Skroupa: What kinds of solutions emerge from these collaborations?

Gaskin: We get a whole range of solutions: policy changes, communication and education campaigns, new technologies, targeted investments, new cost models, research studies and more. Companies are evaluating the full gamut of solutions, they are getting creative with a whole palette of interventions in order to get the sustainability outcomes they are looking for. In the end, they realize that they need a whole set of solutions because—to reiterate—there’s no silver bullet for complex challenges like this.

Skroupa: What are the key mindsets and skills that company leaders need to develop in order to collaborate effectively?

Gaskin: We seek to start networks with participants who have proven collaboration abilities. Many collaboration approaches begin with the assumption that we need the most powerful leaders in the room to move an industry. What they end up getting, however, is a bunch of people who are used to leading, but not good at collaborating.

We also search for participants who are experts in their part of the value chain, but because the groups are very diverse, we also get “beginner’s mind.”  That is, no single person has expertise across the whole complex system, and as a result of this there’s a multitude of fresh perspectives and checking of basic assumptions. That combination of expertise and beginner’s mind is very helpful, as we do our analysis, people are free to ask basic questions that challenge assumptions. As we design solutions, it helps to have the whole system in the room to ensure that we create solutions that will work for any key stakeholder.

We also want participants who are highly regarded by their peers, whether those are civil society, corporate, or public sector peers. When we include people with high integrity and track records of success, whom others look to for fresh thinking and good ideas, it influences other companies and stakeholders who aren’t directly participating in the collaboration itself.  So we don’t look for the most powerful people, like CEOs for our networks; we look for people who are influential with key groups whom we want to support.

In regard to mindset we look for both a strong bias toward action and a commitment to deep learning. Some stakeholders love to analyze things to death and others like to rush to action. Our ideal participant is interested in both deep learning and in getting things done and don’t see those two things as being in conflict.