All I Need to Know about Business I Learned from a Duck

Archive for August, 2011

Co-opetition – Is it a Fishy Business Strategy?

Monday, August 1st, 2011

A common misconception about the natural world is the idea that survival of the fittest is an overarching principle or law of nature when in fact it has been shown that mutual aid and cooperation within and among species has been critically important in enabling living organisms to survive and evolve. Examples of give-and-take abound among mammals and primates in particular, however symbiosis (mutually beneficial relationships) also exist in a wide variety of species, including fish. Check out the video, below:

Finding mutually productive ways of doing business with your competitors may not be an option that you have considered in the past, but maybe it’s a viable strategy today whether your company is thriving or if you are in survival mode. After all, co-opetition has been practiced by the airline industry for many years, and despite recent negative press and unprecedented high fuel prices, airlines are once again making lots of money. A few of the co-operative behaviors that airlines engage in are:

• Selling seats on each other’s flights
• Sharing safety data and procedures
• Sharing aircraft parts inventory
• Selling computer software programs to each other

Co-opetition, as the word suggests, is part competition and part cooperation. Another example is food courts where restaurants are concentrated in a small area, which brings all the customers to one location (cooperation), and then each establishment competes for their business (competition).

From a traditional business point of view, it looks like a bad idea. However, by locating within close proximity of each other, and cooperating in sharing advertising costs, sharing tables and trays and sometimes even jointly creating special events, mall restaurants can reduce costs and create a much larger and valuable market than they could have created by working individually.

Granted, working with (rather than against) a competitor that could eat your company alive may go against your instincts, but if symbiosis (co-opetition) has been working effectively in the natural world for over 3.8 billion years, maybe it can work in the business world, as well.