April 22, 2014

What Spiderman & Superman Can Teach us about Cooperation. ~ Darren Lamb

Spiderman and Superman

Have you ever noticed how much corporation sounds like cooperation?

How come these words that sound so similar to one another, have such radically different meanings?

Wouldn’t it be great to see companies working with each other instead of always against each other?

I’ve seen companies put aside their differences in the past, and the results are almost always amazing.

The first time I ever saw two competing companies work together, was in 1976, I was eight years old, and it forever changed the way I look at competition, cooperation, and corporations.

I walked down to the local 7-Eleven to buy a Slurpee, and as I walked in the door, I saw something in the magazine rack that shouldn’t exist. There was a comic book unlike any other comic book I had ever seen, and its existence shook the foundations of my universe and tore the fabric of my reality to shreds.

There on the front cover were two things that were never supposed to be seen together; Superman vs. the Amazing Spiderman.

Just in case that last sentence didn’t quite blow your mind like it did back when I first saw it, let me explain to you why this was such a phenomenal event, and was an even bigger shock to my young mind, than when Vader said he was Luke’s father.

Until that moment there were basically two separate planes of existence in the comic book universe—Marvel and DC. Fans loved to argue over who would win in a fight between Namor and Aquaman (who is basically DC’s version of Namor), or Batman and Ironman (who is basically Marvel’s version of Batman). These were always fun debates to get into, because there was never any way to prove an argument, and we were always left to wonder: what if?

But now…here were the two biggest characters from the two greatest comic companies together in one book. This changed everything. I felt like Copernicus discovering the earth wasn’t the center of the universe. The comic was even giant-sized, which was another thing my young mind hadn’t even conceived as a possibility.

This piece of mind altering happiness, cost two dollars, and worth every penny 10 times over.
Our nation was celebrating its bicentennial, and I remember buying this masterpiece of work by Neil Adams and John Romita Sr. with quarters that had the bicentennial stamp. That same year, the VHS home movie system was introduced, and Apple Computers were formed by a couple of crazy guys working out of a garage.

May you live in interesting times.

When I look around and see all the conflict in the world, I often think of that comic which I read until the pages basically disintegrated in my hands. It’s the best example that comes to my mind when I visualize synergy, the interaction of multiple elements in a system to produce an effect greater than the sum of their individual parts. What would happen if everyone stopped competing with each other and started working together? What if we pooled our resources and shared ideas?

I know this is crazy talk, but is it really?

Stan Lee and Carmine Infantino, respectively the heads of Marvel and DC at the time the Superman vs. Spiderman comic came out, put aside their companies’ competitiveness, for the simple reason that they hoped to have a bestseller on their hands. This has happened many times throughout history, but I wish it would happen more.

Morihei Ueshiba wanted a martial art that revolved around conflict resolution instead of combat so he founded Aikido. Nikola Tesla let others use his designs freely hoping his technology could help others make their ideas better.

What if more companies and people did this with each other?

For example, what if all our cell phones used the same type of charger?

What if I didn’t need to by a PlayStation, X-box, and a Wii just so I could play Little Big Planet, Halo, and Mario?

What if bologna was square like our bread?

I don’t think these ideas are completely unreasonable, and these are just the first three that came off the top of my head. Imagine what people with actual creative genius could do together.

Maybe we wouldn’t have to hear our waitress ask us if Pepsi would be ok every time we ordered a Coke.

Maybe we could all have healthcare and medications. Maybe we wouldn’t have to make weapons to defend ourselves from our competitors. Don’t get me wrong here. I think competition is a wonderful thing, and it can push people to greater levels than they might not achieve without it.

However, it’s when competition becomes damaging to the loser that it becomes bad.

Why does there have to be a loser?

Why does someone have to win?

Better yet, if there has to be a winner, why not let it be us, the consumers?


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Apprentice Editor: Dana Gornall/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo Credit: JD Hancock on Flickr

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