Why we need to embrace a Systems Approach: Collaborate to Create

Daniel Tuitt
5 min readJan 14, 2024

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Credit: Mariana Corrionero

There are many lessons from the last 12 months that can help us become better people. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to reflect on my experience-building communities with a virtual classroom of students.

The way we stay connected as a community has changed as the COVID -19 pandemic has forced us to reimagine what it means to build and foster relationships.

Many people have had trouble remaining social during COVID -19. We have seen people face challenges such as, and not restricted to job loss, home entrapment for days and weeks, and the severest of all — a mental illness due to a combined and synergistic effect of multiple scenarios.

Credit: Dartest

For those that can adapt, there are plenty of opportunities to find new ways to connect to not just be a part of a like-minded community but also create change through the power of the crowd that is as passionate as oneself.

Keeping your circle alive

Winston Churchill said ‘Never waste a good crisis’.

As the COVID — 19 pandemic was just setting in, people were advised to keep their distance and try not to get too close to people- or practice ‘social distancing’. I did not prefer the term as we are naturally social animals and the phrase ‘physical distancing’ made sense.

As always, we have found a way to adapt to new norms and handle uncertain times at the local, national and global scale by supporting each other.

It all starts with the right type of mindset. Over the years, I have felt the importance of collaboration from varied things. Even to this day as I’m starting to form strong relationships with people, I’m still looking for ways to help others and give back.

I firmly believe in the adage, ‘you can’t do everything yourself.’

‘MeWe’ — probably the shortest poem in the English language written by Muhammad Ali, best summarises my approach to connecting with others because we need the collective intelligence of people with different skills and diverse thoughts to solve the problems we are facing as COVID — 19 threatened everyone across the globe.

Embracing serendipity

There are so many opportunities to create new relationships with people. Like most things, the internet is a powerful thing for both good and bad. It could be a great way to connect with people from around the world on a united passion or used to spread negativity. We have seen both sides during COVID — 19 as people have had their whole lives impacted. There are many platforms that can support caring actions or fostering meaning for relationships. However, this can take time. One cannot just jump into the act of helping someone straight away. One should understand each other’s needs.

What each person can offer in a relationship and find a way to collaborate can take time. Especially as we can’t always see each other face to face, it can be harder to know what each other’s intentions can be. It’s important to look past a transactional mindset when you’re trying to figure out what the other person can do for you. You can start thinking about investing in a relationship with shared values.

Collaboration in our DNA (1 + 1 =3)

I started my career almost a decade ago in innovation. But something that always stood out as a key competitive advantage was understanding the aspect of bringing external resources and knowledge into an existing developmental process to create more value. The probability exists that you can create much more when two or more organisations work together. You can create something that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

When I first started out, co-innovation was just about gaining traction. Henry Chesbrough coined the term ‘open innovation. When an organisation doesn’t just rely on its own internal knowledge, sources, and resources (such as its staff or R&D) for innovation (of products, services, business models, processes, etc.), but also uses multiple external sources (such as customer feedback, published patents, competitors, external agencies, the public etc.) to drive innovation, it is termed ‘open innovation’.

Over time, people have valued the need to collaborate — from academia working with large corporations to passionate creators bring together their talent to bring a project to life. However, there are some issues that are more complex and involve a number of components and contributing factors and agencies. There’s no one solution or partnership or clear definition to a problem. COVID-19 has presented a number of these issues that I’ve seen emerging for a number of years that are now being accelerated as everyone has been forced to adapt.

These are known as complex problems. This is when we start to explore the unknown within our organisations and beyond. There’s a level of uncertainty and volatility that cannot be managed through one process. The state of global education, universal basic income, and access to healthcare are all involved in many aspects. These are better to find systematic issues that have plagued communities on a local, national and global scale.

Systems’ thinking allows a holistic approach to analysis that focuses on the way that a system’s constituent parts interrelate and how systems work overtime and within the context of larger systems.

Reflecting the power of an ecosystem

It can be difficult to articulate how many people in organisations I’ve been able to work within the last year alone. This has not just been to share ideas and think about ways to solve complex problems but also to build long-term relationships where there’s no expectation and automatic pay-off. Instead, it’s still on trust, supporting each other, and extending reciprocity.

Another step to any successful collaboration is trying to figure out how to scale that initiative with the right partners.

This involves:

  1. Truly understanding who you are as an individual organisation and making sure that you have the right capabilities to make any partnership happen.
  2. Finding partners that do not just have the right resources but share your vision for long-term success; as not all partnerships are easy to develop.
  3. Finding small opportunities to see whether your partnership can work for.
  4. Experimenting quickly and learning from the outcomes with a wider ecosystem of partners.

To summarise, a holistic, collaborative, systems approach to strengthening an organisation heals the economic trauma caused by global disasters and paves the way ahead for a bright future.

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Daniel Tuitt

Innovation | Strategy | Making a difference through writing, listening, talking and doing