A recent piece by Joshua Wolf Shenk in The Atlantic posits that the ‘lone genius’ is a myth. Instead, he cites McCartney and Lennon and Jobs and Wozniak, as proof that greatness actually comes from opposite personalities continually competing and cooperating with one another.
This is an interesting point of view worth closer consideration. Some level of “co-opetition” among team members can be healthy and make organizations stronger. It can even lead to breakthroughs. But the trick is finding the right balance.
Successful CEOs balance their strongly held views on company strategy with a willingness to consider other perspectives. This is not easy to do since our egos often get in the way. But CEOs from great companies like Starbucks and Zappos seem to maintain the right balance between these opposing forces. They make decisions based on their firmly held beliefs and with an openness to new ideas or ways of doing things.
When the clients we serve are facing tough decisions, we ask them to consider new points of view from us and their executive team. Doing so makes them more effective and trustworthy leaders, regardless of their decision. But more importantly, it also creates an opportunity for breakthrough performance, perhaps along the lines of what the two aforementioned teams created.
Long before the concept of “co-opetition” became trendy, ancients developed an idea that opposing forces are inextricably linked and complementary to one another. Regardless of what we call this tension between team members finding the optimal “Yin Yang” balance is what really matters.