In most of the modern theories of business, competition is seen as one of the key forces that keep firms lean and drive innovation. That emphasis has been challenged by Adam Brandenburger of the Harvard Business School and Barry Nalebuff of the Yale School of Management. In part using some of the ideas of game theory, they suggest that businesses can gain advantage by means of a judicious mixture of competition and cooperation. Cooperation with suppliers, customers and firms producing complementary or related products can lead to expansion of the market and the formation of new business relationships, perhaps even the creation of new forms of enterprise. They chose coopetition for this concept (a blend of cooperation and competition), which they used as the title of their 1996 book explaining their theories, a book which has become a best-seller and which has since come out in paperback. However, it seems that they didn’t coin the word: it was Ray Noorda, the founder of Novell, who did that. The concept, and the word, seem to have been taken up most enthusiastically in the computer industry, where strategic alliances are common in order to develop new products and markets, particularly between software and hardware firms.
How far does so-called “co-opetition” extend in the name of the best interests of the industry?
Computing, August 1997
I think it’s important that Apple be seen now not as a pure competitor with Microsoft but in “coopetition”: competing in some areas, cooperating in others.
PC Week, June 1998