I will destroy my enemy by making him my friend
-Abraham Lincoln

The essence of The Strategy of Collaborating is to channel the energy being directed against you into a common goal shared with your alleged ‘enemy’. You forget the differences you have with the enemy, and focus instead on the similarities. The enemy retains its identity and becomes your partner. The idea here is that if you choose to fight your enemy, to force them into submission by using superior force, you end up sabotaging your position in the long run. In other words, your victory is short lived and the enemy’s hatred returns like a boomerang, eventually biting you back.

Check out these various forms of The Strategy of Collaboration in action:

The Win-Win Situation

In the African nation of Zambia, many children die of dehydration due to the lack of medicine. Simply put, it’s very difficult to get the medicine into remote areas. Enter the world’s largest soft drink manufacturer: The Coca-Cola Corporation. Using the company’s truly global distribution network, the project ColaLife was born. Packages of medicine are placed in crates of Coca-Cola which can then be transported, using the company’s impeccable distribution system, to the remotest parts of Africa. Coca-Cola helps to save lives and children in Africa are spared an early grave. It’s a true win-win.


The Power of Good Intentions

Most humans want to show the best side of themselves. By channeling this human desire to do the ‘right thing’, it’s possible to collaborate with an enemy by asking them to provide a favor. When the film director Steven Spielberg was a school kid, he was repeatedly beat up by a bully. Spielberg knew it was fruitless to fight back; the bully would end up pummeling him again. In a nice example of this variation on Collaboration, Spielberg asked the bully if he wanted to play the role of ‘war hero’ in a film he was making about Nazis. The bully said yes, played the role well, and ended up one of Spielberg’s best friends.

The Problem Exchange

Sometimes a problem for one person can end up a possibility for another. In this elegant, and ‘enemy-free’, form of Collaboration, people who don’t even know each other become collaborators. Take the Speaking Exchange Project by CNA: Brazilian teenagers want to learn English but have no one to speak it to. Senior citizens in the United States are lonely and want someone to talk to. The CNA project brings the two groups together with smashing success.

The Frazier-Ali Doctrine

Enemies make each other stronger. The two heavyweights, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, were sworn enemies. They fought each other several times over the years, all of them legendary battles. Out of the ring, the men went at each other as well. Ali called Frazier an ‘Uncle Tom’ and a ‘white man’ due to his lack of efforts to support the Civil Rights Movement. When Ali was eventually diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, Frazier publicly called the diagnosis, ‘God’s judgment’. A few years later, as Ali’s condition worsened, Frazier exclaimed ‘I believe I won our last fight’. The result of their legendary fights and public acrimony cemented both men’s reputations as giants of the sport.

The Shameless Attempt to Take Advantage

Forget ethical judgments for a minute. We are all our own best judge, but sometimes we have to take advantage. Think about those annoying phone calls we get from call centers. Unsolicited phone calls to sell us mobile phone subscriptions, new electricity contracts, or yet another credit card. A man in Leeds, England decided to get shameless and flip the situation. How? He decided to give his real phone number only to his close friends and family. For official calls from banks and other institutions, he got a new number: a pay-per-call number, known in England as an 0870 number. To call that number it costs twelve cents, 8 cents of which the man himself receives. By taking their calls and having long talks with telemarketers he made 350 EUROS in a short time.


When you find yourself with an enemy, either real or perceived, use The Strategy of Collaborating to turn that enemy into a friend. If not, Gandhi’s prophecy may come true for you: “An eye for an eye and we all end up blind.”

This piece is a summary of the strategy of collaborating.
If you want to learn more about this strategy and how to really use it, book a workshop, show, or 1-day training session.