Typically, businesses and individuals in similar industries either compete or cooperate. It’s often either or, yet right now, we’re seeing a trend of competing businesses finding the need to collaborate. I believe one of the outcomes of Covid-19 is the increased demand for humanity to shift from the personal to the collective – from Ego to Eco and that requires a different kind of collaboration. We are, and will, see more strategic alliances that protect their own brand while creating even bigger visibility by standing together in diversity and collaborative initiatives. In doing so, shifting from the business ‘ego’ to the much more sustainable business ‘eco’. I keep coming across the slogan ‘we’re all in this together’- and one of the ways we can bring this into our businesses is through coopetition. Looking for ways to join forces with competitors will enable us to simultaneously gain a collective advantage and hold onto our individual differentiators. Interestingly enough, that will also provide better service to our stakeholders and clients.
In the last couple of weeks, many people have stepped forward and asked me if there’s a way that we can help one another or co-deliver. There’s a need to do things differently - in the world of coaching and beyond and it’s really easy to see on the small business scale. Let’s say that you have 100 small coaching groups or training institutions. Instead of all of those companies operating separately, they’re now considering combining forces in areas of choice. Now there aren’t 100 small businesses but instead 25 collaborating together. You’ve suddenly multiplied the individual effort in a very different way.
What might be possible if we were to ask our competitors: “can we still remain in competition and also consider things that we can share?”
‘Ventilator Challenge’ UK is a great example of the power of ‘clustering.’ The consortium of engineering firms including Airbus, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems as well as 7 Formula One motor racing teams, has secured an order for 10,000 ventilators. Some of the world’s most skilled engineers are now being repurposed to help with the current crisis and reduce the time taken to develop solutions from years to weeks. Direct competitors working side-by-side to save lives.
Coopetition is different from mergers, acquisitions or single business structures (although I imagine many more of these will surface over the coming months as well) because it allows you to stay as an individual in your market whilst at the same time, offers you a collective advantage. The philosopher Aristotle said that ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’, and now more than ever, we need to lean into that ancient wisdom and embrace the emerging powers of synergy.
At CRR Global we have partners in 18 different countries. Over the past few years we’ve developed a more communicative, connected structure - including annual forums. Yet, you can still clearly see the independence of each one of the partners: they have their own business models, different markets and distinctive marketing and sales strategies. What we’re seeing now is a different kind of collaborationb- even between us at CRR Global HQ and our partners - to help one another by contributing to the greater entity that exists between us all.
Whilst coopetition isn’t novel, there’s now more of a need for it because many businesses have had to close down or streamline their operations. These challenging times are ultimately forcing a creativity to collaborate that wasn’t required previously. Maybe a business similar to yours- a competitor- can now become a collaborator in order to help both businesses not only survive but thrive through these challenging times.
Coopetition-based strategies can be particularly helpful for small business and self-employed individuals as they enable you to tap into a wider collective of similar entities. Take for example a work study program. Students contribute a special skill set needed, like writing or social media expertise, and in return they are provided with training scholarships. Both parties benefit from what is often described as a ‘skill share.’
Which makes me wonder: what is the new business-to-business version of skill share? How might competing companies share services, expertise, and efforts in order to create a collective advantage, reduce risk and streamline costs?
Another great example of this right now comes from BioNTech SE and Pfizer who are currently working together towards co-developing and distributing a coronavirus vaccine aimed at preventing COVID-19 infection. Two competing pharmaceutical companies working in partnership towards one goal that will ultimately transform lives.
The challenges impacting all of our lives right now are forcing us to reconsider different structures and strategies for collaboration. As a result, a deeper need for coopetition is emerging. We can simultaneously compete and collaborate with our rivals. We can share different pieces of the puzzle and tap into a wider pool of knowledge, resources and services.