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Compete, Compromise or Co-Create

Jim Dethmer
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February 21, 2017

Conscious leaders know that co-creation is a possible choice along with competition and compromise. They have developed the wisdom and skill to know which option to choose and when to choose it.

Competition leads to win/lose. Compromise results in lose/lose. Co-creation brings about win/win. [Click to Tweet]

Competition requires a belief in a zero sum game. Anything I get is something you don’t, and anything you get is something I lose. It occurs in a low trust relationship. I don’t trust you or the universe at some fundamental level. Therefore it involves withholding relevant information, opinions and authentic wants in order to try to manipulate or control an outcome.  

The classic example is buying a used car. Every dollar you get is a dollar I lose. I don’t trust you to tell me the truth and I don’t tell you what I’m really up to either. Competition can be fun, exhilarating and rewarding. It’s the way of doing business for many businesses and leaders.

Compromise is a lose/lose game. It, too, assumes “not enough.” There isn’t enough for both sides to get what they most want, so both parties have to settle or lose. I get some of what I want, but I don’t get all that I want. The goal of compromise is keep the loss roughly equal. Compromise requires more trust than competition. I trust you to tell me the truth about what matters to you and what you don’t want to lose and you trust me to do the same. Our goal is to give up what matters less to each of us in order to keep what matters more.

Compromise is the couple who decides to have Italian for dinner because she wanted sushi and he wanted Vietnamese and they both are O.K. with Italian. Both of them settle, but one doesn’t win and the other lose. In our experience, compromise can lead to mediocrity and mediocrity saps the spirit of leaders and organizations.

Co-creation results in win/win outcomes. To co-create we must have high trust. Both high trust in each other and high trust in the universe that there can be enough for both sides to get what they most want. The first goal of co-creation is to explore how our creative partnership can expand the pie of possibilities so that there is enough. The second goal is for each side to commit to understanding what it is that the other side most wants and to ensure that they get it.  Co-creation requires curiosity, wonder and letting go of limiting beliefs and unconscious attachments. Conscious leaders who practice the 15 commitments become masterful at the art of co-creation.

Co-creation is when the head of sales and the head of product have a conversation rooted in deep listening rather than defensiveness, and where each seeks to genuinely understand what it is the other most wants.  

To be clear, our deepest wants are not often the first wants we express. A person in the throes of a midlife crisis may believe that what they most want is a red Ferrari. Upon deeper examination they discover that the real want is for freedom. The Ferrari is a means to an end that points to what their deepest want actually is. Upon discovering this deep want, they're free to explore if the Ferrari or another purchase, experience, or choice will get them the freedom they desire.

Once the two leaders have surfaced what it is that they most want, they explore how their partnership can grow the whole pie so that there is enough for both of them to get what it is they most want. Finally, they both choose to stand for the other person getting what it is they most want. This commitment is an act of creative collaboration built on high trust.

In competition my goal is to get what I want. In compromise my goal is not to lose too much. In co-creation my goal is for both of us to get what we most want. Conscious leaders can choose any of these three options knowing from first hand experience that the power of win/win will only come from co-creation.

About the Author
Jim Dethmer

Jim has been coaching leaders and supporting individuals, groups, and organizations to optimize their effectiveness. Potent and practical, he see issues clearly and communicates next steps crisply. Jim works with Fortune 200 CEOs across all industries, and co-authored the book—High Performing Investment Teams—to support his work with leading asset management organizations around the world.