Friend & Foe: When To Cooperate, When To Compete, And How To Succeed At Both, by Adam Galinsky & Maurice Schweitzer
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Crown Business in exchange for an honest review.]
If you are someone like myself, you have some notable frenemies, people who are involved in the same kind of activities and may be both rivals and competitors in some aspects as well as people who are cooperative in other respects, and it is useful to know when cooperation works best, and when one needs to be more provocative in order to end up with a better solution for all. Given that we live in a world that has scarce resources, requires social cooperation, and is stochastic, that is, it can change dramatically on a whim, it is useful to know when to act as a friend to someone and when to act as an enemy. Given the fact that this is not always an easy task, this book does a great effort in providing shrewd practical wisdom for a business audience that is surprisingly applicable to other aspects of life. The book is also of interest, specifically, to readers from traditionally low-status backgrounds in order to overcome the double bind of being punished regardless of whether one deals cooperatively or competitively.
The contents of this book are organized in a useful and thoughtful way that offers notable social science insights from the perspective of sound data and research and engaging and witty commentary. The book deals with subjects as diverse as “leaning in,” when it is no longer good to be king, when to make the first offer and when it is best to go last, how nicknames serve to bond and bully, when it is best to have a hierarchy so that there is a clear chain of command and when it is best not to when one wants to encourage the best ideas and cannot let status get in the way of the best solution, how to improve trust with others and recover from serious blunders—where a prompt and sincere apologize is best, and the benefits of seeing life from the perspective of others. The topics are dealt with via a variety of stories, including the summary of a wide variety of data, that demonstrate the authors are interested in a shrewd appreciation of knowledge that can seem almost Machiavellian, except that it expects the reader to have some degree of empathy and the wisdom to remember that an eye towards long-term success is important. At a little over 250 pages in length, the book reads well and provides enough information to make it a worthwhile resource for those who have ambitions for honor and respect in the outside world.
As might be expected, this book is primarily focused on pragmatic matters rather than idealistic ones. The book’s central point is that tactical flexibility as well as practical knowledge of the context one is working with are important. The book, not surprisingly, seeks to aid people in providing practical solutions to the problems of overcoming power disadvantages in getting the best solutions possible, and this requires savvy working of multiple options. Indeed, many of the authors’ recommendations involve increasing one’s options beyond the familiar dilemmas. This may include asking why, playing for time while preparing for Plan B or Plan C, and seeking further information that allows one to make better decisions rather than acting unwisely in a hurry. Being able to simultaneously see others as a friend and as a foe can help us to act in ways that see others as human but also recognize when cooperation is difficult or unwise, or when an approach that combines cooperation and competition works out best for everyone involved, allowing everyone to save face and achieve their aims while preserving the possibility for future cooperation. As is the case often, this is easier said than done, but when it can be done well it is a beautiful thing to behold.