Co-opetition: a new approach to optimize learning?

There is no doubt that many people nowadays are trying to “win” as they want to get more opportunities than others in a competitive world. But let me start with some reflective questions. Have you ever felt tired of competing with others? Or have you ever felt like competition is fascinating, but to some extent inhibits your learning? Sometimes we may well ask whether our competitive behaviours and attitudes are actually helping us to develop and learn more effectively, or leading us to the opportunities we want. No doubt, the successful among you may see the merit of competition. But have you ever considered that you might be even more successful if you add cooperation to your armoury?


Are you competitive or cooperative? Or both? (photo from

So, let me introduce you to what has recently been termed ‘co-opetition’. 

How do you understand co-opetition?

Co-opetition is a portmanteau (a word combining the sounds and meanings of two words) of “cooperation” and “competition”. Coopetition is a business strategy where different companies (competitors) work together to attain a common goal or achievement. According to Rudny (2015), in co-opetition, partners can learn from each other by sharing valuable know-how and skills, in the process balancing both competition and cooperation. This term has lately been used in several business sectors and organisations. However, in this article, we will discuss it from different perspectives in a more specific way for the benefits of individuals’ learning behaviors.

Not too much on competition, be co-opetitive!

There are obvious reasons why people love to be competitive. First of all, people love the taste of winning! Competition stimulates people to be more active and makes them enthusiastic about what they are doing. Moreover, it gives them motivation to pursue their goals! However, despite these undeniable plus points, there are also some drawbacks of ‘focusing too much on competition’. 


Particularly in Asian countries, young people are suffering from the pressures of a hyper-competitive education system, with parents and/or teachers pushing them to try so hard to get ‘first’ in the class, ‘first’ in the sports activities, or ‘top’ in the school and so on. However, focusing only on ‘winning’ as an individual is the antithesis of a collaboration culture and can lead to an inability to work well with others (not to mention the performance anxiety it can cause). Competing solely as an individual deprives you of the benefit of other people’s strengths. When there is no synergy, you fail to learn the key skills of cooperation and teamwork, and you miss out on what you might have learned from other people. Both you and whatever organisation you belong to will lose out in a big way. 


On  the other hand, when a group of people or those who make up an organisation are working together in a co-opetitive environment, the end product or learning outcome is superior to what individuals could have achieved by themselves. Team diversity can be a source of strength: all of you will have different experiences, different perspectives and different strengths and weaknesses. You can learn a lot from each other by sharing valuable know-how and skills, thereby balancing competition and cooperation. Of course, you are going to struggle and face challenges (this is natural when you do two things at the same time: collaborate and compete), but I assure you  that the benefits will outweigh the downsides.

How to be co-opetitive…

Share what you have and learn what you don’t have! (photo from

It is better to be co-opetitive than out-and-out competitive. If you are an individual who is strongly inclined towards being competitive but nonetheless wants to be more cooperative with others, here are some tips for you!


Be open-minded and transparent: This is very important, as when you are competing and cooperating with others, you need to build trust. Trust can be easily built if your attitude is open and your work is transparent. 


Don’t be afraid of risks and challenges: Obstacles will surely come. Be prepared and face challenges with a positive attitude. This will help you get the most out of working together. 


Share what you have and learn what you don’t have:  Try to share, contribute and most importantly, learn from others. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. You can learn from others what you don’t have and try to teach others what they need.


Do you have any other tips or suggestions? Please share it with me. 🙂  

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Khin Khin Thant Sin

Assistant Editor, GiLE Foundation

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The opinions expressed in this article/publication are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of GiLE or its members.

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