Cooperation vs Competition LO6539

Dr. Scott J. Simmerman (
09 Apr 96 12:00:14 EDT

Replying to LO6488 --

Jessica Lipnack in LO6488 brings to us " co-opetition, the combination of
competition and cooperation," the essence of which John Woods has been
discussing. I've been lurking on this one, since we do a good bit of work
in this area, and I wondered where this was headed. I'll make two major
points, herein.

First of all, I structured my entire business on the fact that independent
consultants want to be independent -- they want to create and use
effective tools and have a great deal of ownership of the process. Many
of us are ex-employees of other consulting firms who really disliked the
competition / search for favoritism and didn't like the non-contingency of
reward. Me, I'm the world's worst employee because I didn't like the
games of politics and would often directly challenge existing thinking
when it did not seem on target. (My guess is that this will resonate with
a few of us in here.)

So, I sell all my stuff outright. No annual licenses. No per-participant
fees. I consider the world collaborative, and thus will often give away a
$2000 workshop to another consultant who is using my stuff when logistics
make it inconvenient for me. At the same time, I've developed a global
network of consultants and trainers using my stuff. Where the industry
expects us to be competitive, I've found (for the most part) that others
will engage in collaboration when it makes good OVERALL sense. Another
positive is that we continually get new ideas for improvement.

Secondly, we built and play a team development game. The structure is
such that collaboration allows the Group and the individual teams to
maximize the ROI on my resources. I provide them with a vehicle, a map, a
grubstake (start-up resources), and my leadership and I expect a return on
that. But each team of 6 generally competes with the other teams. When
they do collaborate, it is often one-sided. As Expedition Leader, I have
no earthly idea what is actually happening "out there" can only judge by
the results I see as time go forward. And interestingly, "No One Ever
Asks The Expedition Leader for Advice."

They play through the entire exercise and never think to ask Expedition
Leaders for help or information, even when we hold extra resources (that
can be given to them if it will help to maximize results) and have the
best overall perspective.
Last week, a team actually called me during its planning time on my
800 number to ask for advice -- they did this instead of asking the
on-site Expedition Leader for assistance; they would rather trust a
voice on the phone than their leader in the room! Leaders are NOT
part of My Team.

They DO get motivated. Short time limits are motivating (Nobody ever
turned a term paper in early), color, music, sufficient resources, shared
goals, some team structure within each team of 6, etc. all serve to get
them highly committed. Shared Risk and Multiplied Successes also work to
reduce team fear. And the symbolism of "mining gold" works quite well --
people DO want to be successful. Yet they also want some safety.

Teams can get a Spare Tire, which, "protects them in case of Ice Shards.
Ice Shards are Very Rare." Getting a spare tire costs the team (and the
group), Gold. And Ice Shards are so rare, they have never actually
occurred in the game itself. Thus, spare tires are really like unused
training tools -- they cost valuable / limited resources and offer no
payoff, like the binders on the shelves in most offices. And the "safety"
suboptimizes results. Combined with isolation (aka "independence," we
mine less gold than we might.

Lastly, teams will generally BLAME (!) the Expedition Leader for "making
them competitive:" "Well, you gave each team its own resources." "You
measured each team on its own progress." "You didn't tell us we could
work together," (even though it is on four different transparencies in the
introduction). And so forth.

"In an avalanche, each snowflake will claim its innocence."

We get caught up in a "game" we've played before, where competition is the
strategy that enables My Team (My Team, My Team, My Team) to win and thus
your teams to lose. And while this strategy of competition works for the
winning teams (and maybe Pat Buchanan), it certainly does nothing to
optimize group / global results. (Witness the money that can be made
these days by illegally importing Freon for car air conditioners into the
US -- at the cost of the ozone. Duh.)

There really seem to be some basics human behavioral frameworks that
appear in all cultures -- this is the archetypes stuff we keep coming
around to. Yet we also see disclaiming / blaming behavior in most
environments; a failure to accept personal responsibility for one's
behavior. (Willy Shoemaker, exceptionally drunk, runs his Caddy off the
road a hundred yards before a guardrail and sues the State of California
for not having a guardrail where he ran off the road - Go figure.)

Once again, a story, a strategy, a metaphor, and a quote:

Between the ideal
and the reality,
between the motion
and the act,
falls The Shadow.
t.s. eliot

For the Fun of It!


Scott Simmerman Performance Management Company, Taylors SC USA 29687-6624

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