Is your business an elephant or a tiger? 

The tiger, with no natural predators, keeps the populations of deer, wild pig, sambar, and gaur in check. But it hunts alone. To a tiger, everything else is either prey or something to be avoided.

The elephant also has no natural predators but it is a benign and sociable creature, which lives happily with its own kind and acts as a "keystone species," contributing to the survival of other species, too. 

The elephant drinks from the same watering hole as all the other animals in the jungle but, rather than being a competitor to them, it is a "co-opetitor." And when the tiger and the elephant meet, it's the tiger that gives way to the mighty elephant.  

This article looks at the Value Net Model, a tool that helps your business move away from a "kill or be killed" ethic and achieve greater success by operating alongside, or even in association with, other organizations.  

A Spirit of Co-opetition

Co-opetition is a term used to describe co-operative competition. Here, businesses form mutually beneficial partnerships that make both parties more competitive. 

Business is full of examples of these "elephant" companies, especially in the automotive industry. In 1991, for example, Ford® and Volkswagen® worked together to produce a single car body that was used in the Volkswagen Sharan, Ford Galaxy and Seat®/VW Alhambra. 

Although all three models of car would later compete with each other in the market place, both companies benefited from one another's design and technology expertise, as well as saving money by sharing production costs.

You don't need to be an industry giant to benefit, either. Co-opetition is a particularly useful strategy for agile start-ups. Working co-opetitively with other companies creates mechanisms for effective scaling, extends the influence of smaller companies, and helps to widen access to the market. 

In the words of Adventure Capital® founder and managing partner Stuart Richardson, "as big as your dreams are, and as smart as you might think you are, you can't do it alone."