Working Wounded Blog: The End of Enemies?

News Flash: Microsoft announces its latest business partnership, an agreement to work with former enemy Yahoo! on a joint Instant Messaging program.

Competition makes strange bedfellows. And nary a day goes by today that Microsoft isn't announcing a new partnership, or a partnership discussion, with a company that it formerly tried to crush. Real Networks, Palm, AOL, Apple -- the list just keeps growing and growing.

Believe it or not, Microsoft's new make-nice approach impacts each and every one of us who works today. Because it signals the end of the "enemy," at least as we've known it in business for the last 100 years. Let me explain …

The "enemy" has been a great rallying cry in business. To paraphrase Gen. Patton, your goal is to kill the other guy before he has a chance to kill you. And that is how businesses tended to operate.

We learned from our earliest days in the corporate corridors to identify our enemies and create a healthy disdain for them. And it was so simple to do. GM hated Ford. MGM hated Universal. It was easy to identify your competitors, and once you did then you let the hatin' begin.

That is until today. Now, auto companies collaborate with competitors on technology to improve fuel mileage, and movie studios collaborate on producing and distributing films. And the former 99-pound weakling turned monopolist, Microsoft, can't seem to find anyone outside of Google that it doesn't want to take a turn around the dance floor with. What a difference a few years can make.

What is becoming clear is that today's enemy at work could very well be your company's next strategic marketing partner, merger partner or the company that purchases your firm. So the enemy is dead. Long live today's competitor who might be tomorrow's collaborator. Why? Because you can't afford to alienate your next business partner -- or worse, your next boss.

How do we survive this new competitive landscape? We need to resist the temptation to bad-mouth a competitor. We need to always fight fair. We need to reach out to competitors at industry conferences and trade shows. We need to resist short-term thinking and learn to adopt a longer view. In short, we need to always anticipate the future where we just might be on the same side with our current competitors.

I'm looking forward to the day when I can wax nostalgically to my child about the enemies that I did battle with at work. Because it increasingly appears that the enemy's days are numbered. And being a guy who can nurse a grudge as well as the next guy, I think this could usher in a great new environment in which to do business.

Quote of the Week

"Does he have 17 years of experience or one year of experience 17 times?" -- Paul Wiesenfeld

Weekly Book Excerpt

From "More Alike Than Different" by Lee Bussard (More Alike Than Different Publishing, Bellevue, WA):

"You may be very successful in one part of your life, but when you're faced with a new situation, you often forget about that success. It's important to go back to these successes, to feel them and visualize them and move them forward to where you are right now, so that you can deal with the next obstacle. And when you can answer these three questions -- Who are you? Where are you going? and What do you have to declare? -- I believe you have the chance to move forward in how you affirm yourself and what you affirm about yourself."

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