Systemic risks arising from underlying interdependencies can create havoc at an industry level and are often too formidable for any single firm to manage. The contagion effects of these risks, including the recent financial crisis, offshore oil spills, and the Japanese nuclear disaster, have upended industry practices. Sometimes they have even pulled economies apart at the seams. We recommend that leaders heed models of cooperative behavior found in nature by engaging in “Pelican Gambits,” which we define as strategic moves towards cooperation in highly competitive economic environments for the purpose of limiting risk to one's firm, the industry and society.
The authors thank George Day, Virginia Haufler, Dean Krehmeyer, Howard Kunreuther, Steve Krupp, Shefali Patil, and Phil Tetlock for their valuable feedback on earlier drafts. They are also indebted to Sandy Cutler, CEO of Eaton Corporation, and Steve Odland, former CEO of Office Depot, for providing examples of cooperative industry activities and for their helpful comments in the development of this article.
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