Collaboration as Competitive Advantage

Charles Darwin has been spinning in his grave for too long, unsettled by the gratuitous misinterpretation of his magnum opus on evolution, writes Paul Renfro of Pembrokeshire Outdoor Charter Group

‘Survival of the Fittest!’ business leaders chanted as they ran around with a belief that bigger is always better, and that having something that your competitor doesn’t have will make you stronger, more attractive and more successful.

It is a rallying call that’s wrong. Darwin never talked about the fittest, but what fits best – the fittingest you could call it. And that, as the Mad Hatter might say, is a very different proposition. Being fit for our surroundings means being highly aware of what’s happening around us, including the consequence of climate change, biodiversity loss and resource constraint. A heightened awareness of risk and the patterns of opportunity and danger brought a group of AIM-Member Welsh adventure businesses to discuss with AIM how to find better ways to share information for business benefit. Through better awareness of changes and good practice in operational and strategic risks, the business leaders believe that they can improve their safety practices, increase the attractiveness of their services to the public, and potentially reduce their liability insurance costs.

There is a long history of businesses working together for mutual benefit in Pembrokeshire, where the Pembrokeshire Outdoor Charter Group has for nearly 20 years provided a forum for 100% of the adventure industry to work with each other, and for officers from the National Park, National Trust and Natural Resources Wales to share good practice. The difference that is already being made by openly sharing knowledge on environmental impact gives the group’s coordinator, Paul Renfro, real confidence that the addition of risk and safety data to their conversations will significantly improve the overall resilience of the businesses and the communities they work in.

Andy Middleton, Founder Director of TYF Adventure, industry pioneers of sustainability and innovation, realised early on that the role of ‘honest brokers’ would be essential to build the trust that would underpin knowledge sharing; the role of their providers has been key to progress. Middleton believes that representation of so many businesses by AIM as a mutual providing an alternative to conventional insurance and the sharing of existing information can create a foundation of trust and evidence that makes it possible to explore savings and value at industry scale.

“There’s a huge pool of value that’s created when businesses share and collaborate using real data, rather than hunches, to guide their decisions”.

In recognising that the biggest threat that they face is not each other’s pricing or programme design but the missed opportunity to create value, Wales’ adventure industry could trigger much larger change. With evidence from the NHS that mental illness in Wales alone has a gross cost of £7.2bn a year and that active time in nature can do much to reduce mental illness, these businesses have realised that in raising their awareness of what’s possible, and of the good practices that improve performance, they can turn what was ‘old-school’ competitive practice into collaborations that create social, environmental and business benefit.

Author:- Pembrokeshire Outdoor Charter Group