Compellaboration is a form of collaboration that hides competition as a motive for action at its core.

Compellaboration can be overt where the motive is not hidden, is clear to all parties involved – we compete using collaboration as a method. In popular culture, some aspects of reality TV shows such as The Apprentice and Big Brother are examples of compellaboration.

Compellaboration is usually covert. The motive is hidden from the parties involved. Often the competitive motive is simply learned and subconscious, influencing behaviour, rendering the collaborative process “diluted” as competitive behaviours modify it. When it is subtle, it can go unnoticed throughout a collaborative process.

Compellaboration can be used as a tool by competitively-motived people who “pretend” to be collaborative to the extent it serves their competitive goals and instincts. Competition is well understood by Game Theory, and competitively-focused people will “play along” with collaboration.

Interestingly, collaboratively-motived people may also engage in competitive processes (either coverty or overtly) if they believe it enhances a “longer term game” in favour of collaboration, But I believe this to be rarer than competitively-motived collaboration – compellaboration.

Some social Darwinists would claim that all forms of collaboration are really just forms of compellaboration, especially where scarce resources or selective outcomes are present.

Children are certainly brought up to compellaborate – all competitive team sports are compellaborative overall – there are two collaborating teams in a competitive context. But even within one collaborating team, there may be players overtly or covertly fighting for their place and status in the one team. Where this competitive “game fighting” becomes too present in a collaborative process, overall performance can be undermined – the team can lose the game as the infighting makes the team less coherent when playing a game against another team.

Compellaboraton can therefore often be dysfunctional and damaging as energy required for the collaborative performance is “leaked” away, or lost to the competitive processes.


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