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GLTE, Royal Dutch Shell and XyntĂŠo Report

Collaboration for new growth: learning from leaders A GLTE Report featuring first-hand insights for pioneering collaborative leadership at the nexus of water, energy, food and climate.

“Energy, food and water are all interacting and interconnected. These problems need to be solved by a coalition of different societal forces: policymakers, industrials and NGOs all working together. The capacity to collaborate ‌ is the biggest challenge we are facing today. Ben Van Beurden, CEO, Royal Dutch Shell




Executive summary


Collaboration: moving centre stage


The collaboration journey


Establish strong foundations


Develop deep alignment


Pilot and scale


Leadership for successful collaboration


Barriers to collaboration


Creating collaborative organisations


Taking the next steps


Interviewees and source material


Mythbusters: surprising truths about collaboration


Royal Dutch Shell is a global group of energy and petrochemicals companies with around 90,000 employees in more than 80 countries and territories. Shell’s Upstream businesses explore for and extract crude oil and natural gas, often in joint ventures with international and national oil and gas companies. Shell’s Downstream businesses manufacture, supply and market oil products and chemicals worldwide. Shell has been reporting on its environmental and social performance since 1997, and its sustainability performance is ranked in some leading indices.

Xyntéo’s mission is to ‘reinvent growth’. As an advisory firm, it works with global companies to identify and carry out projects that aim to enable businesses to grow in a new way, fit for the resource, climate and demographic realities of the 21st century. The founder and engine of the GLTE partnership, Xyntéo is also the driving force behind The Performance Theatre. The theatre is an annual meeting for CEOs and chairmen that aims to inspire the leadership needed to build a new kind of growth, capable of creating longer-term value for both shareholders and society as a whole.

The GLTE partnership connects global businesses engaged in the pursuit of resourceefficient, low-carbon growth. It builds senior executives’ knowledge of how the changing resource picture and climate change are affecting their businesses and industries, and of how other organisations are responding with innovation that embeds resource and carbon efficiency into the core of their businesses. What sets the GLTE partnership apart is its bias for action. The partnership conceives and conducts projects that aim to enable businesses to grow in a new way, fit for the resource, climate and demographic realities of the 21st century. Advisory firm Xyntéo founded and runs the GLTE partnership.


from De la Rey Venter and Dr Osvald Bjelland The Global Leadership and Technology Exchange is a partnership of leading global companies. We have been brought together by a shared conviction that we need a new model of growth for the 21st century.

The strains created by our current model of growth are particularly visible at the nexus of our food, energy, water and climate systems. The scale of these problems, and their close interdependence, means that we need to find significantly new and different ways of working: business-as-usual is no longer an option. There is a huge potential for organisations who are able to develop innovative responses to these challenges. It is this opportunity for systemic, path-breaking changes to our growth model that has led Royal Dutch Shell and Xyntéo to work together on the topic of collaboration, under the auspices of the GLTE partnership. This report marks the first step in our work together.


We believe that collaboration – working together to achieve what we cannot achieve alone – will be a key tool for creating this new, transformative growth. Collaboration across industries will catalyse innovation, creating new value through new technologies and processes that will underpin more resource-efficient and lower-carbon growth. Successful collaboration between government, civil society and industry can help to steer economic growth that is better aligned with the interests of society as a whole, while creating a more stable climate for wealth creation and high-quality economic development. In this work we focus in particular on leadership. Our aim is to understand more about the kind of leadership that is required for collaborations to succeed. What kind of mindset do collaborative leaders need? What skills and knowledge do they

require? And what incentives can support them? We have started our journey by speaking with 39 people, each with a track record of leadership in collaborative initiatives. Some have worked on collaborations in the food-water-energyclimate nexus, while others have insights from other contexts. We have also looked at other collaborations and the work of leading thinkers in the field. The insights we have gleaned through this work form the basis for this report. We hope it will be a starting point for thinking about collaborations, and a living document that will evolve as we test it with other collaboration practitioners and accumulate their collective insights.

De la Rey Venter Executive vice president Joint Ventures, Shell Upstream International

Dr Osvald Bjelland Chairman and CEO, Xyntéo


Executive summary

The Collaboration Journey (p20) No two collaborations are the same, but the life cycle of almost all the collaborations in our research can be broken down into three phases.

1. Establish strong foundations (p24) It’s vital to front-load your collaboration. Identify a common purpose. You have to know from the beginning why you are doing this and why you need each other Create a partnership. Partners should have both a strategic fit and a personal connection. Make sure the partnership is diverse and includes quieter but potentially influential voices Create an appropriate architecture. A neutral anchor can help. Also, define resources commitments early.

2. Develop deep alignment (p36) Ensuring that partners are aligned takes time but is important.

Collaboration: moving centre stage (p14) We are entering a new era of environmental stress. Water scarcity, air pollution, deforestation, and problems are growing in intensity and in scale. Addressing these ‘wicked’, complex, environmental challenges that we face today will require collaboration across the boundaries of several sectors and industries.

Collaborations are: Creative: they enable innovation to spring from new combinations of knowledge, resources and technology Open: they begin with a shared problem and allow solutions to emerge from within the group Alive: they develop their own culture and are dynamic, experimental and nimble.


Understand the context. Gathering, sharing and evaluating data help collaborations to understand poorly defined problems, to expose areas where participants’ perspectives are different, and to build trust Create a shared narrative. Creating a short, engaging, written narrative builds trust and helps to keep the collaboration on track later. At this stage, the focus should be on the why, rather than what or how Build trust by sharing power. Collaborations can share power by recognising that all partners are needed for the outcome, working in a shared physical or digital space, and ensuring all parties have skin in the game.

3. Pilot and scale (p52) Moving to impact at scale is challenging but there are strategies that can help. Brave the valley of death. Maintain a collaborative mindset and ensure that new personnel joining the project understand the collaborative nature of the work Use pilots to build knowledge and trust. Pilots are an opportunity to get valuable information about the practical challenges of implementing ideas. They can also be beacons – showing the outside world what is possible Scale intelligently. Think carefully about how to scale pilots – focus on the process rather than the outcome – and about how the project’s narrative is relevant to all stakeholders.


Leadership for successful collaboration (p60)

Creating collaborative organisations (p74)

Collaborations need effective leadership. Leading collaborative projects requires many skills that aren’t necessarily evident in more conventional projects. Leaders can be effective in several ways.

The characteristics of participating organisations can play a vital role in making collaborations succeed.

Use purpose to lead. Give up control and allow solutions to emerge from the group. Keep underlying purpose as the guiding principle – deviation from this is one of the main reasons collaborations fail Show personal commitment. Collaborations need champions who are visibly committed both emotionally and professionally Support the collaboration’s values. Ensure the collaboration’s own cultures and values come from enough different voices to be upheld by everyone. This also helps avoid returns to default, non-collaborative behaviour.

Barriers to collaboration (p68) Many things can block progress – a lack of shared purpose, weak governance structures, unequal expectations and misunderstandings – but there are ways to minimise or avoid these. 10

Emphasise leadership based on accountability and trust. Promote and enable the right kind of leadership for collaborations – built on purpose and accountability rather than hierarchy and control Establish strong vertical and horizontal communication. Ensure that senior leaders understand the challenges facing collaborations and that there is alignment across the organisation on the collaboration’s purpose and approach Understand collaboration throughout the organisation. A shared understanding of the nature and value of collaboration throughout the organisation creates a supportive environment for collaborations to thrive Reward collaborative behaviour. Creating the right incentives and reward structures for collaborative behaviour is important – and can require considerable imagination and creativity.

Mythbusters (p90) Collaborations can be counterintuitive. From who you should choose as partners, to how to get the most out of the partnership, the ways to succeed are not always obvious.


Case studies Throughout the report, case studies illustrate how the collaboration journey plays out in practice.

Case Study 1: Water4Crops Addressing water shortages in India.

Case Study 2: Center for Sustainable Shale Development Developing performance standards for shale gas production.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. African proverb

Case Study 3: Liquefied Natural Gas in shipping Exploring the potential for using cleaner fuels for powering ships.

Case Study 4: PEMANDU Realising Malaysia’s goal of becoming a high-income economy by 2020.

Case Study 5: The US-China Clean Energy Research Center Enabling scientists and engineers in the US and China to work together on clean energy technologies.

Case Study 6: The H2 Mobility Project

Expanding the use of hydrogen vehicles in Germany.

Case Study 7: Sustainable Food Lab Changing the food system for the better.

Case Study 8: Singapore Water Policy Accelerating innovation in water and waste management.

Case Study 9: Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 Reducing the deforestation caused by the production of paper and pulp, palm oil, soy and beef.

Case Study 10: Bhavyshia Helping India reach its Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of malnourished children by 2015.

Case Study 11: Linux Creating “open-source” software used on millions of devices worldwide.

Case Study 12: CityLab Finding systemic solutions to the challenges thrown up by urbanisation in Africa.



“If you think about

the significant global policy challenges that face the world, collaboration becomes essential because countries or companies acting alone simply can’t solve these problems. Collaboration is a requirement, not a choice. Merit Janow, dean of the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, and chair of the Nasdaq Exchange


Collaboration: moving centre stage A new era of environmental stress

All this adds up to one very troubling conclusion.

First the good news. This is an age of unprecedented growth in population and aspiration. Over the last 100 years, the global population has quadrupled to 7.3 billion people. The global economy is now some 25 times larger than it was a century ago – an expansion accompanied by radical improvements in technology, health and nutrition.

One reason is that water scarcity, air pollution, deforestation and other environmental problems no longer seem like abstract risks for future generations. Instead, they are already having an impact on businesses, by eroding the social licence to operate and imposing growing costs and complexity on core operations, and on government, by undermining economic growth and reducing quality of life.

And now, of course, the bad news. The sheer scale of human activity and the nature of the economic model that has delivered these gains are increasingly straining our natural resources. The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is changing the climate, affecting not just temperature but also water availability, storm intensity, ocean acidity, sea levels and food production. Fisheries are collapsing, while biodiversity elsewhere is being lost at extraordinary rates – so fast that many scientists believe we are entering a new mass extinction.

In the coming decades, we face a new era of environmental stress.

Moreover, environmental problems are intensifying. In some cases, systems are approaching boundaries that have not previously been crossed. Today we are already extracting all the fresh water that exists in reliable sustainable sources. By 2030, if current trends continue, there will be a 40% shortfall. Unless water use becomes considerably more efficient over that period, water users face some combination of diminishing reliability, higher costs and restricted availability – with implications for business operations, economic growth and human welfare.


In Focus And after the good and the bad comes the ‘wicked’. Environmental issues are highly interconnected. In 2007/8, a combination of higher energy prices, droughts, scarcity of agricultural land, economic growth and population growth contributed to a global food price crisis. The effects were felt by societies as far apart as Mexico, Senegal, Bangladesh and Libya. Environmental problems like these are known as ‘wicked’ problems, because they are so interconnected, and interact in complex ways with social and political systems. Such challenges are difficult to define, impossible to solve definitively, and require interventions at a very large scale to have any hope of an impact (See Churchman, Webber and Rittel on complexity and wickedness, page 19). Many of these strains become evident at the nexus of the food, water, energy and climate systems. Water crises, food crises, extreme weather events and climate change all feature in the World Economic Forum’s top 10 global risks for the next decade.

Why collaboration matters OK, environmental problems are both immediate and intensifying. So what do we do about them? Confronting these issues will require rapid innovation in two directions: technological innovation – advances that enable considerably more efficient resource use institutional innovation – new ways of managing scarce resources in a way that is both socially and environmentally acceptable.


But that’s not enough in itself. The interconnected, ‘wicked’, nature of environmental problems means that this innovation will also need to be systemic, responding to complex interactions across the boundaries of sectors, industries and geographies. This need to innovate across boundaries is driving the need for collaboration. Organisations from different sectors, industries and geographies will have to come together to develop solutions that they cannot achieve alone. Get it right and organisations will become more innovative, achieve new growth, and create wealth that is more widespread and more sustainable. Already, organisations are recognising and taking advantage of this opportunity, as you will see from case studies of cross-boundary collaboration related in this report.

What collaboration means Collaboration is special. It’s not just any old multilateral activity.

How we created this report We interviewed 39 leaders with deep and broad experience of collaborative ventures. Some have worked on collaborations within the water-food-energy-climate nexus, others in very different arenas – from military operations to election campaigns. We have also drawn on projects known to Xyntéo, as well as published literature by theorists who work on collaboration. We highlight case studies of practical collaborations, and the work of some particularly significant thought pioneers, in boxes along the main body of the text. Based on all this material – interviews, case studies and literature – we have drawn out observations on what makes a collaboration successful. We summarise these in three areas: navigating the collaboration journey; lessons for leaders; and creating collaborative organisations.

Instead, collaboration is a creative activity that enables innovation. In a way, innovation is merely a social process that creates new combinations by putting together different knowledge, resources and technologies. Collaboration can do this across organisations and sectors, enabling innovations that are more radical than you could expect from a single organisation. This collective creativity is what sets collaboration apart from other forms of interaction between groups. It is not at all like cooperation, which is simply dividing a known task among a number of individuals or organisations. By contrast,


collaborations start with a shared problem and work together to develop solutions that no individual or organisation would be able to develop on their own. In this sense, collaboration is an open process: solutions emerge from the interaction of a group. This mode of working is inherently ‘bottom up’. Rather than implementing solutions that have been decided by corporate decision-making from the top down, collaborative partners develop their own solutions. As a result, collaboration can be challenging for people who are accustomed to ‘closed’ problems, or work in strongly hierarchical organisations (See Creating collaborative organisations, page 75). Finally, collaborations are entities of their own. They do not belong exclusively to one partner or another. Over time, collaborations develop their own culture and their own way of working. This requires organisations to transcend the transactional relationships that often typify their interactions – buyer and supplier, service provider and service user – and develop solutions together that are better than they could achieve alone.

Why leadership is critical No organisation has ever existed in a vacuum, but now more than ever leaders need to engage thoughtfully with the complex and interconnected systems that surround them. Some thinkers on business and organisations are already exploring what this means in practice (See Michael Porter, creating shared value, page 67).


Smart leaders know that their stakeholders go far beyond shareholders or governing bodies of their organisations. And they know that the answers to the challenges they face do not lie solely within their own organisations. Smart leaders, in other words, are actively seeking collaboration.

Thought Pioneers: Churchman, Rittel and Webber on complexity and ‘wickedness’

Even so, leading collaborations can be distinctly uncomfortable. You have to give up some control in the present if you want a better outcome in the future. You also need to bring together people from different organisations and cultures, and build them into an effective fighting force with its own distinct character, identity and purpose. And you have to be ready to tackle open-ended, messy problems that are a world away from the order that typifies the inner structure of corporations and bureaucracies. If you’re up for the challenge, that’s good for you and for your organisation, because leadership for collaboration is moving centre stage. The ability to collaborate is not just a desirable attribute, it is now becoming a prerequisite for success. The purpose of this report is to support leaders in building successful collaborations. Much of the material is drawn from the experience of leaders who have successfully led collaborative initiatives in a wide range of contexts (See In Focus: How we created this report, page 17). In the next sections, we explore the collaboration journey: how collaborations begin and grow. Later, we return to “leadership for successful collaboration”.

Here’s an example of complexity that we’ve all experienced. You’re motoring along on a highway, more or less keeping to the speed limit, when suddenly you hit a jam and everyone grinds to a halt. Then the jam clears for no apparent reason and the traffic speeds up again. And there’s no accident, no roadworks, nothing to explain the slowdown. This is a complex system at work. Simple interactions between many individuals can generate unexpected behaviour at a system level. Pioneering thinkers from mathematics, biology, computer science and economics have found this sort of complex behaviour in many human and natural systems – such as the motion of a flock of birds and the behaviour of financial traders during a crisis. The complexity of our world can lead to ‘wicked’ problems. This notion was articulated by C. West Churchman, Horst Rittel and Melvin M Webber, both of the University of California, Berkeley, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They observed that some problems facing society are impossible to define unambiguously and have no specific, closed solution. These problems don’t have a right or a wrong answer: instead there are many possible answers, which may be better or

worse than one another. Wicked problems are usually connected and the solution to one wicked problem may be the cause of another. The interconnected, systemic nature of wicked problems means that any solution is likely to be oneshot – it is likely to have other impacts on the system, some of which are unforeseeable and some of which will create or contribute to other wicked problems. Wicked problems include epidemics such as malaria and AIDS, drug trafficking, terrorism, nuclear power, the welfare system and climate change. Existing in a web of complex social dynamics, businesses often encounter wicked problems. These can be a challenge for executives, especially in organisations whose core business is to solve ‘tame’ problems in engineering or science. In a 2008 Harvard Business Review article, John C. Camillus outlined some of the approaches that executives can use to manage wicked problems. Many of these relate strongly to the themes of this report, such as working collaboratively with other stakeholders, and focusing on action – with an emphasis on trying out practical solutions while acknowledging that no solution will be perfect.


The collaboration journey No two collaborations are the same, but the life cycle of almost all the collaborations in our research can be broken down into three phases: ‘establish strong foundations’, ‘develop deep alignment’ and ‘pilot and scale’.

Establish strong foundations Many of the successful collaborations we encountered share common elements in their initial stages. They began by identifying a common purpose, creating a complete partnership and establishing an appropriate architecture for the collaboration. Though this may seem obvious, many leaders described experiences where not paying enough attention to this earliest stage created fatal difficulties later.

Develop deep alignment Next comes an extended period of building trust and alignment among partners. Many collaborations also use this period to create a detailed narrative that describes their shared vision for their work together and how to proceed to action. All interviewees emphasised the importance of this phase. By investing time and effort here you can reap great rewards in the resource-intensive phase that follows.


Pilot and scale All collaborations seek to create a tangible change, and the path to doing so is through piloting and then scaling up the innovative concepts that emerge from a collaborative effort. Collaborations face challenges as they shift from development to operation. Investment in physical assets and new processes needs much greater resources than the earlier stages of collaboration.. Partnerships increase in size and new people are now involved who are often unfamiliar with (or not incentivised to support) the collaboration or appreciate its value. This framework for a collaboration life cycle, with an extended period of forming and aligning, bears a striking resemblance to Otto Schamer’s Theory U – a concept that some of our interviewees found particularly powerful (See Otto Schamer, Theory U, page 22). The next section of this report explores each of these three phases.


Thought Pioneers: Otto Schamer, Theory U

Theory U, developed by MIT’s Otto Scharmer, takes familiar practices and tools and organises them into a process for effectively creating change. Scharmer describes a U-shaped process in five steps. The first is co-initiating: a group of people who want to change a situation begin to listen to each other and understand the group’s common intent. The second is co-sensing: observing different perspectives and gathering data without pre-judging it, to develop a collective understanding of the current system. The third phase, and the lowest part of the ‘U’, is presencing. Group members let go of anything that is not essential to the collective purpose and possible future directions start to emerge. Individual members and the group as a whole often start to operate with a heightened level of energy. The fourth stage, co-creating, sees the group move to action by trialling ideas in practice. Prototypes should be quick and cheap to launch, so that the group can rapidly learn lessons about what works and what doesn’t.


The fifth and final stage of the U process, co-evolving, involves taking the ideas that have been trialled and prototypes that are likely to have the highest impact on the system, and scaling them up. Many of the collaborative leaders described elements of the collaboration life cycle in terms that are similar to the movements of Theory U – even those who didn’t refer to it explicitly. This is reflected in our description of the collaboration life cycle including, for example, the identification of a shared need (which has parallels with Theory U’s co-initiating movement), understanding the context (similar to co-sensing) and using prototypes to gain information and trust (similar to co-creating). Theory U applies to the micro level of individual interactions as well as the macro level of group interactions – a notion echoed by Jeremy Bentham, vice-president of Global Business Environment at Shell, who told us how he has experienced a U-shaped process both across the whole set of collaborators and internally within an organisation participating in a collaborative venture.

You need a defined self-interest on the part of the different groups. It is crucial that the players have a very clear appreciation that they can’t achieve their goals by themselves. They have to collaborate. Jay Cowles, president, Unity Avenue Associates; and co-chair, Itasca Project’s Transportation Committee


Establish strong foundations

Identify a common purpose It’s surprisingly easy to skip over the first vital step of all collaborations, identifying a common purpose. This might sound obvious, but it’s not. Some collaborations are not born out of any shared purpose, but come from organisations or individuals with exceptional convening power who simply draw leaders together and look for something to do. And all collaborations need to be very explicit about what they are trying to achieve. To spell it out, you need to: identify a common need that is shared by all participants establish that collaboration is necessary to fulfil that need.


For example the Water4Crops initiative (Case study 1, page 26) and the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (Case study 2, page 30) both began by identifying a system-level problem that affected several stakeholders who could not address the underlying causes alone. Usually one organisation identifies a need and then seeks out partners to collaborate with. More rarely, a group of organisations may identify a shared need together.

Developing a common vision and position on what needed to happen was extremely valuable. It helped to create a common platform among arch competitors who were not accustomed to working together. Lisa Dreier, senior director, World Economic Forum

Either way, many collaborative leaders favour starting small – it’s easier to identify a clear shared purpose when there are only a few partners involved, and if you need more later you can always approach them as the project evolves. At this stage there’s no need to understand what the collaboration will do or how it will achieve its purpose. But a shared understanding of why the collaboration exists is paramount.


Case Study 1: Water4Crops

Most river basins in India are experiencing water shortages brought on by agricultural growth, industrialisation and urbanisation. Water4Crops is a collaborative initiative that involves over 30 research bodies, large companies and SMEs. It is working to develop new technologies to treat and reuse wastewater, improve the efficiency of irrigation, and improve the management of water, land and crops. The idea is not just to reduce freshwater demand in agriculture but also to help protect groundwater contamination and water quality. Beer and soft drinks business SABMiller is a partner in the initiative. Vice president for sustainability and communications, Meenakshi

in the spirit of transparency. One of the preconditions when you think of working in collaboration is that you’ve got to have enough trust to be able to share what you’re doing, not just the good work, but also the weak links. So collaboration requires that you’re brave enough to share.” They also found a clever way to overcome suspicion between different groups of water users. Early in the collaboration, Water4Crops worked hard to understand the incentives facing farmers and other water users, and collected data on water use in different sectors. Sharing objective data in a transparent way went a long way towards breaking down barriers between different users and focused their effort on searching jointly for solutions.

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Sharma, told us that openness was critical to making the collaboration succeed: “we’ve thrown open our brewery for people to come in and work,



In Focus

Human nature is that you will select those who are pretty close to you, and what you should do is the opposite because you need the challenge.

Formally, collaboration is between organisations and institutions. But at heart, collaboration is between people. As one interviewee put it, “at the end of the day, institutions are run by people and it’s my counterpart on the other side of the table that matters”.

Peter Voser, chairman, ABB

Create a partnership As in all relationships, partner choice is hugely important. You need to understand the motivations and ambitions of potential partners, and be sure that their objectives are fully compatible with the collaboration’s purpose. Some interviewees emphasised the value of partners who were well-aligned with the collaboration’s purpose not just in their immediate objectives but also in their overall strategy. As Leo Yip, chairman of the Singapore Economic Development Board, put it, “we always thought of seeking to understand what the company’s objectives are. What does it seek to do? How does it sit within the broader strategy and within the broader business objectives that the company has? I think this is fundamental.” Don’t ignore the potential of smaller partners, who might not seem important enough to be invited to the party, but who could end up being crucial to its ultimate success. Patrick Rousseau, chairman and managing director of Veolia Water India, explains that they took care to engage closely with local


The personal dimension

community leaders: “you cannot impose things on people who appear not to have power, because even though they are poor they in fact have all the means to exercise their power in society”. A little desk research on potential partners’ priorities can help, but in the end there is no alternative to getting to know both the organisations and the individuals. It’s not enough to have a good institutional fit; you also need a good personal fit. And as long as you have that vital shared purpose, a diverse range of partners can create stronger, more resilient outcomes. The advice of Peter Voser, chairman of ABB, was “Don’t work only with people who have a similar thinking. In collaboration it’s important to have a common vision, but working with people who are different means you will have to work to convince others and show leadership along the way”. The Center for Sustainable Shale Development (Case study 2, page 30) is a collaboration that draws its strength and impact from a mix of groups with differing agendas and cultures.

Many collaborative leaders emphasised the importance of the personal dimension. Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation, explained that when exploring collaborations he seeks to identify not only institutions whose values are sufficiently aligned to collaborate successfully, but also individuals within those organisations who understand what it takes to collaborate successfully. While they were united in their view that personality matters, leaders were divided on the importance of trust. Many leaders suggested that trust is a luxury not a necessity. They argue that there are situations where you’ll have to work with people you neither trust nor like, but where you both share a common purpose and need one another in order to achieve it. Some suggested that in these situations, trust is too high a bar: a combination of respect and a recognised mutual dependency – rather than personal trust – is the glue that binds the collaboration together. These differences may well represent the varying circumstances in which our collaborative leaders have operated. Whereas as some leaders were spoilt for choice when selecting partners – such as, for example, in cross-industry technology-development partnerships, where there might be several appropriate partners available – others had worked in complex social environments where there was little freedom to choose collaboration partners. Even when it’s not there at the beginning, trust can be built over time. Making a public commitment to a project can help to develop trust in a situation where there is little. Over time, focusing on quick wins and showing that progress is possible can help to build even more trust.


Case Study 2: Center for Sustainable Shale Development

The emergence of shale gas in the United States has changed the energy sector in North America and beyond. While there have been clear economic benefits, the fracking technology used to extract the gas has been opposed on the grounds of safety and environmental impact. But instead of assuming that industrialists and environmentalists should remain implacably divided by fracking, a group of former regulators, shale gas producers, environmental groups and local community and environmental activists in Pennsylvania decided to establish the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), with the aim of creating jointly agreed performance standards for shale gas production.

The legitimacy and the effectiveness of this collaboration rests on the diversity of its membership. This has not been without challenges. Several partners faced criticism and resistance from other organisations in their own sectors, both in the oil and gas industry and among environmental organisations. Companies joined because they believed the centre could change their relationship with the public by showing tangible commitments to best performance, something they could not achieve alone. The CSSD partners shared data and involved independent academic and research institutions in assessing it, which helped to build mutual trust within the initiative and credibility to the outside world, resulting in a much less adversarial process than you often get when developing environmental standards.

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The idea was to form an institute that could establish leading practice and certify companies that were adopting it – and, by doing so, positively influence the culture in the industry as a whole. By setting a high standard, CSSD could raise standards across the industry without waiting for regulations to catch up.



Establish an appropriate architecture Although we encountered different architectures for collaboration in the course of this research, there were some common features. For example, many collaborations have a neutral anchor: an organisation or person who leads and facilitates the process. The idea is that the anchor does not promote any partner’s interests over another’s, but instead makes sure the overall purpose is fulfilled. Many of the leaders who acted as anchors came from relatively small organisations, rather than one of the main interested parties – as in the GLTE collaboration on liquid natural gas in shipping (Case Study 3, page 34). The role of a successful anchor is not to be a hub mediating between many spokes, but rather to bind partners together by leading and sustaining a conversation. As Adam Kahane, partner at Reos Partners, put it: “they need to go beyond connecting people to working together in a way that requires everyone to take risks”. Anchors can also act as a trusted partner – for example by holding or using data that partners may not be willing to share more widely.

collaborations within this, each with its own anchor. This is an effective model for ventures with a large number of partners and a relatively general goal, where the next step is to reduce the partners to a manageable number and focus the work. Examples are the Sustainable Food Lab (Case Study 7, page 48) and Cape Town’s CityLab (Case Study 12, page 80). To make this work, though, you need anchors who know what they are doing. Gerald Schotman, chief technology officer at Royal Dutch Shell, observed that unless the anchor is sufficiently skilful, involving someone to play this role can take away a sense of ownership from the other partners.

The investment of time will create dramatic value in the future so we should not focus on the short-term benefits. Huang Guoshu, vice chairman, Sinew Corporation

Of course in the smallest form of collaboration, a bilateral partnership,, you don’t need a neutral anchor. Those that we encountered, such as the US-China Clean Energy Research Center (Case Study 5, page 40), tended to be between organisations with a broadly similar scale and nature, and had a governance structure that was specifically designed to balance power.

A variant of this approach is a multi-layered architecture, with one anchor at the centre of an overarching collaboration across a broad set of organisations, and then a number of more specific



Case Study 3: Liquefied Natural Gas in shipping

The shipping industry faces tightening emissions regulation, designed to reduce both local pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions. As a result, liquified natural gas (LNG) looks increasingly like an environmentally and commercially attractive alternative. The trouble is that no single player in the business can act on this independently. Shipping companies would need to build and operate ships that can run on LNG, fuel companies would need to build a refuelling infrastructure, and users would need to provide demand and agree on pricing.


In other words, this is an opportunity that has the need for collaboration at its core. So to address the issue several GLTE partners came together to try to develop a new class of ships powered by LNG. Royal Dutch Shell, who supply LNG, and Cargill, potential users, brought together technical and commercial expertise to evaluate ways of using LNG for dry bulk and tanker vessels. Shipping specialist firm DNV GL provided key input on risk management. XyntÊo acted as anchor for this collaboration, performing a role with at least three dimensions. The first was operational – to manage the project and facilitate meetings between the participants. The second was to provide a degree of neutrality, balancing power in the collaboration. The third was to embody the values and purpose of the collaboration.

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Develop deep alignment

We reach out to local NGOs, government agencies and corporations. Invariably each entity has a very idiosyncratic view of what the problems are there and they don’t match anybody else’s. Upmanu Lall, director, Colombia Water Center

Understand the context Of course, when you embark on any project it’s important to understand the context that you’re operating in. But with multi-sector open collaborations the context becomes paramount. And it’s surprisingly easy to assume that you know the background without digging into it deeply enough from the outset. Many leaders stressed this point and urged collaborators to define the situation in as much detail as possible, as early as possible in the collaboration. One way to do this is to pool resources by sharing, discussing and collectively agreeing on empirical data, such as geographical information, resource use, technical parameters and economic variables. This reduces the risk of misalignment later on and can help the team to shape their priorities. For example in the Water4Crops project (Case Study 1, page 26), data on water usage helped define areas where the collaboration could focus its efforts to improve water use practices.


The process of gathering, sharing and evaluating data jointly at this early stage can also help build trust and confidence, expose areas where participants disagree over matters of fact and, if necessary, trigger further research or datagathering to resolve these differences. Sharing proprietary data and intellectual property can be difficult for companies and governments: some collaborations, like the US-China Clean Energy Research Center, have spent considerable effort to find ways for participants to do this (Case Study 5, page 40). Just as important is the realisation that for complex problems the answers might not all be out there. Building trust and alignment doesn’t require an exhaustive set of data on all aspects of the problem: the key is that all the collaborators agree on the data that does exist and work through disagreements over matters of fact. Piloting ideas to test the waters can sometimes be a more

powerful way to deepen understanding than trying to accumulate more data. In Malaysia, the government’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit established a datasharing and scrutiny exercise on an enormous scale. Civil servants collected data that was then taken on a roadshow, and was shared and discussed with members of the public. The public loved it and the process meant they were much more ready to buy into the policy decisions that followed. (See Case Study 4, page 38 for more information on PEMANDU).

NGOs, government agencies and corporations. What we find is that invariably each entity has a very idiosyncratic view of what the problems are and they don’t match anybody else’s”. While none of our interviewees has a fail-safe approach for overcoming differences in perception, many agree that it is worth investing time and effort to create as much alignment as possible. In the end, there is no substitute for talking, listening and trying to understand the motivations and culture of the other partners. The next phase in the process, creating a shared narrative, can also help with this.

It’s not just data that can cause dissent. There are often differences in the way participants perceive the context of a problem, depending on their mindset, culture and history. Upmanu Lall, director of the Columbia Water Center, has worked on many water-related collaborations around the world. “Wherever we work, we reach out to local


Case Study 4: PEMANDU

Since independence, Malaysia has had decades of rapid economic growth and it is now an uppermiddle income country. The government has set the objective of making Malaysia a high-income economy by 2020, while following a growth process that is both inclusive and sustainable.

To support this goal, the government established the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) in 2009. PEMANDU is tasked with identifying how this goal can be achieved across a range of economic sectors that are intended to deliver this growth. It has used a process of intensive “labs” to share expertise and create a detailed implementation strategy for each of the growth opportunities that have been identified. Ministers are then obliged to commit to the goals publicly and are tested on their delivery. The policies and implementation strategies are huge collaborative efforts, spanning both the public and private sectors, and involving different government departments, companies and civil society. The staff of PEMANDU are drawn from many departments of the civil service, but they share the same working space. This allows them to develop ideas quickly and test some of these rapidly through pilot programmes – for example, they tested a policy idea for the retail sector on a small shop. Idris Jala, deputy-chairman and CEO of PEMANDU, explains that after an extensive process of gathering data and formulating policy ideas, the unit organises roadshows where they exhibit their data and conclusions and invite a discussion with members of the public – a process that has built considerable public trust and confidence in the work.

More information:



Case Study 5: The US-China Clean Energy Research Center The US and China together contribute more than a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, and both countries have a central role to play in mitigating climate change. In November 2009, President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintau launched the $150 million US-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC). With participation from universities, research institutions and industry, the CERC aims to enable scientists and engineers from the United States and China to collaborate on clean energy projects.

of IP between China and the US. The idea is to give research partners the confidence they need to share information while maintaining rights for the technologies they develop and ensuring they get a fair share of the rewards from technology breakthroughs. The CERC supports a broader agenda of deepening collaboration and cooperation between China and the US, including the announcement in November 2014 of a joint commitment by the two countries to make specific reductions to CO2 emissions over the coming decade.

More information:

Intellectual Property is a key consideration for companies participating in collaborative R&D. To address this, the CERC has introduced a new framework for the protection and distribution



Create a shared narrative The most frequent and emphatic advice we received from collaborative leaders was to agree on an explicit, written, common narrative for the collaboration. This narrative should lay out the partners’ shared vision: the goal of the work, the context, and possibly the principles that the partners will initially use to guide them as they work together to find solutions.

Second, a shared narrative forces partners to reach an explicit agreement on the central points of the collaboration. This process can reveal differences of opinion. One leader commented that the ability to form a shared narrative is an acid test: if partners can’t agree on a common narrative, then there is probably little scope for the collaboration to succeed.

This is not a project plan or a roadmap – it doesn’t focus on the ‘what’ or the ‘how’ of what the collaboration partners will do together. Instead, it focuses on the ‘why’: the underlying purpose of the collaboration.

Finally, a shared narrative becomes a tool that a leader can use to retain focus. Collaborations can lose momentum as time elapses and practical challenges accumulate; some leaders advocate minimising this risk by returning to the narrative frequently to remind partners of the purpose and vision for the collaboration. This resonates with the findings of Robert Axelrod on cooperative behaviour – the more you emphasise future payoffs, the more incentive there is for collaboration in the present (see Robert Axelrod and the implications of game theory, opposite page).

Practitioners suggest that narratives are most effective when they are: calculated – analytically rigorous and firmly rooted in empirical facts captivating – able to inspire and connect emotionally with the collaboration participants concise – shorter than two pages. Leaders identified several advantages to creating a shared narrative. First, as with sharing data, the process of creating a shared narrative builds trust and provides partners with experience of working together. Creat ea shared narrative


Thought Pioneers: Robert Axelrod and the implications of game theory

The 20th century saw the emergence of a branch of mathematics known as Game Theory, for analysing situations where two or more people have the opportunity to cooperate. In the Prisoner’s Dilemma, for example, two prisoners are being interrogated by police. If both remain silent, they will each spend a year in prison. If one gives evidence against the other, the first will go free and the other will spend five years in prison. But if both give evidence against one another, they will each spend three years in prison. In this situation, the best overall outcome is for the two prisoners to cooperate by remaining silent. But unless a prisoner can ensure that the other will cooperate, the logical thing to do is give evidence. But of course if both prisoners do this, they both end up spending an extra two years in prison. More sophisticated games give a different outlook. In 1984, Robert Axelrod published The Evolution of Cooperation, which explored the implications of game theory for cooperation in

a number of spheres, from ecosystems to the trenches of World War I. Axelrod studied games more complex and realistic than the Prisoner’s Dilemma, in particular where there were repeated opportunities to interact and cooperate over time, rather than a one-off opportunity. Axelrod drew useful lessons about how to cooperate successfully. Emphasise the value of future positive pay-offs as much as possible. Change the effective payoffs to make cooperation more attractive. Encourage a culture of altruistic behaviour. Practise reciprocity. Ensure that an individual’s behaviour is recognised, so that it can be rewarded or punished by other participants. It is striking how many of these theoretical insights are reflected in the experience of the collaborators we spoke with. Many of them, for example, advised leaders to keep reminding participants of the future rewards from achieving the goal of the collaboration, and to recognise and reward collaborative behaviour.


Case Study 6: The H2 Mobility Project

Transport accounts for almost a quarter of energy-related CO2 emissions globally. One of the promising technologies that may enable a lower-carbon future for transport is the fuel cell: a technology that can convert hydrogen fuel into electrical power, creating only water as a by-product. Fuel-cell powered cars are already feasible and have a number of attractive qualities – they are fast to refuel, are able to store enough fuel for very long journeys and create no tailpipe pollution. Building the partnership The H2 Mobility Project is a cross-industry collaboration that is working to expand the use of hydrogen-powered vehicles in Germany. The consortium includes six members: Air Liquide and Linde, suppliers of industrial gases; Daimler, an automotive corporation; and Shell, OMV and Total, oil and gas companies. Even before building a single fuelling station, the consortium has invested a considerable amount of time in identifying a common purpose and creating deep alignment. Common purpose The collaboration is helping to overcome a chickenand-egg problem that faces hydrogen cars (and other new transport technologies): without a robust refuelling infrastructure, drivers will not want to use hydrogen-fuelled cars; but if there are no hydrogenfuelled cars, there is no commercial case for building a refuelling infrastructure. Thus, all members of the partnership are needed to achieve the ultimate goal.


The project is currently working to build one hundred refuelling stations over the next four years, and to expand this to four hundred by 2023: a total investment of €350 million. This will accompany a planned 250,000 fuel-cell vehicles by the same date. Understanding the context and setting an appropriate architecture Following its inception in September 2009, the participants came together to develop a factbased analysis of vehicle power trains that could meet the EU’s long-term goal to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. This achieved two things. It created a common understanding of the context that highlighted the importance of hydrogen in decarbonising road transport, and a shared set of data and assumptions that were accepted by all partners. It also helped to shape a common narrative and vision that was shared by the group. The consortium has also thought deeply about resourcing and the roles that each partner will play at an early stage – a difficult process, but one that has helped to lay strong foundations for the work to come. Common narrative and sharing power The group developed innovative ways to address differences and ensure that power was shared equally among them. On one occasion, when there was a lack of alignment, they gathered together and used flipcharts to note areas of mutual agreement and areas of disagreement. At the end of this process, there were five flipcharts of agreement and only one of disagreement – a moment that reminded all participants of their common purpose and their shared interest in making the collaboration succeed.


Build trust by sharing power The power dynamics of the collaboration are vital. As Matthew Thomas, managing director at Prospect Madison, puts it, “the moment you marginalise a less powerful partner is the moment you lose the collaboration and the partner”.

Idris Jala says that moving collaborators into a shared physical space was a good way to break down silos and build an ethic of working jointly. Some leaders also cited shared digital spaces such as social networks.

One way of sharing power is to work in a shared space that belongs to the collaboration as a whole rather than an individual player. Adam Kahane, Partner at Reos Partners, believes the conceptual shared space of the Sustainable Food Lab was crucial for maintaining energy and direction, by bringing partners together continually even during times of setback and disappointment. The shared space also helped to level the differences in size, power and resources between partners (see Case Study 7, page 48).

Another means of sharing power is to design clear break points where participants can decide whether to continue or walk away. This lets people keep control of their participation, and renews the legitimacy and unity of the collaboration when they do decide to keep working together. Establishing clarity over how partners can leave and join a collaboration echoes Elinor Ostrom’s observations of how to manage common resources (see Elinor Ostrom, managing the commons, page 50).


The moment you marginalise a ‘less powerful’ partner is the moment you lose the partner and ultimately the collaboration. Matthew Thomas, managing director, Prospect Madison


Case Study 7: Sustainable Food Lab

The Sustainable Food Lab began by bringing together 45 leaders from government, food processors, retailers, banks, nongovernmental organisations and citizen and worker movements. With very different backgrounds, drawn from Europe, the United States and Latin America, these people had a common purpose: they wanted to change the food system for the better. All also realised that their individual efforts were not enough to create systemic change.


Starting from this common purpose, the group used the Theory U process (see Otto Schamer, Theory U, page 22) to create a shared understanding of many of the challenges facing the food system, while simultaneously building trust among the participants. Quite a few initiatives and projects then emerged from this shared vision. Though some foundered, many others succeeded. Today the Lab is working on several continents with agriculture and development, more climate-friendly agricultural practices and more sustainable commodity production.

More information:, and Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change, Adam Kahane


Thought Pioneers: Elinor Ostrom, managing the commons

In 2009, Elinor Ostrom became the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Economics, awarded for her work on collaborative behaviour. She focused on how people collaborate to manage common resources such as fisheries and grazing land. These resources have a finite capacity, but are open to use by many individuals. This can result in the ‘tragedy of the commons’: the resource is degraded by over-use because nobody feels sufficiently responsible to restrain their own use, so eventually everybody loses out. Ostrom’s work was based on years of observation. She spent time in Maine looking at how communities managed fisheries; in Switzerland to observe how mountain farmers shared pastures; and in Kenya and Nepal to see how farmers shared water resources. She concluded that the traditional distinction between the private sector and the state is much too simplistic. Communities in a wide range of

contexts collaborate to manage common resources without being coerced into doing so by an external authority. So the tragedy of the commons is not inevitable, even without government regulation. She also found that collaborations work best where participants can communicate face to face regularly. Also, people collaborate more readily when they recognise that their individual actions can make a significant difference to the outcome. And providing low-cost routes to leave the collaboration gives participants an incentive to ensure that the project remains worthwhile for everyone involved. These observations reflect many of the lessons drawn by the leaders we spoke with: the need for regular communication, reminding participants of the potential for achieving results together, and providing regular gateways for participants to leave.

It’s best to start with a small pilot, run it for a full year, and make sure that you can actually really document and prove the success. That’s your sell in. Once I had a single case that showed what could be done, the support and enthusiasm within our company was unbelievable. Guido Verijke, former chairman, Better Cotton Initiative



Pilot and scale

Brave the valley of death

Use pilots to build knowledge and trust

Probably the greatest danger point in collaborations comes when a project moves on from the design phase, and seeks to pilot and scale its ideas.

when responding to unanticipated developments and failures, where collaborators may revert to a more transactional relationship and seek to assign blame, rather than search jointly for solutions.

If you want to know whether a collaborative project is going to fly, you obviously need to pilot it. Even at a small scale, pilots can provide valuable information about the practical challenges of implementing ideas.

One option is to think ahead, and bring in some of the people who will be involved in pilots and scaling at an earlier stage, so they understand the purpose of the collaboration, feel ownership and get used to a collaborative style of working.

Indeed, in a complex and dynamic system, pilots may be the only way to understand the effects of implementing an idea. There are usually unintended consequences in such situations, and not all pilots will succeed. Pilots also create additional trust as the collaboration team work together to make them happen.

Personnel often change. Resource requirements increase. And pilots often uncover unanticipated consequences and complications that can sap the energy of the collaboration. Although there is no way of avoiding these challenges altogether, there are ways to mitigate them. More than one of our interviewees emphasised the importance of maintaining a collaborative mindset – recognising that collaboration is a dynamic process of creation to fulfil a purpose, with many possible and equally valid ways of doing so. This is particularly true

Many collaborative leaders advocate a “fail fast, fail often” attitude towards pilots. Explicitly acknowledging that they are primarily tools for gathering information puts the emphasis on joint learning, and ensures that the collaboration is not destabilised by failures or unintended consequences. However, while collaborations must become accustomed to failure at the piloting stage, more than one interviewee emphasised the importance


of taking smart risks, by building success into early pilots as much as possible. Patrick Rousseau of Veolia Water India and Guido Verijke of the Better Cotton Initiative both highlighted the value of successful pilots in getting buy-in from external stakeholders for scaling up. In Malaysia, the government’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) has repeatedly tested new policy ideas in the field by running pilot projects (see Case Study 4: PEMANDU, page 38). In Singapore, collaboration between the public and private sectors on piloting new water treatment technologies has yielded significant benefits for both (see Case Study 8: Singapore Water Policy, page 54). Many experienced collaborators say that the pilotand-scale stage is actually the second of two main danger points in the collaboration journey (see In Focus: The twin valleys of death, page 57).


Case Study 8: Singapore Water Policy

Singapore’s small area, dense population and scarce freshwater supplies have forced it to develop one of the world’s most innovative water management plans. The country plans to eliminate its dependence on water imports by 2060, using an extensive urban rainwater catchment system combined with wastewater reclamation and desalination to boost supply, plus water pricing and efficiency measures to cut demand.

Private companies gain from this collaboration by being able to pilot new technologies on a real watertreatment system, while the government gains from developing a hub of world-leading watermanagement expertise in Singapore. This approach has brought additional benefits by creating commercial opportunities for Singaporean companies overseas. For example, Hyflux, which produced the membranes used in Singapore’s desalination and water plants, has now built water-recycling plants in China.

The government recognised that new technology would be critical for achieving this vision, and that the private sector would need to be involved. By creating a supportive business environment, including financial incentives, they have encouraged companies to move their R&D on water issues to Singapore.



In Focus

The two pieces of advice I would give are be prepared for the long haul and give up on the idea that you can control or manipulate the results. Otherwise you won’t get very far. Adam Kahane, chairman, North America, Reos Partners.

This is where the narrative can help. Thinking carefully about how the narrative of the collaboration relates to the narrative and priorities of external stakeholders can make the scaling process much more effective. Successful pilots can also help by showing stakeholders what has already been achieved.


The path of collaboration is fraught with difficulties, but there are two particular low points that can cause the enterprise to fail. Think of this as a W shape. After strong beginnings with a sense of common purpose and mission, things become harder as collaborators work towards creating a collective narrative and identifying each participant’s roles and responsibilities. All parties now have to learn to share power, which can lead to tensions; and explore the scope of their work together in detail, which can reveal conflicting expectations. Energy is being spent with no immediate rewards.

Scale intelligently When your pilot is working effectively, the next step is to scale. But this almost always requires buy-in and commitment from people and organisations that have not been involved directly before, a painful process that kills off many collaborations. Among those we examined, only a few collaborations navigated the path beyond this valley of death (above). The Tropical Rainforest Alliance is one example of an initiative that may now be able to achieve systemic change at a global scale (see Case Study 9, page 58).

The twin valleys of death

Some leaders discussed the importance of focusing on precisely what is being scaled. For example, Meenakshi Sharma, vice president of sustainability and communications at SABMiller India, pointed out that the solutions for a successful pilot project are often very dependent on the local context: a particular choice of technology, say, or business model. Even if this works for one pilot in one context, it may not be the appropriate solution in other settings. As a result, it may be valuable to think of scaling not to reproduce the same technology or business model, but rather to reproduce the discussion and collaboration that yielded a successful outcome at a pilot scale. The outcome may be a range of different technology or business model choices in different settings, but the goal and the process of deciding on these are the same.

If a deep internal alignment emerges along with a truly shared vision, the collaboration regains momentum and heads back up into the light. Then the collaboration seeks to pilot its ideas, which often sends it plunging into the second trough of the W (see Brave the valley of death, page 52). Resource requirements increase, which means seeking approval and buy-in from senior leaders in the participating organisations. This can be difficult enough in just one organisation but doing it simultaneously with many organisations is often paralysing. If you manage to build this external alignment, you will have navigated the second valley successfully and be heading back up to the heights of collaboration. It’s worth being aware of these low points, as these are the places where collaborations need the strongest support.


Case Study 9: Tropical Forest Alliance 2020

The Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 aims to reduce the deforestation caused by the production of paper and pulp, palm oil, soy and beef. The Alliance is a tri-sector collaboration, with participants from government, NGOs and industry – including McDonald’s, Unilever, NestlÊ, Cargill and Coca-Cola. Participating companies have committed to purging their supply chains of products from deforested areas by 2020.

The initiative is supported by another collaboration, the Banking Environment Initiative, which is a group of banks that help companies and their suppliers develop appropriate finance for sustainable commodities.

More information:, New Climate Economy report.

The scale of private-sector participation means that TFA 2020 has a decent chance of creating change at a system level. Members account for 15% of the total consumer market and more than 50% of the global trade in palm oil. Given the inefficiency of keeping oil from different sources separate, this may be enough to prompt the entire global market to switch to sustainable palm oil.



Leadership for successful collaboration Leading collaborative projects requires many skills that aren’t necessarily evident in more conventional projects. In most of the successful collaborations we looked at, there was strong leadership both from a CEO or equivalent and from someone responsible for the collaboration at an operational level.

Credit: AJP/


New leadership skills Use purpose to lead The defining feature of successful collaboration leaders is their ability to use the underlying purpose to drive the collaboration forward. Leaders of non-collaborative projects within single organisations can exercise authority by relatively simple means such as their control over hiring and performance appraisals. They also have considerable sway in determining the solutions to the problems their teams are tackling.

the opening section of each project meeting to remind everyone of the purpose, and dedicating time to co-creating a shared narrative for a collaboration during its early phases.

Are their personal and professional interests well-enough aligned with the purpose of the collaboration to let them champion it credibly both to the collaboration partners and the outside world?

Since collaborations are often iterative processes, involving trial and error, collaboration leaders are often confronted with decisions over whether to change course or adopt new approaches as the project progresses. With an eye firmly on the purpose, it’s much easier to make these such decisions.

Support the collaboration’s values As collaborations form and evolve, they often develop cultures and values of their own, distinct from the culture of any of the organisations that are participating. Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom documented the emergence of such norms in her studies of collaborations around the world (see Elinor Ostrom, managing the commons, page 50).

Show personal commitment Collaboration leaders are much more effective when they are visibly committed to the initiative at an emotional as well as a professional level. Collaborations are risky enterprises both for the participating organisations and for the individuals involved. The payoff may be large, but it is also uncertain, and there are considerable costs. The leader needs above all to inspire, particularly in the early stages where costs are great and benefits are yet to appear.

However, leaders in collaborations generally don’t have direct hierarchical authority over all the participants, as they are from many different organisations. Nor can they dictate solutions – collaborations must find answers interactively.

Lieutenant-General Sir Graeme Lamb differentiates between different sorts of leadership: instructional leadership, based on techniques that can be taught or learnt; institutional leadership, with an authority that comes with an individual’s position in an organisation; and inspirational leadership, which relies on trust, loyalty and relationships, and is deeply personal. The most successful collaboration leaders are the inspirational ones.

Instead, collaboration leaders should articulate the purpose of the collaboration strongly at the outset, and then maintain the partners’ focus on that purpose throughout. There are several practical approaches that can help, such as using

But how to demonstrate personal commitment in practice? One way is to involve leaders that are likely to stay in post for the duration of the collaboration. Another is to consider not only the leaders’ skills and abilities but also their values.

As the World Economic Forum’s Lisa Dreier put it, “all of the groups we worked with have developed their own culture of constructive collaboration and will often address issues by peer-to-peer feedback or advice if they feel someone is acting out of line”. That does not mean leaders are out of the loop. They can support the emergence of values within a collaboration by ensuring the process feels inclusive. If people feel their views are being heard, they are more likely to engage in forming norms and values, and to address situations where they feel that other participants are breaking their collective rules. Several leaders spoke of the importance of adopting an inclusive, listening style of leadership, including General David Petraeus who emphasised the value of what he refers to as the “Big Tent” approach. For operational leaders, a key component of this inclusivity is to be present with participants – we explore this in more detail on page 65 in The role of operational leaders.


The role of CEOs and other senior leaders All our interviewees agree that the CEO’s support is pivotal to any business collaboration. CEOs need to be very visible in their commitment, and take practical steps to support the collaboration and its leadership. Provide material resources Perhaps the most important practical way in which CEOs can support collaborations is to provide enough resources. Several of our interviewees have experienced collaborations that failed through inadequate resourcing, sometimes when participants overestimated their partners’ ability or willingness to contribute. Resource needs can change unpredictably, so CEOs need to make sure that resources remain adequate for the project’s needs throughout its lifecycle. This is particularly important at certain danger points along the path of collaboration (see In Focus: The twin valleys of death, page 57). Demonstrate commitment It is important to be visibly committed to the collaboration. Of course, leaders cannot spread themselves too thinly. Peter Voser, former CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, observes that: “it will not work if a CEO tries to dance at too many weddings”.


The CEO’s remaining term also matters. Visible support means little if the leader’s tenure could end before the collaboration gains momentum. After that initial bedding-in stage, however, a leadership transition should be less of a problem. Deepak Jolly, vice president of Coca–Cola India, spoke of planning for a collaboration to last two CEOs so the new incumbent can continue championing a collaboration after the transition. Support and empower operational leaders Collaboration leaders face challenges that are not typical of internal projects. They must be accountable to other collaboration partners; respond flexibly to unanticipated developments; and maintain the collaboration through its early stages, where a long time can pass before results are visible. CEOs need to understand these challenges and maintain realistic expectations of the timescales involved, which can be much longer than in a conventional internal project. They also need to allow operational leaders discretion to take decisions without having to consult many levels of management. Those inside the collaboration will understand both constraints and opportunities better than anyone, and having this discretion allows them to maintain credibility and accountability with the other partners.

You must constantly expose people to what the benefits can be, and why this is necessary to deal with challenges that are very different today from what they were yesterday. Shyam Saran, former foreign secretary, India


“You have to

have a leader with depth and strength of conviction that, even under pressure, collaboration is still the answer. Lieutenant-General Sir Graeme Lamb

The role of operational leaders Operational leaders face a host of challenges that do not exist in more conventional projects. They are the guardians of the vision and purpose, and have to be accountable to all the participants while maintaining a level of neutrality. Retain vision and celebrate progress Leading a collaboration to a successful outcome means continually reminding participants why they are collaborating, so that they don’t lose sight of the initial purpose. When a project hits difficulties, participants tend to revert to more familiar modes of interaction that are competitive or transactional. As Lieutenant-General Sir Graeme Lamb put it, “you have to have a leader with depth and strength of conviction that, even under pressure, collaboration is still the answer”. Unexpectedly, some of our interviewees pointed towards the need for developing inner strength to keep focus when the situation becomes overwhelmingly complex. One suggested spending one-third of working time exploring data; another third engaging with people; and the final third “staring at a blank wall” to reflect on the data and the personal interactions. It is also important to celebrate even small successes – particularly at the early stages of the collaboration journey – to build confidence, trust, momentum and commitment.


Maintain responsibility and accountability Collaboration leaders should be responsible for the success of the collaboration as a whole, rather than for realising the goals of any one partner. They also need to be accountable, demonstrating to all partners that they are holding the collaboration to its original purpose and that progress is happening. This requires a high degree of openness and transparency. Remain close but retain neutrality In many of the successful collaborations we have explored, the project was led by someone from an organisation that was separate and independent from all the other participants. This neutrality supports the development of trust. For example in tri-sector collaborations (involving industry, NGOs and civil society) the international organisations and not-for-profit institutions may be seen as more neutral than commercial companies, which can make them a natural choice as collaboration leaders. However, not all successful collaborations use a neutral leader. We saw some successful partnerships between corporations of a broadly similar size where a stable balance of power came instead from giving equal authority in decision making (see Establish an appropriate architecture, page 32). Collaboration leaders also need to work close to the ground. Several interviewees say that key factors in success are an intimate familiarity with realities on the ground and a deep understanding of the motivations of other partners and the obstacles they face. Matthew Thomas of Prospect Madison calls this contextual intelligence: the ability to understand the priorities and concerns of different types of organisation. Often, experience of working in different kinds of organisation can help to develop this ability.


In Focus

Language matters As collaborations depend so much on communication, language must be clear, precise and inspiring. It is vital to maintain both clarity and accuracy in communication. Make it simple, but don’t twist the message in order to simplify it. The messenger matters as much as the message, particularly when working across sectors or with civil society in tri-sector collaborations. Above all, use language to inspire and unite participants. This means close and regular communication and careful attention to the way things are said. Matthew Thomas, of Prospect Maddison, observed that language can be used very differently in different sectors. For example, the word ‘equity’ in a commercial context is synonymous with ownership of a company, while governments and NGOs tend to use the same word to mean equality or fairness. Even when such differences sound trivial, the misalignment and misunderstanding that can result are not. Michael Daddo of the Shannon Company highlights the power of developing a shared narrative in helping collaborators to find a common language (see Create a shared narrative, page 42). More than one of our interviewees stressed the importance of using language that is positive and creative to describe a purpose. One gave the example of requiring participants to express their desires as a positive statement rather than a negative one. This focused them on the inspiring mission of working towards a positive change, rather than working in opposition to something.


Thought Pioneers: Michael Porter, creating shared value

Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School is one of today’s most influential thinkers on business and organisations. Much of his work has focused on competition – his five-forces analysis of competition dynamics is taught in business schools around the world. Over the past decade, he and Mark Kramer, cofounder of social impact consulting firm FSG, have been articulating a concept they call creating shared value. They argue that the interests of business and society are not a zero-sum game mediated by governments and regulators. Rather, these interests are deeply interdependent, and so it is strongly in the interest of business to create economic value in a way that also creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges.

the challenge for all three sectors is to find the most effective ways to work with each other to address some of the complex needs of modern society. The concepts underpinning shared value are reflected in a number of the collaborations we encountered in interviews and other research: initiatives like Water4Crops (Case Study 1, page 26) show business working with NGOs and government across sectors to address social problems, while enhancing their own ability to create value in their core business.

In the words of the authors, “the principle of shared value creation cuts across the traditional divide between the responsibilities of business and those of government or civil society”. Because it doesn’t matter to society whether value is created by the private sector, the public sector or NGOs,


Barriers to collaboration All collaborations run into difficulty. Many, perhaps most, fail (see Case Study 10, Bhavyshia, page 72). So what are the problems most often encountered in collaborations, and how can they be overcome?

01 Lack of shared purpose Description A collaboration may find itself without a clear shared purpose, maybe because the group was convened without a clear need in mind or the collaboration has not invested enough time in aligning on their shared purpose.

How to overcome

Case Study 10 page 72


Start with a small group of committed collaborators, who have a clear collective need and complementary skills and abilities, and invest time in defining together the shared purpose of the collaboration.



Weak design or execution of governance structure

Deviation from shared purpose


Collaborations can be derailed if the direction of the work moves away from the purpose that they have agreed.

Collaborations can lose momentum and direction if they lack a clear governance structure or when senior leaders from participating organisations deviate from it.

How to overcome Establish a clear governance structure at the outset, with for example clearly defined decision points and meeting schedules, and stick to it.


04 Misalignment of mutual resource expectations Description

How to overcome Continually remind participants of the shared purpose of the collaboration. Having a written shared narrative can support this.

Collaborations rely on investment of resources from all partners. Organisations can overestimate the ability or willingness of others to contribute, or underestimate how much they themselves need to commit. This can lead to collective under-resourcing and failure of the collaboration.

How to overcome Have an early and explicit discussion on resourcing. This may involve jointly agreeing on a relatively small resource commitment at the outset, with defined gateways where partners can increase their commitment later in the project.


05 Misinterpretation of actions Description

06 Persistence of default behaviours

07 Lack of internal collaboration Description

Description Collaborations can suffer when one organisation misinterprets another’s actions. This is usually unintentional – though there are examples of intentional misconstruction particularly where projects are highly politicised – but the effect is to erode trust.

Sometimes, collaborations happen between organisations that are used to interacting in a different way – for example as buyer and seller. It can be hard to prevent people from reverting to their ‘default’ behaviour while collaborating.

Collaborations rely on investment of resources from all partners. Organisations can overestimate the ability or willingness of others to contribute, or underestimate how much they themselves need to commit. This can lead to collective under-resourcing and failure of the collaboration.

How to overcome

How to overcome

Remind participants of their shared purpose, and of the culture values and norms of the collaboration.

Maintain clear internal alignment on the goals and objectives of the collaboration, and consistent internal communication.

If you want to break down inhibitions and defensiveness, be as open and as non-possessive with information as possible. Pavan Sukhdev, founder and CEO, GIST Advisory

How to overcome Use clear, simple and regular communication. This can include simple steps such as ensuring that all partners are invited to and informed of all meetings.



Case Study 10: Bhavyshia

Collaborations fail regularly. Many of the leaders we interviewed had experienced failure repeatedly. Although failure is frustrating, it often yields useful lessons, and sometimes it can even sow the seeds of future success. The Bhavyshia Alliance is a case in point.

Participant Adam Kahane says that the collaboration had failed to address explicitly some of the underlying differences of opinion and approach between the collaboration partners. Although grievances and disagreements were occasionally voiced, the group never worked through to find workable compromises and common ground. Lacking a common narrative and vision, the group found itself unable to proceed together towards meaningful action.

In 2006 in India, 55 million children under five years old were underweight. That is 43 per cent of the age group, one of the highest rates in the world. And although the government gives more than $1 billion per year to tackling the issue, the level of malnutrition has declined only very slowly.

Since this difficult initial experience, many of the participants have reconvened and begun to rebuild the alliance. This resulted in a number of innovative tri-sector initiatives aimed at improving child nutrition in India, including programmes to empower adolescent girls and to improve the quality of nutrition in childcare centres.

The Bhavishya Alliance, consisting of 52 people and their 26 organisations, was founded to help India reach its Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of malnourished children by 2015.

More information: bhavishyaalliancelegacyandlearning.pdf

The alliance aimed to unite a diverse range of stakeholders, but found itself increasingly divided by tensions between government bureaucracies and grassroots NGOs, between experts and laymen, between donors and recipients, between men and women, between international consultants and Indian nationals. In the end, the project was suspended.



“Accountability based

on measurement and structure is less important than accountability that comes from building trust. Self-driven accountability seems to be associated much more with successful collaboration than engineered accountability. Arun Sundararajan, professor of business, New York University

Creating collaborative organisations Do some organisations collaborate more successfully than others and, if so, why?

Our interviewees agree that the culture of participating organisations can play a vital role in making collaborations succeed. We have grouped their lessons into four areas.

Emphasise leadership based on accountability and trust Collaborative leaders are most successful when they are accountable for progress to the entire partnership. Accountability engenders trust and confidence in a leader will grow as he or she delivers on their commitments to the partnership. Collaborations move in ways that are sometimes unexpected and they can lose momentum easily. So leaders need the freedom to make decisions quickly and respond to unforeseen events. That means giving them a clear mandate, empowering them to act and providing adequate resources.


In organisations that are highly hierarchical and centralised – where decision-making that deviates from the original scope of a project has to be approved by layers of senior management – there is tension between the rigidity of the corporate culture and the flexibility needed by collaboration leaders. Sometimes such organisations may be able to work with partners of a similar size, with similar corporate cultures and structures. In such collaborations, steering committees of senior leaders meeting regularly can address bottlenecks and make course corrections – an approach well suited to small collaborations with two or three participants. An alternative is to adopt a corporate culture that distributes power through the organisation and creates an environment more conducive to bottom-up decision making. This means a system based on trust and accountability, rather than on command and control.


Even the most enlightened and thoughtful CEOs are not used to making compromises, making tradeoffs, acknowledging the quality of a competitor’s idea. I think the next generation of CEOs will have to have very different skill sets, and collaborative working will be one of them. Gavin Neath, former senior vice president for sustainability at Unilever

Establish strong Understand vertical and horizontal collaboration communication throughout the organisation A collaboration can become frustrated if partners get mixed or contradicting signals from different parts of the same organisation. Horizontal, peer-topeer communication should prevent this, but it can require a special effort in organisations where there is a strong vertical separation between different functions. Vertical communication in both directions is also vital. CEOs and other senior executives need to listen to collaboration leaders who have the best understanding of realities on the ground. In turn, collaboration leaders need to understand how their work fits with the company’s overall direction.


A widespread understanding of the nature and value of collaborations can help create a supportive environment within an organisation. For example, knowing that the early stages can take a long time without yielding visible results can help to ensure that collaboration leaders do not face unreasonable expectations at the outset. It’s also useful and supportive to have a clear framework for describing both the value and the cost of a collaboration.

Reward collaborative behaviour Organisations can set incentives that reward collaborative behaviour. It may not be possible to quantify the benefits of collaborative behaviour in the same way as, say, a sales target, so organisations may have to be innovative. In online collaborative software development, for example, peers can rate their collaborators’ contributions and register their appreciation for helpful contribution. All this feedback contributes to an individual’s reputation (see Case Study 11, Linux, page 78).


Case Study 11: Linux

One of the most striking and unexpected phenomena to have emerged from the development of the internet is “open source” software – computer code that is free to use and share, often created by a large number of contributors working in their spare time.


A widely used example is Linux, an operating system first released in 1991 and in constant development ever since. Linux is the software engine for millions of digital devices, including the Android system that powers most of the world’s mobile phones. Arun Sundararajan of the Stern School of Business, New York University, attributes the success of the Linux collaboration to two factors. One was the leadership of the project’s director, Linus Torvalds, whose strong vision of what the software could become served both as a focus and inspiration to programmers. The other was a system for recognising contributions: programmers gained reputation and visibility for their efforts. This combination of shared vision and assured recognition has provided enough of an incentive for thousands of programmers to contribute over more than two decades.


Case Study 12: CityLab

Cape Town is the second most populous city in South Africa. It faces challenges including the need to reduce unemployment (now at more than 20%), improve healthcare and education, reduce poverty, and bring down a crime rate that is double the national average. At the University of Cape Town, the African Centre for Cities (ACC) is conducting research into cities, with a focus on finding systemic solutions to the challenges thrown up by urbanisation in Africa. Its director, Professor Edgar Pieterse, was frustrated by the divide between academics, policy researchers and policy makers in addressing these challenges.

to collaborate in designing educated, implementable policies for South Africa using a combination of empirical research and practical knowledge. Four ACC researchers are even embedded in Cape Town’s city administration, creating a hybrid policymaking-academic entity. Over a two-year period they work on multistakeholder topics that the city finds difficult to deal with, such as climate-change adaptation policy. This is a long enough timeframe to allow strong working relationships and trust to develop between collaborators.

More information: programme/citylab/

So the ACC created CityLab to allow different stakeholders – academics, community organisations, NGOs and government officials –



Taking the next steps

Everything today is about building a story that people believe in and that people can be involved and engaged in. António Mexia, CEO, Energias de Portugal

This report marks the start of an exploration of collaboration. We hope it will contribute to building a stronger understanding of how collaborations work, with the ultimate aim of increasing the success of collaborative ventures in the future.

Xyntéo and Shell will also be working to apply the lessons from this report to practical collaborative projects, in turn learning new lessons from these experiences.

One way we will take this work forward is to create a new dynamic learning network of collaboration practitioners within Shell: executives who are now grappling with the realities of leading collaborative projects across both internal and external boundaries. They will be testing and building on the collaboration insights from our initial research – getting practical and sharing what they learn, peer-to-peer.

To learn more about the work we are doing, to give feedback or more examples of effective lessons for collaborations or to become involved in any other way, please visit the Xyntéo website at or contact us at


There is scope for doing more. For example this work could evolve to develop several collaboration networks within a number of different organisations, creating a platform to learn not only within our own organisations but also beyond them.


Interviewees and source material This report draws on interviews that Xyntéo conducted with 39 collaborative leaders, as well as case-study materials from those interviews and other sources known to Xyntéo, and published literature.

Case study sources

Collaborative leaders

Material is drawn from

Jeremy Bentham is vice president of Global Business Environment at Royal Dutch Shell. He has been responsible for Shell’s Global Business Environment team since 2006. His team is best known for developing forward-looking scenarios to support the company’s strategic thinking and direction-setting.

n Interviews with collaborative leaders n P  rojects in the GLTE community, such as LNG in shipping ( n T  he Policy Shapers project, which Xyntéo has been undertaking in conjunction with Shell ( n T  he New Climate Economy report – Xyntéo participated in the preparation of this landmark publication in 2014 (


Rati Bhattacharya is delivery manager for sustainability projects at Tata Consultancy Services, a global IT services, consulting and business solutions provider. She focuses on defining and implementing sustainability strategies for manufacturing industries. Her areas of work include water credit-debit models and working with water-intensive industries on water neutrality.

Dr Mick Blowfield is a professor at the University of Wolverhampton and a senior visiting associate at the University of Oxford. Dr Blowfield’s research focuses on private sector transition in a resourceconstrained economy and specifically on business as an agent of change in the context of climate change. Flavio Corsin is the country manager for Vietnam and Asia-Pacific aquaculture manager at the IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative. He is experienced in developing relationships with Asian governments and has valuable insights into what drives changes in the Vietnamese commodity sectors. Jay Cowles is president of Unity Avenue Associates and co-chair of the Itasca Project’s Transportation Committee. He was a founding member of the Itasca Project, an employer-led civic alliance focused on building a thriving economy and improved quality of life in the US’s MinneapolisSt Paul metropolitan area. Michael Daddo is managing director of specialist behaviour-change consultancy The Shannon Company in Australia. The Shannon Company works collaboratively with business, government and academia to inspire people to change, willingly and for good – good for themselves, their family, the organisation they work for and society as a whole; and for good – a permanent change.

Lisa Dreier is senior director for food security and development initiatives at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the US. She leads the Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture initiative, which serves as a platform to build collaboration among stakeholders to achieve a vision of agriculture as a driver of food security, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity. Dr Theuns Eloff was vice-chancellor of NorthWest University in South Africa. He played a leading role in post-apartheid South Africa by galvanising the drafting of the country’s new constitution as well as the integration of universities that had been racially segregated. As his second term as vice-chancellor has come to an end, he is now a director of companies and consultant at large. Reverend John Freeth is former chief advisor to Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He played a pivotal role in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which demanded profound collaboration between parties. Thomas Gensemer co-founded and was CEO of digital agency Blue State Digital. There, he created and managed the 2008 and 2012 social media campaigns for President Obama which mobilised 13.5 million Americans; causing charities, brands and Republicans alike to take note. He is now US chief strategy officer for Burson-Marsteller, a global public relations and communications firm.


Ilkka Herlin is chairman of cargo-handling solutions provider Cargotec. Mr Herlin also heads the Baltic Sea Action Group, which brings a number of partners together to clean one of the world’s most polluted seas. Huang Guoshu is vice chairman of Sinew Corporation, which has developed an innovative business model in China that works with local government to develop a sustainable agriculture industry chain and create a harmonious community with farmers. Idris Jala is minister and CEO of the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) for the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Department. PEMANDU aims to transform the social and economic performance of Malaysia by involving relevant stakeholders. Merit Janow is dean of the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University in the US, and chair of the Nasdaq Exchange LLC. She is an expert in international trade and investment. Ms Janow was previously a judge on the World Trade Organization’s Appellate Body. Deepak Jolly is vice president of Coca-Cola India and South West Asia. As a water consumer, Coca-Cola is well versed in working with government and civil society to ensure safe and consistent water access.


Adam Kahane is director of Reos Partners. Reos is a social enterprise that helps businesses, governments and civil society organisations address complex social challenges. Mr Kahane has had an extensive career in collaborations, working in more than 50 countries with executives and politicians, generals and guerrillas, civil servants and trade unionists, community activists and United Nations officials, clergy and artists. Lieutenant-General Sir Graeme Lamb is a retired British Army officer, former commander of the Field Army and former director of the UK Special Forces. He was also deputy commanding general of multinational forces in Iraq and special advisor to the US General Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan. As a respected leader of joint operations, Lieutenant General Lamb understands the leadership required for successful collaboration under extreme circumstances and at a large scale. Upmanu Lall is director of the Columbia Water Center. Affiliated with Columbia University and the Earth Institute, the centre seeks to find creative solutions to water challenges through collaborative projects in several countries. Li Junfeng is deputy director general of the Energy Research Institute at the National Development and Reform Commission in China. Responsible for setting up the legislative framework for lowcarbon development in China, he consults regularly across boundaries to achieve common goals.

António Mexia is CEO of Energias de Portugal (EDP), one of Europe’s major electricity operators. EDP’s successful experience in working in Angola with the Clinton Global Initiative and UNHCR has led to insights on the role of the private sector in collaborations. R Mukundan is managing director of Tata Chemicals, which has interests in chemicals, crop nutrition and consumer products. The Mumbaibased company participates in many local initiatives in India for improving agricultural practices and farmer livelihood. Gavin Neath is former senior vice president for sustainability at Unilever. The multinational consumer goods company has worked through the Consumer Goods Forum to successfully operationalise the Tropical Forest Alliance, an international collaborative effort dedicated to the conservation of tropical forests. Mona Nilsson works for Scandinavian furniture retailer IKEA as change manager in its traceability programme. She led the implementation of a change concept, training 7,000 managers, and oversaw IKEA’s largest and most successful change project, which targeted 65,000 users.

Karen O’Brien is a professor at the Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo. She has been involved with Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports and serves on the scientific committee for Future Earth, the 10-year global change research initiative. David Petraeus is chairman of KKR Global Institute, partner at KKR, visiting professor at City University of New York and a Judge Widney professor at the University of Southern California. He is a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and was a four-star general in the US Army, commanding US and coalition forces during the surges in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has unique collaborative insights, including the necessity to collaborate across the forces and through coalitions. Patrick Rousseau is chairman and managing director of Veolia Water India. As a world leader in water services active in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Veolia Water has collaborative experience in what is one of the most water-poor regions on the planet. Shyam Saran is the former Indian foreign secretary. He also served as Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Indonesia and Myanmar, among other positions, and as India’s special envoy for climate change from 2008 to 2010. He has extensive experience in international negotiations and domestic policy implementation.


Gerald Schotman is the former Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President for Innovation/R&D at Shell. His role was to ensure that Shell develops and implements the right technology to deliver energy projects across the world. Meenakshi Sharma is vice president of sustainability and communications at SABMiller India, India’s leading beer producer. As one of the biggest water consumers in a water stressed region, it has significant practical collaborative experience. Dave Steward is the former South African Ambassador to the UN and chief of staff to former South African President FW de Klerk. These roles gave him a unique perspective on the collaborative effort required to transition to the modern South Africa. Pavan Sukhdev is founder and CEO of GIST Advisory, a consulting firm that helps governments and corporations discover, measure, value and manage their impacts on natural and human capital. Mr Sukhdev led a G8+5- project on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (‘TEEB’) to develop a global study on the economics of biodiversity loss.


Arun Sundararajan is professor of business at New York University. His research interests include the sharing economy, collaborative markets and digital disruption.

Matthew Thomas is the managing director of Prospect Madison, a leadership advisory firm aimed at enabling cross-sector leaders to create new solutions to society’s most pressing challenges, and serves as a David Rockefeller Fellow of the Trilateral Commission. He has spoken to audiences at the White House and World Economic Forum, and published his research in the Harvard Business Review. Robert Thurman is professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies at Columbia University, holding the first endowed chair in this field of study in the US. He is an influential and prolific American Buddhist writer and academic, with deep collaborative insights. Atsuko Toda is the Nigeria country programme manager at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), an international financial institution of the United Nations. Ms Toda has lead collaborations in several countries that work with rural people, governments, donors and non– governmental organisations. The government of Vietnam previously presented her with an award honouring her work in the country.

Ivar Valstad is project manager at Norsk Hydro. Previously he was responsible for overseeing the collaborative projects Xyntéo facilitates through its Global Leadership and Technology Exchange (GLTE) programme. Guido Verijke is former chairman of the Better Cotton Initiative, a cross-sector collaboration that aims to reduce the amount of water and chemicals used to grow cotton and to improve the social and economic prospects of cotton farmers. Peter Voser is former CEO of Royal Dutch Shell. Before his appointment as CEO in 2009, he was chief financial officer. Mr Voser pioneered the role of business in water-energy-food-climate stress nexus collaborations. Leo Yip was chairman of the Singapore Economic Development Board from 2009 to 2014. The board has pioneered new forms of collaboration between business and government that has attracted many globally leading companies to build up a significant presence in Singapore to drive their business, innovation and talent activities for not just Asia but also the global market.


Mythbusters: surprising truths about successful collaboration Our conversations with collaboration leaders helped to bust some myths about collaborations to reveal some of the misperceptions that can cause them to fail.

You don’t have to like the people you’re collaborating with.

Collaborations need leaders more than managers.

Sometimes there’s no alternative but to work with people you don’t like, and may not even trust – but it is possible if you have a shared purpose and recognise that you need one another (see Focus box: The personal dimension, page 29).

Collaborations are always difficult and so they need more than management: they need leadership. Collaborative leaders seldom have direct hierarchical control of those they are leading, so they have to articulate a strong sense of purpose to drive the collaboration forward (See Use purpose to lead, page 60).

You can’t know what the answer will look like when you set out. Collaborations have to start with a shared problem, which requires all the partners to address. But no single partner has the answers: the collaboration has to create these together. (See Identify a common purpose, page 24).

More can be less. It’s tempting to assume that a broader coalition can bring more weight to solving the problem. Sometimes collaborating with many organisations makes sense, but for others the result is a bloated or divided effort that leads nowhere. The difference between enough and too many is defined by two questions: do all the participants share a common purpose and are they all necessary to achieve it? (See Create a partnership, page 28).

How you gather data is as important as the data itself. Different stakeholders see problems through different lenses. Involving everyone in the process of gathering or verifying data can help to overcome difference in perception. So the process of data-gathering can be as important as the data itself. (See Understand the context, page 36).


Don’t be tempted by quick commercial opportunities. If the chance comes for one of the partners to sell something to another, this can risk shifting the mindset of the participants from relationships to transactions. (See Persistence of default behaviours, page 70). It can be wiser to ignore the small prize of a quick commercial transaction to allow the collaboration to mature and deliver more substantial gains later.

Even with a long-term perspective, quick wins matter. Collaborations are inherently medium- to longterm plays: an investment of resources now that will yield a prize in the future. While focusing on the end result is important, it’s essential to give participants a taste of early success – to give keep the momentum when energy starts to flag.

Scale your team before you try to scale your project. When a collaboration moves to piloting and scaling, new people often enter the teams. Though they can bring new energy and insights, they may also not share the collaborative mindset and sense of purpose. It can be helpful to involve these people earlier, so they begin to take on the collaboration’s culture and values before the pilot phase. (See Brave the valley of death, page 52).


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Collaboration for New Growth: Learning From Leaders  

Report featuring first-hand insights for pioneering collaborative leadership at the nexus of water, energy, food and climate

Collaboration for New Growth: Learning From Leaders  

Report featuring first-hand insights for pioneering collaborative leadership at the nexus of water, energy, food and climate