I sometimes see things differently than my peers.

Metaphorically I see reflections of light and shadow, prismatic colors that others might not.

I opine and compose my thoughts into useful and reorienting observations. Now, hundreds of blog posts, LinkedIn long-form articles, and 2 books, I see the light in the forest in new ways and I relate them to you here.

One such realization: I find competition is not evil, although it sometimes can appear that way. Rather, collaboration with a perceived competitor opens my eyes even wider. I finally realize that competition + collaboration = “coopetition,” a very healthy and self-growing experience.

From my book, an excerpt on the topic of coopetition, (from which I have excised the word “nonprofit” to make it more useful for all readers):

There’s a sea of other professionals out there whose work in other organizations is similar to yours. Social media is built on the premise of pay it forward, strangers helping one another. Not so much in business, more likely on LinkedIn. I call this “coopetition” and suggest you try it.

You can tap into these pros individually; the best way to find the right ones to collaborate with and gain the benefit of their experience is through leveraging referrals from your existing LinkedIn connections.

Ask the connection to introduce you through LinkedIn to make this smoother so the other party has a chance to review your role and credentials within the context of a mutual contact. Send a LinkedIn message or email referencing your LinkedIn profile URL and secure a date and time for your phone conversation.

Before you contact the referred competitor, ask the mutual connection how they plan to refer you. Pursue this so you understand how you are perceived; where is the common ground? Review the target’s LinkedIn profile, their company profile page, its website, and its Facebook page. Be prepared when you contact the competitor to make the time efficient and well spent.

(All this sounds obvious, right? Not everyone adheres to simple etiquette when introduced, so I mention this to remind you of some old-school ways that still make a difference.)

Have the competitor’s LinkedIn profile page open on your screen when you call. It’s more natural for speaking, using cues from their past, present and future to work into the conversation. Make it a great call. You never know where it may lead, if not immediately, then down the road. Follow up on any open items that were discussed and agree on a timetable for exchanges. Adhere to the agreed time to deliver and enhance your brand of reliability.

A thank you email or message via LinkedIn is also in order. Be sincere and warm.

Finally, if you feel the other person may provide additional connectivity and benefit (and it’s a two-way street!), invite him or her to connect to you on LinkedIn. Send a personalized invitation to connect, reminding how you met and when and what you discussed, providing context, in case they do not open your connection request immediately.

Coopetition is one way to make valued connections outside your organization that you can tap into as needed. Expect to reciprocate; offer to do so, as well.

Pay it forward, even if you are always busy. Share the wealth of knowledge in special purpose personal learning networks on LinkedIn.

Coopetition is a reflection on your maturity and self-confidence as a professional.  Embrace it. Speak about it on LinkedIn. Demonstrate your desire to use it to improve yourself. Be a thought leader. It has already led me to amazing collaborations.