Competing oil companies regularly form alliances to explore and exploit new oil fields, create new technology or combine existing technology in new ways, or create new and improved processes for getting oil out of the ground and into people’s lives and work.
Fiercely competitive Biotechnology companies collaborated to explore and map the human genome. They are now doing the same thing for the Human Proteome.
Rival IT companies collaborate to find new ways of combining and integrating their various systems. Intel’s collaboration with its competitors to create the now taken for granted USB port is a prime example.
Focusing upon newness minimises the defensive mind-set created by focusing upon competitors well-established interests, activities and markets. It encourages competitors to band together and launch a combined offensive targeted at identifying and exploiting new and potentially lucrative opportunities, safe in the knowledge that their existing interests are unlikely to be threatened by those with which they are collaborating (at least for the duration of the current alliance).
By focusing upon newness and innovation a partnership increases the scope and richness of the activity going on within its area of interest and all those involved are likely to benefit from the abundance of opportunities this creates.
Partners will still be competing elsewhere, but those activities will be distant from the new focus of the collaboration and make instances of split loyalties the exception rather than the rule.