A Holistic Approach to Cross-Collaboration Innovation and Regenerative Business

In today’s complicated geopolitical climate — one in which public sector actors have a tendency to turn inward in an effort to protect their economic and political interests — inclusion, connectedness and collaboration are even more vital. As we prepare for the inevitable changes still to come and the complexity of the global challenges facing us, the business community’s spirit of collaboration and forward-looking position on forging strategic partnerships will be critical to developing scalable solutions and impact.
- Why Partnership is the Business Trend to Watch — WEForum January 2018

As we continue to move towards a more collective mentality, in business and society — we are realising the true potential of cross-border collaboration and regeneration. The old playbook for business is fading and company culture and ways of working are catching up.

It is no longer enough to be the master of your own “industry” anymore, particularly since the borders for those industries are now so blurred. Everything is related and evolving, requiring each of us to be futurists making essential connections and adjustments.

We have:

  • Technology companies making cars.
  • Fintech companies involved in shipping and supply chain.
  • Scientists collaborating with architects to create self-healing buildings.
  • Clothing companies creating wearable technology.

The rockstar “hero” mentality is short-sighted. The lone CTO, CEO or innovation lab cannot be the saviour with all the answers. Innovation and cocreation must be distributed, not only throughout the organisation, but extended to customers and partners in a connected ecosystem. Digitilisation is transforming the way we work, our processes, revenue streams and our relationships — and in order to survive, we need to be open to cross-collaboration and strategic partnerships.

“Today’s systemic challenges require collaboration. One company can only go so far alone until it hits a barrier, and then collaboration needs to happen for practical reasons.”
— HENDRIK ALPEN, Sustainability Business Expert, H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB

Beyond the “Usual Suspects”

Bringing together diverse perspectives into circles for exploration, may not come naturally to business right now, but it is how business will be done in the future. We must go against the current tendency to protect our innominate borders and bring cocreators together from beyond typical places.

Finding the right partners to involve in the value chain means looking beyond the “usual suspects”. The challenge is to find the ideas best suited to address the specific value chain challenge, and create partnerships with the organizations that are best able to realize those ideas.
- 5 Things Companies should know before going Digital — WEForum March 2016

There are multiple examples of cross-company and cobranding collaborations:

  • IBM and Maersk are working together to digitise the supply chain process, to manage and track millions of shipping containers globally, using Blockchain technology.
  • Apple teamed up with Nike to create Nike+

The next phase will be to go beyond strategic partnerships and cobranding, towards a more holistic regenerative approach. One that takes into account the whole business and each of the touchpoints related to it.

“Do not reinvent the wheel. Partner with experts who have a competitive edge, a team effort across industry is necessary.”
-Aireen Omar, Chief Executive Officer, AirAsia, Malaysia

Airlines as an example

Airlines are skilled at bringing the world closer together — so it is no surprise that digitalisation and innovation are central to the evolution of the industry. The Aviation, Travel and Tourism ecosystem [figure 1], is constantly converging and evolving across each touchpoint.

http://reports.weforum.org/digital-transformation/wp-content/blogs.dir/94/mp/files/pages/files/wef-dti-aviation-travel-and-tourism-white-paper.pdf
Industry players are forging new collaborations and expanding existing ones, both inside and outside the traditional boundaries of the aviation industry. As companies at the edge or outside the travel ecosystem are drawn in, traditional industry roles will blur and become less relevant. This phenomenon — an ecosystem convergence — brings new products and services.
- Digital Transformation Initiative: Aviation, Travel and Tourism Industry — WEForum January 2017

Autopilot and the “business class” seat have been around for decades and contain many learnings for the automotive industry. As autonomous cars and the way we travel are reimagined and integrated, each related organisation that was once merely interacting with each other, will overlap and converge more.

“We see more and more giants participating in travel and mobility assets. For example, Ctrip invested in China Eastern Airlines in 2016 and recently in Boom. Tencent invested in the Germany-based Lilium vertical takeoff and landing startup and is also developing promising autonomous vehicle technology. This might be a true game-changer: large technology players which own predominantly consumer ecosystems of online customer touch points venturing into transportation metal, which has been our own turf for decades.”
- Gleb Tritus, Managing Director, Lufthansa Innovation Hub

Cross-industry collaboration allows those that use the same materials, to address challenges together and identify areas to save money and innovate. Cars, airlines, banks and hotels — will all need to go beyond competing, and work together to share resources and assets.

“ Business leaders are waking up to the multiple benefits of focusing on collaborative advantage rather than competitive advantage. Regenerative systems are defined by collaboration and win-win-win solutions, rather than competition and zero- sum games creating winners and losers.”
- Daniel Christian Wahl, Author of Designing Regenerative Cultures

A Systems Regeneration Approach

This holistic approach to a company — assessing each of the touchpoints and impact each has on the customer journey, can be taken a step further, to think about the touchpoints and impact the business has in society at large. A transformation into a healthy, regenerative whole system.

Carol Sanford describes a regenerative business as..

“A business that adopts a systems regeneration approach moves the boundary of what it is taking into account… It begins to take responsibility not only for its own internal systems (such as accounting or production…) and the systems in which it is immediately embedded (such as markets or distribution networks), but also for the larger social and natural systems that we depend on collectively. By extending its purview in this way, a business is able to become much more strategically powerful within its markets and its industry, and in society at large.”
Carol Sanford, Author of The Regenerative Business: Redesign Work, Cultivate Human Potential, Achieve Extraordinary Outcomes

As we continue to disrupt and innovate and as industries become more blurred, we have an opportunity to re-evaluate and and reimagine a more holistic approach to business and innovation. Where we bring together all of our knowledge and expertise to create these win-win-win solutions.

A Foundation for Cross-Collaboration

Initiatives such as Singapore’s Smart Nation, allow public sector and private sector companies to work together towards creating these holistic visions of the future and provide a foundation for cross-collaboration. By encouraging and supporting participation to tackle collective challenges and aspirations, collaboration and innovation are able to thrive.


What do we need to do, to create this space for cross-industry collaboration and cocreation in every aspect of our society?

How can we incentivise and decentralise a collective supply chain of knowledge and innovation?


Join the Conversation

Our October Connectle Con will explore these topics on Regenerative Business and look to see how we can move towards to more holistic approach to cross-collaboration innovation and regenerative business.