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Friday, 24 April 2015

New word and New concept: Coopertition

   We are all familiar with the idea of competition.  Any race, sports match or tournament gains the excitement and intensity from the fact that one player or team is trying to surpass the achievements of others.  Participants and spectators alike enjoy seeing all the hard work of training put to the test in a public forum.
   Cooperation is something entirely different.  Here people are helping one another achieve a greater goal.  Cooperation naturally happens in families, among the members of  a  sports team, in workplaces where projects require the input and expertise of various employees to be successful.
   How could these two ideas ever fit together?  Although the spelling is different, the idea of "coopetition" has been shared in the last century to apply to the business world.  Two companies might produce some of the same types of products, but they might decide to become partners in certain ways to increase their collective success.  In 2000, the American organization FIRST Robotics built on this concept and made the word into one of its trademarks, literally.  Along with "gracious professionalism", coopertition™ is one of the defining qualities of a world-wide enterprise aimed at recognizing science and technology among youth.  Here is the way FIRST Robotics defines the term:

Coopertition produces innovation. At FIRST, Coopertition is displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition. Coopertition is founded on the concept and a philosophy that teams can and should help and cooperate with each other even as they compete.
Icon from FIRST Robotics

Coopertition involves learning from teammates. It is teaching teammates. It is learning from Mentors. And it is managing and being managed. Coopertition means competing always, but assisting and enabling others when you can.

   At the time I am writing this post, 607 robotics teams from around the world have gathered in St. Louis, Missouri for the world championships of their 2015 robot-game, Recycle Rush.  The teams that built each robot are encouraged to work together as they compete by having three robots on each side of the field to score points (by stacking plastic totes and then placing these stacks on scoring platforms) to build up a score for which they will all receive equal credit.  But coopertition takes on a new level in this game when each side brings one to three special yellow totes to the centre of the field to make a total of four totes.  When this happens, both alliances receive forty bonus points, as the icon above illustrates.
   I do not consider myself a very technologically skilled person, but through the participation of my husband and son in a FIRST robotics team over the past three years, I have appreciated that it is not just about being able to program a computer or about getting wealthy corporate sponsors to help pay for the materials involved in the build-process.  The merging of competition and cooperation will have the most lasting benefit for any student or adult mentor that becomes involved.  It can even inspire the spectators, like me.

Leave a comment if you've observed coopertition at work anywhere else.

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