Leadership and Mythology #2: The mystical and co-opetition

by Gary Monti on May 18, 2010

How do you cross thresholds in business life? This can be a daunting question. Boiling everything down to key components and making a balanced, constructive decision is the goal of a good leader. There is a drawing on both personal and group mythology to arrive at a sustainable goal.

So what’s this “mythology” stuff about? Sounds touchy-feely, fuzzy, and far removed from business. It is anything but that. It is about surviving, thriving, and protecting your business especially if social networking is important. How so?

Time to dive in and take a look

The previous blog mentioned four aspects to mythology:

  • Mystical
  • Physical
  • Sociological
  • Psychological

Here we will tackle the first one – mystical – and look at a form it commonly takes in business – Co-opetition.

Is It Really So Mystical?

The mystical really isn’t so…well…mystical, as in transcendental. It actually is very practical – close to the ground. The word “mystical” is used to describe both the awe felt and stance taken with regards to business life. This stance is based on simultaneously accepting the rough and tumble aspects of an environment that also provides opportunity to not just survive but to grow and thrive. Finding a way to balance cooperation and competition, co-opetition, is a good example.

Co-Opetition

In their classic book, Co-opetition, Brandenburger and Nalebuff apply game theory and view the business world in terms of PARTS (Players, Added value, Rules, Tactics, and Scope).  First there is a collective effort to add value and build a bigger pie (cooperate). At the same time, as the pie grows and benefits to all increase we might work to control the pie and get as much as possible (competition) without driving out needed stakeholders. Sustaining this environment is co-opetition.

Another radical idea Brandenburger and Nalebuff introduced was the concept of a complementor.  A player is a complementor when a customer values your product more when in the presence of that player’s product. Think hot dogs and mustard at a baseball game. One promotes the other.

But can a complementor also be a competitor? (Here’s where you give the classic project management answer, “It depends.”) Go beyond hot dogs and mustard and think of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, Intel, etc., and their relationships.

Is there a version of Office for the Mac? Does QuickTime run on PCs? What about Adobe and Apple regarding Flash?

Imagine describing all this to the uninitiated at a party. It is a bit awe-inspiring and finding a fundamental view for explaining everything consistently can be a big challenge… OR you might even say, It’s mystical!

Have Some Fun!

Can you see how important the mystical is? You can have some fun with this. Have a discussion with a group of friends based on the following. Imagine three people. One believes is cooperation-only. Another believes in competition-only. The third believes in co-opetition. Now, ask the question, “What paths could their businesses take?” Watch and see what you show each other about your fundamental beliefs.

Share you comments! I’d like to know what you think. In addition to commenting on this blog you can also send a response via e-mail to gwmonti@mac.com or visit www.ctrchg.com.

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