This term was coined by Professor Woodie Flowers for the FIRST robotics competition. The definition has never been precisely outlined, but it’s connotation is widely understood and may be summarized as this: “Competition for the sake not of destroying one another, but for the sake of bettering and improving both competitors as a result of the competition.” Andy Ross April 26, 2004
Gracious Professionalism or GP for short, is a central tenet of the FIRST experience. Dr. Woodie Flowers, FIRST National Advisor and co-founder of FRC, elaborates on the significance of Gracious Professionalism in FIRST:
“FIRST celebrates high-quality, well-informed work done in a manner that leaves everyone feeling valued. Gracious Professionalism™ seems to be a good descriptor for a big part of the ethos of FIRST. It is one of the things that makes FIRST different and wonderful. Gracious attitudes and behaviors are win-win. Gracious folks respect others and let that respect show in their actions. Professionals possess special knowledge and are trusted by society to use that knowledge responsibly. Thus, gracious professionals make a valued contribution in a manner pleasing to others and to themselves.
In FIRST, Gracious Professionalism means that we learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. We try to avoid leaving anyone feeling like they have lost. No chest-thumping barbarian tough talk, but no sticky sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, pride and empathy comfortably blended.”
In honor of Gracious Professionalism at Events, you will see teams helping one another by sharing parts and advice. Lending a spare part to an opponent in order to keep them from forfeiting a match is a prime example of gracious professionalism. A very real example of Gracious Professionalism in action took place at a Seattle Regional in 2011, one team loaned another their spare mini-bot for a qualifying match — even though they were competing against each other in a match. The team that lent the robot lost the match — because their loaned mini-bot scored first (for 30 points.) Though they wished they had won, they were glad that their mini-bot was so successful. That is what Gracious Professionalism is all about.
Gracious Professionalism should be demonstrated in everything FIRST students do and say. Here is another quote from Dr. Woodie Flowers about why students need to learn Gracious Professionalism; “In the long run, Gracious Professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.”
Coopertition goes hand in hand with Gracious Professionalism because at FIRST, Coopertition is displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition. Coopertition is founded on the concept and a philosophy that teams can and should help and cooperate with each other even as they compete. Coopertition involves learning from teammates. It is teaching teammates. It is learning from Mentors. And it is managing and being managed. Coopertition means competing always, but assisting and enabling others when you can. Coopertition produces innovation.