By Jocelyne Daw
“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” – former President Obama chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, commenting during the 2008 financial crisis.As Canadians stare down $50/barrel oil prices, we begin to see the impact it has on our country’s economic and social health. The time has come again for us to look at this crisis in a new way. Organizations, from all sectors can view Canada’s current economic climate as a new opportunity to think and act differently in order to achieve the same, if not better, results.Today with limited resources and time, the overarching feeling is that “we can only do what we are capable of.” Conversations around purpose within an organization often disappear, and concerns on profits and fundraising become priority at times like these. With tight financial resources, organizations need to look for new ways to continue to create both financial value and social impact – especially those that are embedded into the Canadian community.Here’s how Canadian organizations can maintain both purpose and profit during tough economic times using co-creativity and collaboration:Embrace Collaboration Over CompetitionTraditionally, many organizations believe being the biggest, strongest or furthest reaching equals success. Yet, often an organization’s individual best efforts cannot stack up against today’s complex and interconnected problems. Leading organizations are putting self-interest and competitiveness aside in favour of collaboration across a variety of sectors to get ahead.Forming mutually beneficial alliances advances organizational goals, creates community good and establishes shared objectives. It becomes a situation where value is created for all the partners involved. Increasingly, community initiatives led by business, government or civil society, are being launched with partnership and collaboration at the centre.Partnering is not a new, yet how it is properly executed has changed. Effective partnering is complex, challenging and requires a process. Success is not guaranteed without an understanding of the art & science the cross-sector partnerships. With these critical elements in place, partnerships are more likely to achieve real impact. Without them, partnerships will likely under-perform or even fail altogether.Ultimately, struggling organizations can used cross-sector collaboration to combine existing resources, seek new opportunities and create sustainable growth.Begin to Boundary SpanBoundary spanning is: the efforts made by an organization or employee to establish connections both within and outside their organization. It establishes bridges between different levels within organizations and sectors. It builds a personal information network from many different sources.Boundary spanning is vital to the effectiveness of cross-functional teams and change management initiatives. A recent IBM CEO survey ranked boundary scanning as the top skill for organizations and employees from all sectors to have, in order to effectively and successfully operate in today’s workplace.Like partnering, boundary spanning requires the ability to establish and maintain healthy relationships and strong collaboration. It also requires the skill to tackle uncertainty and ambiguity in order to meet objectives, deadlines and goals. Boundary spanning has gone from “nice to have” to “critical.”Organizations can become more effective, seamless and relevant by having strong boundary spanning capabilities, both internally and externally.Don’t design solutions alone: Co-createEconomic and social challenges require systemic solutions that are grounded in the community and stakeholder motivations. Community-centered design incorporates constituent or stakeholder insights. It goes beyond assumptions that often block effective solutions.Community-centered design helps organizations:
Hear the needs of the communities they’re designing for
Co-create innovative approaches to meet these needs
Deliver solutions that work in specific cultural and economic contexts
Few, if any, organizations systematically integrate this approach, which is often why they flounder during difficult times. JS Daw & Associates firmly believes in community-centered design as a new approach to creating sustainable solutions.
The approach is entered in optimism. It also embraces constraints and complexity. Community-centered design begins with:
Working with key community stakeholders
Asking the right questions
Developing co-design ideas and possible solutions
Design thinking crosses the traditional boundaries between public, for-profit and nonprofit sectors. By working closely with the citizens and stakeholders, design thinking allows high-impact solutions to bubble up from below rather than being imposed from the top.Community-centered design gives organizations relevant and meaningful insights that may have never been visible before. This is especially important for organizations that need to continue to operate, regardless of the condition of the external economy.Co-creativity and collaboration provide real-world perspectives that help form new ways of doing things. Pre-validated ideas emerge and are more likely to inspire interest, adoption and scale within organizations, when these approaches are used.As we meet the economic crisis in an era of increasing complexity and expectations, organizations that win will meet the moment by embedding engagement and collaboration into their strategies. Ultimately they will inspire co-creativity in every process and unleash shared value that works for all.