When teams learn to be competitive and cooperative at the same time, it can improve company morale, productivity and bottom-line success.

Coopertition is how teams honor friendly competition, or as some describe, gracious professionalism.

Have you ever been a part of a team or in a work environment that is so competitive (and even ruthless), the stressful atmosphere is almost unbearable? On the other hand, do you ever find yourself working with colleagues that are so concerned with group consensus and making sure everyone is happy, that very little actually gets done?

Finding that perfect balance between healthy competition and meaningful cooperation can be difficult for teams to achieve, but when it happens – when true coopertition comes into play – it’s the “sweet spot” for team success. So how do you get there? And what is all this talk about coopertition anyway?

What Coopertition Means

Whether you spell it as coopertition, coopetition or co-opetition, the idea of cooperative competition has been around since the early 1900s. But it didn’t gain steam as a widely recognized concept until the mid-90s and beyond.

Coopertition is how teams honor friendly competition, or as some describe, gracious professionalism. It means that individuals, teams or groups will certainly be competitive, but they will also help and assist others along the way.

Why Coopertition Works

When I help organizations build better teams or develop leadership, it’s common for someone to warn me at some point by saying, “You need to know up front that we are a super competitive group.” I usually respond by explaining that competition is great, but coopertition is even better. Meaning, cooperating with each other and working together actually enhances competitiveness.

Cooperation is vital for a successful team. Think about how much time most business managers spend refereeing relationships in the workplace. There seems to always be certain personality types that need hand-holding and a little finessing when it comes to working together. For example:

  • the workplace diva who is territorial and proprietary
  • the busybody who’s into everyone’s work but their own
  • the slacker who needs to go
  • the uber-competitive know-it-all who focuses only on personal gain

But what if managers learn to reduce or even eliminate negative staff interactions, and get individuals to open up, cooperate and sincerely care about their colleagues? Can you imagine how much more productive your organization could be? When everyone is focused on the success of the business – and has a genuine understanding of how each individual can affect or improve things – then true collaboration begins to grow.

Competition can enhance a truly collaborative team. As the saying goes, two heads truly can be better than one. But not if both heads are competing with each other for the sake of receiving recognition and rewards. This diminishes the results of teamwork. It’s collaboration first, and competition second.

When there is true collaboration in a business, you know it and can sense it. People enjoy coming to work and appreciate the contributions of others. This, combined with a healthy dose of friendly competition, leads to an increase in productivity and a healthier bottom line.

Building better work relationships and more effective management is easy when you have the tools and techniques.  But it takes knowledge and hard work to foster a business culture which is truly collaborative. The good news is that training is available to achieve true coopertition, which can increase profitability and business sustainability.

What Do You Think?

First of all, have you heard of the terms coopertition, coopetition or co-opetition before? And have you ever experienced this perfect blend of cooperation and competition in a work setting? On the other hand, have you ever been on a team that had too much of one or the other? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Please share your comments (and any lessons you’ve learned along the way) in the section below.  

A passionate coach, facilitator and speaker with nearly 20 years in Corporate America, Deseri implements creative, experiential and personalized programs that challenge, motivate and transform clients. Her tireless pursuit of possibility gets results – tangible, solid, proof-of-purchase outcomes.