So can every company resort to co-opetition to resolve
its problems? So far co-opetition has taken firm root
in industries that have a large and expandable market,
and where there is a high risk-taking environment coupled
with large capital costs. Co-opetition has already become
a way of life in such industries as automobiles, oil and
gas, aerospace, telecommunications, and even consulting
-- especially in software solutions consulting.
Although a seemingly simple idea to implement, to make
it succeed requires a strong will of the management of
participating companies and the resolution of a complex
set of issues. Making these relationships succeed requires
not only rigorous planning but also a very high level
of openness between the participating companies.
Co-opetition is easier to implement in the manufacturing
sector than in the service sector, where performance measurement
makes it more difficult to judge the result of the effort
immediately. Service industry solutions through co-opetition
are more likely to involve complex and inter-dependent
responsibilities of the co-opeting partners, so the success
of the project as a whole is determined by the contributions
of the intersecting providers together with the end result
of the project. The more the partners involved in the
co-opetition, the more complex are the issues that dog
the collaboration and the more difficult it becomes to
ensure success of the co-opetition.
However, pioneering work in this area done by some companies
and consulting firms in the United States have shown that
if the following thumb rules are followed, the process
of co-opetition should become easier. While sounding extremely
simple, these, when implemented in a disciplined manner,
are very gruelling and time-consuming.
Learning to work with a competitor is very much like being
transferred to Chennai from Mumbai. One is, at the beginning,
faced with a prospect of a hugely different culture and
language, but very soon realises that if one does not
imbibe the culture and learn the language one cannot succeed.
So also, in co-opetition, companies must learn to understand
the cultures and languages of their partners.
Guiding principles document
The partners must set out in clear and unambiguous terms
the guiding principles of the co-opetition. The document
must emphasise the fact that success depends on openness
and frank communications.
entities into a larger ad hoc 'enterprise personality'
is always a difficult exercise. It is very much like a
salad where the individual ingredients retain their identity
while contributing to the whole that becomes grander than
the sum of the part.
and precepts through the document must be a continual
endeavour throughout the relationship, not merely an introductory
event. Each participating member of the co-opetition must
understand how each of the component parts of the team
came together. They really need to be careful of how to
ebb and flow services to the client, so that one party
or another is not put in a bind.
Create a participatory environment
There must be an environment in which all the participants
strongly believe in each other and there is no air of
suspicion lurking in the background. Participants must
be able to put in their best efforts without losing sight
of the collaborative and supportive process and yet not
feel threatened of being wiped off the marketplace.
Put the client before everything else
Co-opetitors must set aside all competitive posturing
and leave egos -- personal and corporate -- at home. Honest
recognition of one company's weaknesses and the other
company's strengths, something that runs counter to the
psychology of business, is essential if a job is to lead
to improved business for the client. This, in turn, can
lead to more business for the co-opetitors.
Making use of feedback
Honest feedback between co-opetitors is a means of improving
the performance of all participating members. The process
of giving and receiving feedback must be agreed upon at
the outset and must be followed rigorously.
In the end, the absolute success of co-opetition can be
achieved only when the participating members realise the
full potential and change their mind-set. At the outset
there is always this feeling, 'We want to annihilate them,
finish them off and now you want us to work with them?'
At the start it may seem as if 'Win-win does not exist,
everything is win-lose. There is no such thing as a win-win,
But if the process of co-opetition is clearly and rigorously
managed one can find that the mindset is no longer 'annihilating
your competitor', but simply finding ways for the company
to benefit through teaming relationships. What matters
is not whether others win -- it's a fact of life that
they sometimes will -- but whether you win too.