Coopertition in the Real World

Coopertition is a unique part of FIRST compared with all other sports. It is so special that it is a registered term for FIRST (Vision and Mission | FIRST).

While other sports don’t promote this, Coopertition is something that has existed in the real world and in business for a long time. It is just that no one had been able to define it within business. When I learned about Coopertition as a mentor it resonated strongly because I had seen the concept work successfully even though I didn’t have a term for it. Not only was FIRST able to define it, they were able to teach it. It is one more example of how we are using robot to build kids.

When I joined FIRST it was from a career in defense contracting and aerospace. Every year large contractors bid for hundreds of different contracts. In some of them contractors are competing with each other to win the work. In others the same contractors have teamed up and are working together on a solution. There is always an effort to blend the strengths and weaknesses of each organization to create the strongest alliance for the customer and the user.

Recently some other businesses are discovering the power of Coopertition. Earlier this year The Indicator from Planet Money aired an episode about marketing learning that cutthroat advertising isn’t as powerful as they once thought (Brands learn to bury the hatchet : The Indicator from Planet Money : NPR). When a brand praises another brand, the praising brand’s sales go up. Consumers see this as a sign that you’re a brand that can be trusted. If you can be honest about the positives about your competitors in the market, you are probably honest in the rest of your statements.

A little later, Planet Money did an episode called The Spider-Man Problem (Why Sony Pictures is stuck rebooting Marvel's Spider-Man forever and ever... : Planet Money : NPR). This was a battle between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios. Spider-man started as a Marvel comic character. Before Marvel started making movies, they licensed Sony Pictures to make Spider-man movies. Once Marvel started making films, they were stuck because of this exclusive contract. Initially Marvel Studios started to fight Sony Pictures to get the rights to Spider-man back. It turned ugly. What finally relieves the pressure is the Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures agree to cooperate on making films. Sony continues to make Spider-man films and Marvel allows some of their characters to appear in them for a percentage of the revenue. Similarly Marvel continues to make their films and Sony allows Spider-man to appear in them for a percentage. Through cooperation, these fierce competitors find a way to make great movies for us to enjoy.

Through all of this we can see that competition is good. It pushes us to do our very best. It encourages some risk taking to try new things and come up with novel approaches to solving our problems. But, it’s not the only thing. Helping others achieve their best will also help us do better. Once we graduate from school, we no longer have individual efforts. Everything we do contributes so a team or some bigger effort involving many more people. Cooperation in this next larger context is what makes us truly successful. Even Monsters Inc. learned that laughter was more powerful than screams.


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