A person who read my book recently asked me about co-opetition and did competitors really do that in my experience? For those who are new to the term, co-opetition is creating cooperative partnerships with organizations (or people) who may be perceived as your competitors on something.

In the modern marketplace, you’ll see the principles of co-opetition applied most clearly in affiliate and joint venture partnerships. Affiliates are people who sell your products for a percentage of the sales. Joint ventures are relationships you can build with another organization where they specifically promote your product or service to their list of followers for a negotiated revenue share. The beauty of these types of agreements is that any organization can partner with another organization whether they’re a business, charity, or government, to build their fan base even in realms where they look like they should be in competition. It also helps both organizations build their followers and fan base.

In the workplace, co-opetition often looks like inviting your biggest resistor to be a key member on a project or to be a part of and give input towards your big idea. Or, instead of competing with a particular group, creating a goal bigger than both groups that both groups benefit from succeeding at. The joint results being better than staying in ‘competition’.

Creating Win-Win Partnerships

I used to live in a view of scarcity as a consultant. I had a view that if people were engaging in someone else’s Big Idea, that it left less people to engage in mine. The actions that resulted out of this view were that I did not reach out, and I rarely partnered with anyone for fear they might steal my idea or customers. As a result, some of my most precious ideas stayed in small spaces and never got where I thought they should be for years until I shifted this view.

Then one day, I decided that the scarcity view was not working for me. I literally chose to hold a view of the world as an abundant place. Any decisions I made from that point forward were made assuming there is abundance for all. This does not mean my fear and the view of scarcity completely disappeared. I just made a very conscious decision that when that scarcity view came up, I would re-analyze the decision I thought I should make, and see how the choices I made would change by choosing to believe in an abundance of opportunity, money, partners, and/or resources and creating WIN-WIN partnerships. The outcome of that one small shift was having the best professional and personal relationships of my life, the most enjoyment I have ever experienced in my work, and vastly improved health and quality of life.

So – my response back to this person was ‘absolutely yes’. The key to creating relationships in co-opetition is to create a WIN-WIN proposition for both parties no matter what ‘matrix’ people throw back at you on why it can’t be done. Most will participate in a WIN-WIN, a few won’t….