Adam M. Brandenburger and Barry J. Nalebuff

"You don’t have to blow out the other fellow’s light to let your own light shine." –Bernand Baruch

What is the nature of business? Is it war, where it’s not enough to succeed but others must fail? Or is it peace? The authors of the book Co-Opetition argue that business is both War and Peace, simultaneously. While fighting to the death destroys the pie, it’s also not wise to create a pie that we can’t capture. So we need to adopt a new business mindset that effectively combines competition and cooperation-thus “co-opetition.”

Without referring to difficult mathematics or abstract theory, the authors approach game theory through real-life stories, involving characters and companies you will recognize, which are accompanied by a full analysis of the principles involved. This way, you can get a real feel for how game theory works and learn to apply it yourself in a dynamic and entertaining fashion. Whether you are a business manager, consultant or negotiator, this book will open your mind to a new way of thinking about business and give you practical tools to change your game to your advantage. As a bonus, the authors summarize the lessons from each case study in the form of checklists throughout the book. If you are time-pressed, this is certainly a gift!

The authors explain game theory and identify five basic elements of any game. They show you how to expand the pie to make the business both more profitable and more satisfying; and how to change the game of business to your benefit. You’ll learn how your competitors can actually complement your business and they suggest ways to develop such complementary relationships to mutual benefit. They also emphasize that it’s sometimes better to let our competitors win since “a prosperous competitor is often less dangerous than a desperate one”.

Another good discussion is how to recognize and engineer the “Added Values” (the size of the pie when you are in the game minus the size of the pie when you are out of the game), so as to shift the power of the game and create loyal customers and suppliers. You’ll see how to change the nature of competition by changing the rules of the game to your advantage. Finally, since most games are linked to other games, the authors warn against analyzing a game in isolation and explain how and when to limit or expand the scope of the game. In effect, see beyond the constraints of our immediate business situation and think methodically about changing the game to a win-win structure. A book well worth reading.


This book was reviewed by Ahjung Lee, an associate of Common Outlook Consulting residing in South Korea.

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