like much art during the Renaissance period, neither of them finished the artworks. But, deeply inspired and motivated to outdo the other, they went on to complete projects we now know to be two of the most famous artworks the world has ever seen. Leonardo completed the Mona Lisa and Michelangelo the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Is it possible that they would have produced these fine works without each other – maybe – but it’s folly to underestimate just how much the competition moved them to the next level.

When rallying your team around a common goal where teamwork and cooperation are encouraged, people will surprise you. It’s critical when setting the stage that it’s clear that everyone will benefit, including the loser. The entrepreneurial landscape finds itself in a chapter of history similar to that of Leonardo and Michelangelo where innovation is lacking and we’re in dire need of bold competitors to go head-to-head.

Many spiritual gurus argue that you should only be competing with yourself, and on many levels we agree, but on some level this is a form of Utopia because we live in a period in which society is horribly unequal and we can’t afford complacency. We want you to look in the mirror and decide that you want to be the best. When you grow, we all grow. When your business thrives – the economy expands, jobs are created and we all benefit. Its Ubuntu for Business.  Follow the Total Startupper Campaign as we continue to inspire entrepreneurs to develop themselves while rolling out their businesses startupper.total.com