Can You “Figure It Out”?

Videographer Marion Gruner working with Shared Value Solutions Ltd. team on an Aboriginal traditional ecological knowledge project

By Don Richardson, Managing Partner, Shared Value Solutions Ltd.

As we grow and create new shared value solutions for problems and opportunities, we engage with smart people as partners, affiliates, and new and potential team members. We find ourselves gravitating to people who know how to “figure it out.”

A recent Harvard Business Review article called “Figure It Out” by GE’s Chief Marketing Officer, Beth Comstock, got our attention. Comstock identifies the reality we live every day working at Shared Value Solutions. We face new problems for which road maps to solutions simply don’t exist, and we find that the necessary resources are scarce or are not in the obvious places.

So what do we do? We figure it out. We engage with people who are, as Comstock notes, “inventive, capable and enterprising. Above all, they must be able to improvise – to take whatever they have to work with and make the most of it.” We face problems and opportunities that push us to improvise and reach out to others who may have the ideas, resources or experience we need to help our clients.

Very often, for the problems and opportunities our clients provide us, no one has the exact training or detailed experience with what we’re handed. We figure it out. We pull in people from our extensive professional and personal networks. We venture into new networks and look for radically different ways to address the problems and opportunities. We often abandon our assumptions about what we think our clients need and instead, we spend time observing, listening, engaging and understanding how people actually live and work, and how they experience problems and opportunities. Whiteboards, flipcharts, napkins and "what if" discussions are key tools.

No surprise that my favourite movie scene is from the film Apollo 13 where a technician dumps a mess of material on a table and tells his colleagues that they have to use this mess to build a new carbon dioxide scrubber to keep the flight crew alive. They figure it out and the crew gets to come home.

At Shared Value Solutions Ltd., we figure it out. We get resourceful, we network and we partner. This is how we get to work with people who help us innovate with clients for initiatives such as helping:

  • Resolve a multi-year contaminated drinking water and lake water challenges for a northern First Nation using innovative technologies and creative resourcing approaches yielding over $8 million in new funding and new community partnerships
  • Research new supply chain approaches and linkages to agribusiness for biogas enterprises
  • Develop innovative community engagement strategies for different interest groups in urban mixed-use communities
  • Develop appropriate approaches to regional environmental assessment initiatives that match environmental goals with infrastructure development goals for northern tribal councils
  • Design and value engineer a new major highway to accommodate traditional Aboriginal ecological knowledge and current land use activities

If you can “Figure It Out”, let’s talk.

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