The reading note sheets refer to books or articles bringing thoughts to foster collaborative networking.


Collaboration in companies: from Coopetition to Collaboration

Card's author : Hélène Laxenaire - SupAgro Florac
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Ideas developped by the author in the field of cooperation within the book or conference :

Long live the co-revolution: for a collaborative society by Anne-Sophie Novel and Stéphane Riot

Introduction: this is not a full review of this work, but a summary of the chapter on Radical collaboration

In their book Long live co-revolution: for a collaborative society, Anne-Sophie Novel and Stéphane Riot describe collaboration between enterprises differentiating coopetition (a portmanteau word : competition+cooperation) from radical collaboration. For two years, they promoted Radical collaboration within the network Entrepreneurs of the future

The interest for enterprises to cooperate

The term competition comes from the Latin word competere which means to search together, to make efforts together ; thus, originally, there was no notion of adversity or aggressiveness as is the case today when one talks of competition between companies. The idea is not to suppress this, since it is also a vector of innovation and emulation, but rather to reduce the burden caused by an overly aggressive competition and to reduce it specifically in those cases when competition is useless or even dangerous. In this line, the authors note that the first advantage of companies cooperating is the reduction in costs linked to inter-company conflicts, something that should be an interest for all company CEOs! These costs have been estimated to amount to 50 billion Euros in France each year, according to the American researcher John W. Henke, based on projecting the situation of the American car industry.

The evolution of cooperation between companies

Adam Smith's theories on the interest of competition and those of Joseph Schumpeter on creative destruction have taken root in the economic sphere. But since the 1980s' some companies realised that networking and setting up strategic alliances brought relational advantages and allowed accessing more resources. Then, in the 1990s', faced with the increase in research and development costs, in parallel to the obsolescence of objects while the convergence of technologies allowed for scale economies, some companies decided to collaborate in developing products with a longer lifespan using components that could be reused by several companies/

Collaboration allows solving common problems

Especially goals linked to the environment and sustainable development. These goals can stem from companies sharing convictions or from legal requirements imposed from outside. Fighting against a bigger common enemy: this is how Google participated in developing the browser Firefox within the Mozilla foundation, when it is actually competing against its own browser Google Chrome; all this to destabilize Microsoft Internet Explorer, the market's giant.


The term coopetition was created by Ray Noorda, the founder of Novell, and became popular in the work by Nalebuff, B. and Branderburger, A. Co-opetition, a revolutionary way of competing and cooperating, Village Mondial, 1996. This is the alliance between cooperation and the market: we cooperate for certain things and compete for others. For the authors, cooperation between a company, its providers and its customers lead to products and services that are similar and therefore to potentially increasing the market share. In addition, this alliance can allow penetrating into new markets by joining forces. The conditions for coopetition require a study on inter-dependencies between companies, defining a concrete goal and an agreement to share the effort and the gains.

Examples of coopetition

  • In 2009, the Prufock Café in London created an “unloyalty card”. Customers had to go for a coffee at cafés from the competition and show their card to get it stamped. Once the card was full, customers could go back to the Prufock Café where they were given a free coffee. The goal was to retain customers of the Prufock Café by showing them that they served the best coffee, but also to force the managers of other cafés to guarantee the quality of their coffee, since they know they face competition. This also allowed bringing a stream of new customers. Ultimately, however, the main goal shared by all was to find a creative answer to the expansion of Starbucks cafés.
  • Fiat and PSA created a joint subsidiary that manufactured commercial vehicles of both brands, allowing scale savings by using the same components.

Radical collaboration

The term radical collaboration appeared in the United States in 2009. Three CEOs of competing companies in the field of green technologies (genGreen, 3rdWhale and Creative Citizen) decided to establish a “radical collaboration” scheme that was facilitated by the fact that they shared the same values and the same conviction on ecological emergency.
The difference between coopetition and radical collaboration is measured by evaluating the competition advantages and shared elements of “intimate” intellectual property. In radical collaboration what is shared is a highly differentiated added value (production secrecy, R&D); in coopetition the benefit is scale savings. Participants in the “unloyalty” card do not share their recipes or their knowledge on coffee.
Radical collaboration favours open innovation approaches, it is not about collaborating together to create a predefined product or service, but about developing an ecosystem to share knowledge and skills that will allow innovation to emerge. This innovation is not necessarily technological, it can also be social. And it emerges both from company collaborators and their customers.

Examples of radical cooperation

  • The field of the environment is very often convergent. For example, collaboration between the NASA and the ESA (in a context of strong competition) regarding environmental issues: managing space waste, the life cycle of satellites and the impact that launching spacecrafts has on biodiversity. This cooperation takes the shape of exchanges between specialists and a joint creation of new materials that are more environmentally friendly (to replace those that were going to be banned since they were too harmful)
  • Green X Change is a platform created by Nike, Creative Commons and Best Buy to share research. Anyone who is interested can put their innovations on this platform by choosing a licence that draws inspiration from free software and that allows other companies to benefit from the invention. This licence allows the owner of an innovation to choose who can have the rights. The idea behind this is to allow companies in different industries that do not compete against each other to share the fruits of their R&D. This platform is finding it difficult to expand outside its founding companies, but its authors see in it a huge potential driver of extending radical cooperation.

Recommendations by the authors for a Radical collaboration

  • Explain the concept, beyond the representations given in French to the terms “collaboration” and “radical”, which have a different connotation in English
  • Changing one's reflexes and one's vision on competition, open up to new opportunities.
  • The four pillars of a relationship: goodwill, reciprocity (also having goodwill with oneself), clarity and freedom to innovate (elements mentioned by the authors of the work: Juliette Tournand, La stratégie de la bienveillance, Inter Editions, 2007).
  • Being sure of the long-term; collaboration requires time to get installed and only shows an effect in the long-term
  • Creating a context that allows participants to be free and to engage spontaneously in reaching a negotiated and consensual solution together. Not distributing tasks between companies, like one would do in a collaborative process
  • Sharing skills and knowledge
  • Ensuring that contributions are complementary: linking the individual interest to the collective interest
  • Anticipating everyone's responsibilities: responsibility for the success or failure, financial setbacks, intellectual property
  • Transparency in the exchanges during the project and communication to all members
  • The simpler the process, the greater the chance of completion
Short introduction of the book's author :
  • Anne-Sophie Novel: doctor in economy, journalist specializing in sustainable development, founder of the collective blog Ecolo-Info, member of the network Entrepreneurs d'avenir.
  • Stéphane Riot: founder of Nove Terra, expert in sustainable development and accompanying the human factor in organizations, a member of a research group and prospection groups for new economies and organizations (bio-imitation, neurosciences, psychopedagogy, management…)
Literature references : NOVEL, Anne-Sophie and RIOT, Stéphane. Vive la corévolution !: pour une société collaborative. Paris, France : Alternatives, 2012. Manifestô (Paris), ISSN 2258-9325. ISBN 978-2-86227-711-0.

Education uses a faulty Creative licence, by Richard Stallman

Card's author : Hélène Laxenaire - SupAgro Florac
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Ideas developped by the author in the field of cooperation within the book or conference : In this article, Richard Stallman denounces the use of CC-BY-NC and CC-BY-NC-SA licences for pedagogical documents and works of reference and makes a call to use CC-BY and CC-BY-SA instead

Free Creative Commons licences and other non-free ones

Among the licences provided by Creative Commons, two of them are really free (cf. the definition of the GNU project software) :
  • the CC-BY-SA licence, which authorises users to disseminate and modify, even in a commercial framework, but with the condition that the delivered work is under the same licence
  • the CC-BY licence is identical to the one above, except that there is no obligation for a licence for delivered works
Other licences, which do not allow any modifications and/or using them in a commercial framework, in fact are not free.

Works under CC-BY-NC and CC-BY -NC-SA licenses are at risk of not being disseminated in a commercial framework

Licenses that allow modifications but don't allow using them in a commercial framework (CC-BY-NC and CC-BY-NC-SA) can be a problem that worsens with time. In fact, the letters NC (non-commercial) of the Creative Commons licence do not strictly speaking prohibit its commercial use; it only requires that the people wanting to give a commercial use to the works under this licence ask for the author's authorisation. However, allowing modifications to the work multiplies the number of authors, a number that over time may become very large and it may be utterly impossible to contact them to require authorisation. Richard Stallman suggests modifying these licences so that they allow defining a person who may be contacted for authorisation.

Works to be used for practical purposes must be under a free licence

According to Stallman, a work that is to be given a practical use must be free, as is the case of software or courses. For them to be free, users must have full control over the work they are using to fulfil their task.
He therefore distinguishes works used for practical purposes, i.e. pedagogical documents such as artistic works, entertainment from those reflecting a point of view. These are legitimized to be protected by a non-free Creative Commons licence.

Note from the author of this factsheet: the article by Richard Stallman is published under a non-free licence, which is in line with his discourse, since it is an article expressing an opinion.

Photo credits: Preliminares 2013 (CC BY-SA)
Short introduction of the book's author : Richard Stallman is a renowned free software programmer. He is behind the GNU project and the general public licence GNU is also known by its acronym GPL; he is one of the fathers of free software.
Quotations : When a work is used for a practical purpose, users must have control over this task, and therefore must be able to control the work in itself. This applies both for teaching materials and software. Richard Stallman
Literature references : L’éducation utilise une licence Creative Commons défectueuse, par R. Stallman. Framablog [online]. 31 January 2013. [Accessed 4 February 2014]. Available from :

Internet has created an inter-generational abyss

Card's author : Gatien Bataille
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Ideas developped by the author in the field of cooperation within the book or conference :

What a lot of changes in just one century!

Around 1900 Around 2000
In France, most humans are farmers In France, less than1 % of humans are farmers
There are 2 billion people on Earth There are 7 billion people on Earth
The average life expectancy is 30 years The average life expectancy is 80 years
People live in their communities, with a similar culture People live in a group with a mix of religions, cultures, languages, nationalities
+/- 5,000 new words enter into the dictionary every 20 years +/- 35,000 new words enter into the dictionary every 20 years
The cultural horizon is limited to a couple of thousand years (1,000 BC) The cultural horizon goes back until the Planck barrier (just some milliseconds after the Big Bang

Moreover, in western Europe, people under the age of 60:
  • have never experienced hunger (real hunger)
  • have never experienced a war
  • have never experienced real pain thanks to medicine

An abyss between today's generation and the preceding one!

We are little aware of the huge gap that has grown between today's generation and the preceding one. There has been a change in paradigm and this is largely so thanks to the arrival of the Internet!

Today's generation is extremely different to the preceding one:
  • they live with an abundance of information available everywhere and at all times
  • they are hyper-connected with the whole world
They no longer have the same brain:
  • they no longer retain information in the same way (they have outsourced this in a large proportion)
  • they no longer read in the same way
  • they are multi-tasking
They no longer have the same space
  • they live in a virtual world where distances no longer exist
  • they have access to all places and all people thanks to ICTs
They no longer live in the same world
  • they live in groups that combine several different religions, languages, nationalities, morals…
  • they are not concerned by morals that they do not need (was was the case in the times of war, suffering and shortages…)

With the invention of the Internet and ICTs (Information and communication technologies) today's generations have externalised their memory, their imagination and their reasoning (from now on, accessible on the Internet with an effectiveness never seen before in our brains). This has freed “space in the brain” for inventiveness (the only real intellectual activity today, according to the author). Indeed, it is by getting some distance from knowledge and know-how that one can really think and invent!

This upheaval in the world forces new generations to reinvent everything, or almost everything, since the old “framework” we had placed our society in can no longer cope with the surge of the Internet.
This is more valuable than ever in teaching.

For a re-definition of teaching!

Before, teaching was an offer that was to be grasped as it was! Knowledge was passed by the voice of the teacher who would read written texts. In the auditorium, the teacher was the centre and reigned over the “learners”. To spread knowledge he asked for silence.

Today, knowledge is available everywhere and at all times. Students no longer remain “silent” because the teacher's words sound redundant if all he or she does is “read out” knowledge that is readily available elsewhere.
Students want to play an active role in their learning process (as when they “guide” their computers). Taking them out of this and trying to turn them into a “passive” mass no longer works!

The future of education will entail a full revision of the teacher's role and of school structures. Courses that are not “turbulent” will be those where the teacher created the necessary conditions for co-building knowledge and where he or she will find support in knowledge that is readily available to invent with the learners. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are an example of this.
Short introduction of the book's author : Michel Serres is a professor at Stanford University and a member of the Académie française. He is the author of many philosophical and history of science essays, the most recent of which, “The Times of Crisis” and “Music” have been greatly acclaimed in the press. He is one of the few contemporary philosophers who portrays a vision of the world that links sciences to culture
Quotations : With the explosion of new technologies, a new human being is born: Michel Serres calls it “Thumbelina” in a nod to the skill with which messages fly from their thumbs.
Literature references : SERRES, Michel. Petite poucette. Paris, France : Le Pommier, 2013. Manifestes (Paris. 1999), ISSN 1294-6605. ISBN 978-2-7465-0605-3.

Open and/or closed cooperation?

Card's author : Corinne Lamarche - SupAgro Florac
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Ideas developped by the author in the field of cooperation within the book or conference :

We are "programmed" to cooperate

Human cooperative behaviour is partly due to human genetic evolution. It is linked to the degree of relation and to identity features.
According to the theory of evolution, over centuries we have developed altruist behaviours with our family and the group we belong to.

Closed cooperation

Altruism develops in a group when this group competes against other groups. Several experiences have shown a pattern of closed cooperation in family groups or groups that people belong to. Children will be more likely to share with members of their closest group and will distrust other groups. The cognitive and emotional aspects play an important role (imitation, language, beliefs, imagination). Ethnology shows us groups that strengthen their solidarity with others to safeguard their material, and even immaterial goods. In many languages, the words used for “Us” and “Them” really express a linguistic distinction, but also a behavioural one between one's “own” group and the group of “others”. Throughout history, and even today, we find confirmation of ourselves in the opposition to “others”; our identity is built opposing others, and the same can be said for groups. Closed cooperation strengthens the bonds within a group one belongs to, and allows for a strong identity anchoring, valuing reputations, and can develop thanks to competition.

Open cooperation

Nevertheless, the specificity of the Homo Sapiens, contrary to the Neanderthal, was to elaborate forms of cooperation that were more and more open, to integrate into large networks, Mankind, depending on the situation, tends towards open cooperation. We cooperate more easily with people who cooperate themselves and by observing them we know if they are good co-operators. We could say of certain cooperative behaviours that they stem from a “competitive altruism”, such as the action of giving to charity. This could be interpreted as a search for self-valuation, to grow one's reputation to then be chosen by the group. But what about a situation where the individual saves a life in risk, even at the risk of losing his own? This is not a situation of competitive altruism.
So which are the factors that push us to cooperate in a family or with other larger groups?
Open cooperation allows bringing new people into the group and, therefore, making new acquaintances, learning new things, increasing one's exposure to doubt (a necessary condition for innovation).

The variables in promoting open cooperation

First of all, what are the benefits of open cooperation? Throughout history, and through experience, it has been seen that there is a cultural accumulation and a contribution of innovation due to geographical, ecological, demographical, and linguistic factors. Openness to others can be done in a multitude of ways of doing and thinking, and the size of the group also affects our ability to adapt and brings a certain political stability.
There are three other variables that are important to understand “the evolutionary bases of human cooperation and the way in which they are culturally modulated":
  • sanctions. They would have a positive effect when there are also strong pro-social rules at the same time, a legitimacy of the actors and trust in institutions.
  • the notion of collective identity in the sense of creating a bond, being part of “Us”; cooperation is linked to social motivations and emotions, not instrumental motivations or a utilitarian goal.
  • political power, even if it entails risks, is a question of moral choice and of accepting moving from an exclusive “us” to an inclusive “us”, tending towards an aggregative process which becomes more and more socially complex and diverse.

Closed cooperation and open cooperation are expressed simultaneously, and each has advantages and disadvantages. To answer the question of identity in each of them, first of all it would be necessary to determine the need for cooperative behaviours. "At the beginning "Identify yourselves, then cooperate", we would be facing a totally different principle "Cooperate, then you will feel identified".
Short introduction of the book's author : Joël Candau : Professor at the Department of Sociology and Ethnology at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis.
He is an elected member of the French National Council of Universities, a member of the section on “Social anthropology, ethnology and regional languages " at the Historical and Scientific Studies Society CTHS (since 2006), a member of the French Ethnological Society, a member of the Drafting Committee of the journal Le monde alpin et rhodanien, an expert working in the AERES and the director of the “Mémoire, Identité et Cognition sociale” Anthropology and Sociology Laboratory (LASMIC, EA 3179).
Literature references : DUSSAUX, Maryvonne. «Pourquoi coopérer», Terrain, n° 58, 2012. Lectures [online]. 2012. [Accessed 4 February 2014]. Available from :