Cooperation is for losers. Say wha?!

So, we’re just about half way through the guest post series.  I hope you are enjoying them.

Today’s post is from Tim Ohai. I introduced you to Tim a few weeks in a Sunday Morning Blog post.

I love Tim’s take on collaboration and cooperation here.  What do you think? Is cooperation for losers?



Did you ever get assessed on whether or not “you work well with others” somewhere on your report card? It’s an interesting form of brainwashing dynamic that was introduced in the post-WWII culture of the American classroom.

Imagine 1946. The year after World War II ended brought the biggest surge of infant births in history (up to that point). Hospitals could barely keep up with the so-called “baby boom,” so they instituted practices more commonly found in the warehouses of big industry – palletizing organizing baby cribs in rows, scheduled maintenance care and feeding routines, and so on. How artificially tender…

Now, jump to 1951. Kindergartens surge from small, organic cohorts to crowds of energetic but highly “disorganized” children. Teachers can’t use their traditional methods of classroom management. Industrial logic enters from stage right yet again. And ADHD becomes a disorder/excuse for drugging your kids. See Sir Ken Robinson’s delightful breakdown of this international tragedy here.

So why go into all of this on a sales blog?

Simple. Because your ability to generate revenue as a sales person rests on understanding how to NOT work well with others. You have to be disruptive to the point of discomfort – for a bunch of people.

Now, let me pause here and say that I am NOT advocating you act like that kid in the back of the classroom who consistently cracked jokes, disrupting whatever learning the poor teacher was trying to inspire. And who then grew up to be a sales blogger. (oops – THAT was a little too transparent)

I am simply talking about throwing the shackles of “playing nice” off and into the fire.

If I can put it another way, I would ask you, “Are you cooperative or are you collaborative?” The distinction, though seemingly slight, is MASSIVE.

Being cooperative means that you are polite. To the point of avoiding uncomfortable topics/problems. Being collaborative means that you “stir the pot” and invite disagreement – as long as it maintains respect.

Being cooperative means that you share the burden of getting a solution with others. Being collaborative means that you share the burden of solving a problem with others. You see, cooperators will stop cooperating once they have the solution they want. Collaborators won’t stop collaborating until the problem goes away for everyone.

Being cooperative means that you work best with people who think just like you, and pay lip-service/marginalize everyone else. Then whine later when other people are getting in your way. Being collaborative means that you work best with people who don’t always think like you, and treat opposing views as a way to get a better understanding of the problem. Even if you still complain when other people get in your way.

(Note: complaining is not an indicator that you are a loser – it’s what you do with the complaints that defines your status. Okay. Where was I?)

Being cooperative means that you are trying to fairly divide value amongst everyone involved. Being collaborative means that you are trying to create new value for everyone involved.

Which brings me back to my original point: your ability to generate revenue as a sales person rests on understanding how to NOT work well with others. You have to disrupt customers to get them to see the problem, solution, and outcome that you can help them successfully address. And, perhaps even more importantly, you have to disrupt your own organization to get them to see how they can help your customers experience the value you are trying to sell.

You are going to have to be a master of collaboration, avoiding cooperation at all possible times. You are going to have to identify problems that other people share and turn them into opportunities to work together. You are going to have teach others how to disagree respectfully by first inviting others to disagree with you respectfully. And you are going to have to enjoy it. Seriously. Because a fake collaborator will get chewed up and spit out every time.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai (


Tim Ohai is the founder and president of Growth & Associates, a community of experts that specializes in sales enablement and sales transformation solutions, with an emphasis on maximizing the most critical of resources: people. With well over a decade’s worth of experience in developing sales team performance, he consistently helps Fortune 500 companies design and implement selling solutions internationally, build sales systems that increase revenue and customer loyalty, and create genuine coaching cultures. He is often asked to consult larger, more complex issues, especially around the topics of redesigning sales organizations and leading organizational change.

As a researcher, author, and emerging thought leader in modern selling, Tim’s expertise and enthusiasm have taken him to Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East as both consultant and keynote speaker. He is one of the Top 40 Sales Influencers on Twitter globally and his most recent book, Sales Chaos: Using Agility Selling to Think and Sell Differently, is on sale now.