Friend & Foe: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: October 6th, 2015 by bobmorris

Friend & FoeFriend & Foe: When to Cooperate, When to Compete, and How to Succeed at Both
Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer
Crown Business (2015)

How to decide when to cooperate and when to compete…and how to become better at both

I agree with Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer: “The tension between competition and cooperation defines many of our interactions at home and work, and to succeed across these realms requires knowing when and how to do both. In our most important relationships, from the negotiating table in the boardroom to the breakfast table with our kids, we routinely face challenges that appear to offer two opposing solutions. Yet the question – should we cooperate or should we compete – is often the wrong one. Our most important relationships are neither cooperative nor competitive. Instead, they are both.”

These comments really hit home with me, evoking memories of dozens of situations when, as a parent, I said or did something wrong for all the right reasons. I was an enabler. Comparable situations have also occurred in the workplace when praise or criticism was inappropriate and counter-productive. The specific details are unimportant. The fact is, throughout my adult life, there have been situations when I sensed but did not understand the “tension” to which Galinsky and Schweitzer refer, the tension that occurs when considering the two behaviors. Because they often occur simultaneously, “we must nimbly shift between the two.” This book was written for those such as I who need to gain a better understanding of when to cooperate and when to compete…and how to become better at both.

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Galinsky and Schweitzer’s coverage:

o Similarity Matters (Pages 17-20)
o When Comparisons Go Wild (31-34)
o Finding the Right Balance: Making Comparisons Work for Us (34-37)
o It’s All in Your Head (42-44)
o Powerholics: Invincibility and Invisibility (49-51)
o The King’s Downfall (54-58)
o The Rise of Hierarchy (66-70)
o When Hierarchy Hurts (80-87)
o The Double Bind (100-103)
o Making Ourselves Blind to Undo the Double Bind (112-114)
o Reappropriation: Turning Your Weakness into Your Strength (128-132)
o “They Did What They Had to Do” (147-148)
o Why Happy Families Produce Terrorists (154-157)
o When Deception Builds Cooperation (173-175)
o Putting It All Together: Spotting Red Flags (179-186)
o The Apology Formula: The Key Ingredients of Successful Apologies (200-205)
o Getting Inside Their Head to Get a Better Deal (211-213)
o The Art of the Mimic (213-217)
o How to Avoid Being a Racist (225-229)
o Should You Make the First Offer (243-248)

I commend Galinsky and Schweitzer on their provision of a “Finding the Right Balance” section at the conclusion of Chapters 1-10. This material anchors the reader in a human context. For example, Finding the Right Balance: How to Make Comparisons Work for Us (Chapter 1), How to Trust but Verify (Chapter 7), and How to Make an Ambitious First Offer but Come Across as Cooperative (Chapter 10). The repetition of “How to….” Correctly suggests the practical nature of the advice, intended to help readers apply it to their own specific situations. Hence the importance, also, of dozens of real-world examples that they insert strategically throughout their book. The stories are almost as entertaining as they are informative. Good stuff.

As I worked my way through this book’s lively narrative, I was again reminded of a conversation I had years ago with an aide to the British Ambassador during a reception in Georgetown. At one point I asked him what he believed to be a diplomat’s ultimate objective. He replied, “Letting the other chap have it your way.” Obviously, I haven’t forgotten that comment and suggest that it captures the essence of the approach that Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer thoroughly explain. Both cooperation and competition involve skills that must be mastered, of course, but it is also imperative to know when and how to “shift” or modify one’s persona when managing each interaction.

It is impossible to exaggerate the potential value of this book, given the fact that “what comes next will not take the shape of cooperation or competition, but rather a shifting dynamic between the two. As we compete for scarce resources in our unstable world, it’s not enough to be prepared to cooperate or compete. We must be prepared to do both.”

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