Toggle menu

The Right Thing #3 · SupplyCompass

The Right Thing #3
Aug 23

The Right Thing #3

It’s been a while that I’ve been pretty obsessed with the concept of collaboration and how to do it well.

What is collaboration?

We all hear this word bandied around a lot. The Latin root of the word, collaborare, means to work with. Basically, the opposite of giving orders and then making sure they’re followed.

In essence, collaboration is two or more people (team/or teams) working together (process) towards shared goals (purpose).

Focus on understanding people because collaboration is deeply human.

The concept of collaboration is so intrinsically linked to how we communicate, explain ourselves as people and how well we listen to others. It requires being truly present in the moment. It’s not just about words, but actions, gestures, body language, and interactions too.

We need to understand the individuals within the teams we’re collaborating with— that means going under the surface and taking the time to understand deep-level diversities (personalities, values, culture, thinking styles etc) that exist within and across teams.

Fashion supply chains = pretty damn complex collaboration. 

Creating something as simple as a t-shirt requires teams in many organisations across the value chain to come together to create a physical product.

This requires an intricately orchestrated and considered approach. So many individuals across so many teams that not only span functions, organisations, and timezones but include a diverse mix of people in terms of culture, personality, class, experience, background etc.

It starts with the right mindset

It’s so much more (and harder) than open-plan offices and implementing Miro and Slack. Successful collaboration is fundamentally about instilling the right mindset. According to this article Cracking the Code of Sustainable Collaboration robust collaboration can’t just be a value to cultivate but a skill that can be taught. The following 4 attitudes are key;

  1. Widespread respect of, and trust in, all contributors
  2. Openness to experimenting
  3. Checking one’s implicit biases
  4. Sensitivity to, and understanding of, how your actions may affect others

More outward focus is required and an emphasis on what we can learn from others, rather than fixating on what we want to say and achieve as individuals.

The root cause of a lot of difficulties in collaboration is emotional. 

I’ve long been a fan of The School of Life. They’ve written a lot about the psychological problems that get in the way of good collaboration. I love this article— Towards Better Collaboration —where they lay out 10 anti-collaboration traits such as defensiveness, non-listening, secret-manoeuvring and negativity.

The Collaborative *Advantage*

Yes, this HBR article is from 1994(!) but it still resonates with me today and, surprisingly, there’s not enough written about successful collaborations. The gist is that really more time should be spent working on partnerships in cultural, organizational, and human terms because all too often they are neglected in favour of the financial. Less focus on controlling relationships, more on nurturing.

Successful cross-organisational (network) collaboration must add value for all

Collaborating within one team is hard enough, let alone cross-departmental. But what modern businesses require today—particularly those with supply chains—is to nail cross-organisational collaboration too. This is no mean feat.

Good collaboration doesn’t just need the right mindset it requires space and time to allow creativity and problem-solving to flourish.

It’s about creating new value together rather than mere ‘exchange’, ie. getting something back for what you put in.

It’s tiring work improving how I collaborate as an individual, and how we can excel at it as a company as we scale. In Product, the success of my role depends upon excellent collaboration skills. I need to collaborate daily with our Tech, Sales, CX and Growth team (*none of us are currently in the same physical place, some of the team are in different time zones and everyone with their own unique background).

But perhaps most importantly for me are our customers. They are all our collaborators, and I know the only way we can redesign this system into a better one is if we all work together and create new value for everyone.

P.S. 1. Have you read the new report from the IPCC? The report declares ‘Code Red’ for humanity, and that we all need to take massive steps to ensure a liveable future for Planet Earth. Here’s a summary from the BBC listing out the key takeaways. Time for the fashion industry to get very, very serious.


P.S. 2. We’ve been getting requests from lots of great companies to be added to our Eco-System, a directory we are building of the best fashion service providers and organizations. Want to be listed along with the likes of CogDis, WAIR, Klaviyo, and British Fashion Council? Submit a listing here.

Flora Davidson
Co-Founder at SupplyCompass

Share this article

As Co-Founder and Head of Product at SupplyCompass, Flora Davidson is responsible for the vision and direction of this platform. With a background in innovation and ethnographic market research, she’s wholly focussed on being customer-driven (brand and factory!) in her approach to what technology they build, how and why. She’s obsessed with good design and excellent, intuitive user experience. Flora is passionate about reimagining how the fashion ecosystem can work more openly and collaboratively together, and sees the shift in emphasis towards stronger partnerships between brand and factory, as foundational to the transformation of the industry.


More on our blog

Thought Leadership SupplyCompass and the SDGs

SupplyCompass and the SDGs

With specific targets and indicators, the UN SDGs are meant to be the game plan to tackle some of the most pressing challenges that we are collectively facing. But what does a software service or tech company, that doesn’t make physical products, have to do with meeting the SDGs?

by Nayanika Bharadwaj

4 minutes

The Right Thing The Right Thing #2

The Right Thing #2

Systems are complicated. But for survival, it’s crucial we understand them. I’m not saying I get it all, systems thinking is pretty complicated and hard to get your head around.  But, this is where I’m at currently….

by Flora Davidson

The Right Thing Thought Leadership Structured data, easily accessible information & shared systems play a key role in the sustainable transformation of fashion. Here’s how.

Structured data, easily accessible information & shared systems play a key role in the sustainable transformation of fashion. Here’s how.

How do you navigate the path towards sustainability when you need to juggle vast amounts of information as well as people spread around the globe? We suggest a three-phase approach that balances short-term goals with long term visions and is fair, inclusive, holistic and hyper-conscious of the role brands play in the convoluted fashion system.

by SupplyCompass

4 minutes

Get started with our platform

Read The Right Thing

The Right Thing is our monthly newsletter straight from our Co-Founders’ desk. Musings on systems thinking, innovation, sustainability and collaborative production + exciting updates delivered straight to your inbox.