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Approach

Watershed Partners is a strategic advisory practice. We are a learning organization, and the more we learn, the less confident we are trusting in easy answers. The more expertise we grow, the more cautious we are in using it. What we do is more akin to gardening than engineering. We set conditions that allow for the emergence of solutions, insights, and the tools that will build the tools to address complex situations or circumstances.

If you’re one of the curious ones, we’ll try to explain further:

philosophy

Everything is a system

No individual, group or system operates in isolation. We are all literally connected— within a system containing smaller systems.

The interdependencies within or across systems are often hard to see and harder to measure. The health of the connection points within a system enables success in times of massive change. And as the rate of change itself accelerates, systems that fail to upgrade their capacity to share and translate knowledge will probably suffer from catastrophic failure.

The capacity to build more connections, healthier connections, to collaborate is a condition for success at any scale.

analysis

Five things that need to be done well

Our work confronts and builds capability in five things that determine a healthy system. We look for:

Conversation

Having the right conversation is not something people do well. What we are talking about matters, of course, but we tend to undervalue how we communicate and who we involve. 

Definition

Despite the best of intentions, even the smartest leaders and decision-makers in the world rarely invest enough resources into setting up the required conditions to define and respond to complex problems.

Solution

And if we do drill down far enough get to the real problem, our approach to designing a solution is rarely if ever more than a Band-aid on one aspect of the issue.

Decision

Then, even if we somehow succeed in designing a resilient solution, bringing the right people into alignment on a lasting decision is rare. Risk-averse traditional decision making falls back to off-ramps once a new idea doesn’t immediately work.

Absorption

Which leads us to the most critical of challenges: When a decision’s implementation suffers friction, we blame the solution instead of the group’s inability absorb new ideas. 

These abilities are nourished by facilitating collaboration among stakeholders, crafting engagements that afford the opportunity to see change to fruition.

Practice

Collaborative design ensures strong solutions

Our co-design practice is about genuine collaboration rooted by flexible processes for participatory ways of working and innovative tools to shoulder and grow this work. We built this practice to strengthen relationships and generate trust, requiring a variety of voices, insights, and opinions to arrive at solutions with vitality.

 

Watershed’s collaborative design events accomplish a holistic journey from initial conversations, sourcing root-cause[s], designing solutions, making sound decisions; to absorption and integration of outcomes; and over again. Stakeholders produce solutions to the complex problems they recognize and establish resilience in the face of complexity and a fast-approaching future.