“Co-creating, co-piloting, co-opetition: Why is “co” the new buzzword?”

by Didier Marlier on Sunday February 27th, 2011

The open source phenomenon is profoundly changing the rules of the game in several businesses (publishing, software, business schools, medical research, toys industry with LEGO, healthcare and cosmetics with P&G, car manufacturing with Local Motors and big brands such as Audi, Daimler or FIAT now jumped on the bandwagon)…

As we recently saw, the invention of the internet is a revolution as impactful if not more, than was Gutenberg’s printing press in the XVIth century. It also strongly enables the globalization on planet Earth. Would the recent events in Tunisia, Egypt or Lybia have taken place without the support of the net?

When I used to co-deliver a course, ten years ago, about “Dealing with ambiguity and complexity” to the MBA students in Nyenrode (NL), our colleagues and the Dean looked at us with sympathy and thought: “These are the two weirdos from the leadership course. As this is a less important material for our serious MBA, it doesn’t hurt to let them play…” Today, there isn’t a C.E.O. whose eyebrow wouldn’t move when we explore the themes of leading in complex and chaotic times.

No one really knows if the multidimensional matrices in which our people struggle to create clarity for themselves are causes or consequences of the increasing complexity in which we live at work. Increasingly, we hear the term “Co-piloting” being used as a new style of leadership (leading without authority, leading through influence, leading at the systemic level). The blog published around the clip of the Cirque du Soleil may be a good thing to watch again on this topic.[1]

We constantly remind leaders who would like to engage their people around the new strategy, change, reorganization or culture that one of the key steps is to co-create clarity, meaning and ownership with their people. In today’s world, people need to feel they contributed to create the new direction in which their business is going.

The word co-opetition (going as far as… 1913) is increasingly part of strategies, the recent announcement of Nokia and Microsoft about their decision to collaborate on the smart phones front being another example.

The acronym G.R.A.V.I.T.A.S. (Generosity, Responsibility, principle of Abundance, authentic Value, Interdependence, Trust, Authenticity, Sharing attitude), represents the values and culture of the new Open Source Economy and strongly suggests that new ways of making business are emerging. One of them, Interdependency may be the source of these co-opetition, co-creation and co-piloting buzzwords. The “Co” phenomenon is here to last. Recently, I saw Gerd Leonhard showing a short clip on world’s evolution. It inspired me with the above blog

Back from an inspiring week in São-Paulo with the leadership team of Dow Chemical for the region, quieter moments ahead with two days in Paris… Have a great week all,


[1] http://blog.enablersnetwork.com/2010/04/25/%E2%80%9Chow-the-cirque-du-soleil-deals-with-complexity%E2%80%9D/

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3 Responses to ““Co-creating, co-piloting, co-opetition: Why is “co” the new buzzword?””

  1. Hi Didier,
    Thank you for this blog! And nice video clip. Here is one by Jay Rogers, CEO and co-founder of Local Motors about how his cars are co-created versus ‘crowdsourced’. http://thedolectures.co.uk/speakers/speakers-2010/jay-rogers
    The GRAVITAS way of interacting is effectively what I’m supporting when I work with executives and MBAs (including Nyenrode last year). Much of my work about adaptive leadership and change uses applied improvisation techniques. We work on co-creating something while following simple principles like ‘move the story forward’, ‘build on each others’ ideas’, and ‘make others look great’. Everyone improvises, and with practice – business people can get very good at it in a way that enhances business performance – particularly where flexibility, creativity and energy are required. When people are operating from that space, they are able to quickly design and move along engaging routes together.
    A whole bunch of us ‘applied improvisers’ are getting together for our next International conference 16 – 19 June in Baltimore. Fancy joining us? http://appliedimprov.ning.com/ It sounds like you might enjoy our tribe.
    Thanks again and enjoy Paris.
    Best wishes
    Belina, http://www.maffick.com

  2. Dear Didier,

    As one of the fortunate few who were able to experience your co-delivered course at Nyenrode on organisational change, I can honestly say your course contributed to my thinking the MBA was the best 50k Euro I’ve ever spent! With the topics of today evolving so quickly, I can’t imagine how professors at b-schools can survive without co-delivering.

    I had a wonderful morning today, as we were able to arrange an in-company session with Professor Venkat Ramaswamy from Michigan, who recently published ‘The power of co-creation’. Something I really enjoyed about his interactive lecture was his stories about how he is co-creating the MBA courses he teaches with his students. Through interaction and dialogue before and after the class sessions, he is able to multiply the learning because the students are able to refine the agenda and bring in more research than he could ever do on his own… learning co-pilots?

    Kind regards,


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