Co-opetition — a blend of cooperation and competition. What is it and how can it help your company?
First, we must understand the definition of co-opetition. Co-opetition is the synthesis — meaning merger — of cooperative behavior with competitive behavior.
For example, when you play a game against someone, you play according to the rules, i.e., you cooperate while you compete against your opponent to win the game. So, for any activity, you try to find the sweet spot between not being too aggressive and not being too passive, or between being too cooperative verses being too competitive.
You learn that to achieve the highest and best level of any operation — and to win the game — you must keep in mind that both cooperative behavior and competitive behavior are necessary to the equation for success. This is a rule of nature. To find the sweet spot between the two is the trick. This is the main reason we instinctively smile. It isn’t an either/or proposition, but it is: finding the asymmetric balance between the two.
The asymmetry results from giving greater emphasis on the competition aspects of the game or endeavor. That is a good thing. Remember the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s aphorism: Strife is growth, but a co-opetitionist would add, not too much strife.
Co-opetition teaches the CEO:
- Why capitalism works. In the late 1700s, Adam Smith said free enterprise works because a necessary element of doing business is ethics. If people do not act in good faith with each other, they will lose business and eventually go broke.In the dawn of mercantilism, you needed to rely on the promise of the Silk Road merchant that he will deliver the silk on time and with the bargained for quality and color. Otherwise, the likelihood of repeat business would evaporate. The equation of co-opetition is: finding the sweet spot between cooperation and competition. Business morality and ethics satisfies the cooperative factor. Negotiation for the best price satisfies the competition element.
- Don’t be too greedy (too competitive), but don’t be stupid (too cooperative). Good business is not necessarily — nor is it — Darwinian competition. Greed is not good. Ayn Rand, the author of “Atlas Shrugged,” for the most part, qualified her rule advocating self-interest with the words: “Rational” self-interest. Generally, you want the person you deal with to remain standing at the conclusion of the deal. You would hope that he will also benefit from the transaction. If anything, you want him to be able to pay the remaining price.A win/win deal is best for all. It is more likely to stick. So…. you compete for the best price, but you cooperate to keep the transaction ethical. But that doesn’t mean you should be stupid about any aspect.
- You don’t want to burn bridges if you don’t have to (too competitive). You never know when the tables will turn. The reversal could come out of nowhere. It is wise to always be courteous and respectful (cooperative) when dealing with others. Engender karma, i.e., have a cooperative attitude, while, naturally, always competing for the best price.
- Beware of entropy: The second law of thermal dynamics (unforeseen competition). You can never rest on your laurels. Always remain vigilant. Bicycles rust, batteries wear out, sickness and war happen, accidents, crime, earthquakes, storms, unforeseen loss of a job, loss of contract, divorce and deaths can and do happen. You need to remain ahead of the game competitively, but always do so in an ethical manner.
- Beware of the syndrome: “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” (By the way, such is the main reason that the founders of the US instituted the separation of powers doctrine into the Constitution). This syndrome is an example of too much built-in cooperation (i.e. too much power) and not enough competition.If you allow your position to go to your head, you will eventually fail. Always strive to be a good and fair leader. This cooperative factor will trickle down to the employees, who will more likely strive in appreciation to provide the best service to the customers and clients.
If you run a public company, generally the chairman of the board and the CEO should not be the same person (too much cooperation). If they are the same person, such is a conflict of interest. The chairman’s duty is to constantly oversee that the CEO is doing his job. If he is not doing the job, the chairman should be on the lookout for another CEO. If he is the same person, it is highly unlikely that he will seek his own replacement.
V. Frank Asaro is the author of the award winning and Pulitzer-Prize entry A Primal Wisdom: Nature’s Unification of Cooperation and Competition and The Tortoise Shell Game, a fiction work in Admiralty Law — one of his fields. The books are available online in print, ebook and audio from Amazon and Barnes&Noble. Visit www.vfrankasaroauthor.com.