How a Supportive Network Can Drive Creative New Solutions

How a Supportive Network Can Drive Creative New Solutions

Aug 31, 2023

A KOAN Conversation with Vicki Saunders and Jennifer Simpson

At a time when we see outdated systems failing to serve most people, breakthrough leaders are turning to new ways of collaborating for change. Integrated Work CEO Jennifer Simpson recently explored the power of working in innovative networks in an online KOAN Conversation with Vicki Saunders, entrepreneur and founder of Coralus (formerly SheEO), a global community of women investors.

In their decades of work with entrepreneurs and other innovative business leaders, Jennifer and Vicki have seen up close how conventional leadership methods often fail to work in our new ever-shifting reality, and aren’t suited to produce the systemic shifts we need to create in the world. As Vicki said, “All of our systems and structures are designed for another time and place, and no longer serve us.”

With her new book, the KOAN method: Breakthrough Leadership for a Divided World, Jennifer aims to encourage more leaders to tap into creativity, connection, and community while exploring uncertainty and moving toward breakthroughs. “We’ve got to let go of the sense we already have it figured out. We have to be willing to take those first steps into the unknown,” Jennifer said. “We’re at an important time in our history to be reimagining systems.”

The Power of Supportive Networks

Doing things differently is nothing new for Vicki, who said she realized at a young age that she wanted to pursue a business that created postive impact as well as a profit. “I was kind of obsessed with how we can do everything differently, particularly in business and the economy,” she said. “Before we called it that, I was a social entrepreneur — always looking to navigate and create new systems and structures to get different results.”

With Coralus, Vicki is tackling outdated ways of investing by convening a global community of women who provide financial support to women-led ventures tackling global challenges. She has seen the potential and power that can be created by supportive networks where ideas are nurtured rather than criticized. “The environment we’re in really affects us,” Vicki said. “What if you were actually surrounded by people who were generous with you?”

As Coralus approaches its 10-year anniversary, she is eager to continue what she calls a “really beautiful, unpredictable journey” and support others as they shape a different future. “If we each add our gifts that we have in abundance together, we can really change the conditions for all of us to thrive,” Vicki said.

Coralus is one example of a shift to collective impact, Vicki said, as people realize the potential for amplified benefit through collaboration. “The whole community is benefitting from each other,” she said, noting that each of us has gifts to share. “It’s only really in community where we get to understand ourselves.”

Empowering Courageous Steps

Jennifer also has experienced the power of being part of the Coralus community, where others serve as sounding boards for innovations and support systems for exploration. “I can be brave and take that step into the unknown, and if I falter there will be people there. That’s really emboldening,” she said. “Part of what frees us to come up with other kinds of solutions is that space for people to exercise judgment and autonomy … [to] act from shared purpose in service of community instead of rigid adherence to rules.”

That’s where networks — the N in the KOAN method — play an important role in encouraging entrepreneurs and other leaders to take brave steps and try something new, Vicki said. “The only way you can actually create a different experience than what we’re having right now is by stepping into something uncertain and uncomfortable and unknown and being courageous with it,” she said. “Your book calls people forward with some practices on how to do that.”

Watch the full conversation to hear more from Vicki and Jen on other changemaking concepts, including:

  • Reimagining multi-generational leadership
  • Focusing energy on signs of hope
  • Exploring uncomfortable questions
  • Slowing the pace and walking “at the speed of life”
  • Inviting new voices into decision-making processes

Watch the full KOAN Conversation between Jennifer & Vicki 

Order your copy of the KOAN method now!