Envelope #28: 1+1=3? (one of Ray Dalio’s Principles)

Happy Friday! This is Back of the Envelope, where I share mini structural engineering-related lessons to help everyone stay sharp (myself included).

Today I am going to talk about:

  1. Back of the Envelope “Categories”

  2. Revisit the concept of “Competition/Coordination/Cooperation” and “1+1=3”

Let’s dive in!

(Estimated read time = 3 min 0 sec)


Funny question for you:

Do you often get this weird, unexplainable urge to sort and "categorize" things?

Why did I even ask -- Of course you do! (who doesn't?) And me too!

And because of that, I went back to all the past Back of the Envelope emails and added "tags" (aka categories) to each.

You can now access them on the website at the top and on the right.

So if you are new to the newsletter and are particularly interested in a topic, you can now easily filter those out and read them at your leisure. (give it a try!)

One of the main reasons for me to do this was because I was curious to see my ratio of technical vs. non-technical topics (about 2 to 1, in case you are wondering).

As much as I am passionate about the actual engineering, I am just as fascinated by the non-technical aspect of our job. And I believe that learning and sharing what I know will eventually help somebody in some way.

Anyhow, during this "categorizing" process, I re-read a couple of them – and in this email, I want to revisit one in particular because it's related to something that I've been thinking about for a while (more on that in a sec).

It's the concept of “competition vs. coordination vs. cooperation” and “1+1=3”.

Competition vs. Coordination vs. Cooperation.

I wrote this back in Envelope #21, and the gist of it is:

1/ Competition = Survival of the fittest.
(I.e., It's a zero-sum game: if someone takes a big piece of the pie, the rest will go hungry.)

2/ Coordination = Eventually we realize that #1 is not always true. We begin to work with others in support of another's goals.
(I.e., The pie is big enough that I can help you eat it. Maybe you eat the filling and I eat the crust?)

3/ Cooperation = The next level up is learning to work with others to achieve a common shared goal. And we work together to create something new.
(I.e., Everyone work together to make more pies and make them bigger. We all get to have enough, and then some!)

Some people, including Ray Dalio (founder of the world's largest hedge fund) calls it "1+1=3".

The concept was also described in Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". He calls these habits "Think Win-Win", and "Synergize".

Which makes me wonder:

How can we get that "win-win" in our profession to grow this metaphorical pie, and help each other eat it so that “1+1=3”?

I've thought about this a lot, and have got some ideas…

But I’ll need to run an "experiment" to see how it plays out — an experiment that potentially could involve you, which I’ll tell you more about next week.

So if the above concept somewhat resonates with you, make sure to be on the lookout for my next email.

And that's all for now – thanks for reading!

Oh one last thing… as you know, I love telling dad jokes. And I told one on a Zoom meeting recently, but no one laughed.

It turns out that I’m not remotely funny 😢.

(If you are new to Back of the Envelope, I usually try to end the email with a dad joke, so in case you didn't learn anything new, you'll at least get a laugh.)

Alrighty have a good one!

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