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014: Solving Impossible Business & Social Problems with Scott Spann
24th September 2018 • Do Well & Do Good • Dorothy Illson
00:00:00 01:02:50

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Scott Spann is the founder of Innate Solutions, a consultancy firm that takes a ground-up approach to identifying issues and negative trends in companies and other organizations, encouraging individuals to work together and find personalized, sustainable solutions without having to resort to a hierarchy. Having worked in IT and marketing, and even having comprehensively studied martial arts, Scott believes in naturally occuring conflict resolution and protecting the environment.

In this episode, Scott discusses the benefits of Innate Solutions’ approach to group problem-solving, how to win over uncooperative group members, and why he looks to nature for solutions.


Show Notes:

  • What is Scott most excited about in his life right now?
    • Looking for opportunities to unite people during these chaotic times and help them all find a way out on the other side of this period of social/political/economic upheaval.
  • How did Scott’s career path lead him to found Innate Strategies?
    • Has had a very diverse career path, taking him through Quadalupe, training in martial arts, and IT and marketing consulting.
    • Realized no one in his lines of work was really happy, so spent a period travelling around the United States, later working in trauma psychotherapy.
  • What strategies do Scott and Innate Solutions make use of when helping corporations and organizations solve disputes and internal issues?
    • Avoid top-down/hierarchical solutions, and instead having individuals and groups within these organizations come together with ground-up solutions that address everybody’s needs.
    • Tries to find a common “reality” or worldview among each organization’s workforce.
    • Brings each department together one at a time; from there, conflicts and asymmetries are identified and addressed.
    • Creates a “map” of a company and its issues.
  • How does Scott cut through the noise of different priorities and causes within an organization to figure out which solutions will work the best?
    • He uses kind of “math” that does not rely on the group having complete consensus on certain issues.
    • Process works iteratively, one step at a time, rather than trying to make sweeping changes and causing additional conflict.
  • How does he deal with managers and leaders who don’t believe his strategies will work?
    • In one case, he offered to waive his fee in case the strategies didn’t pan out; but when the manager saw that their employees were already more cooperative and communicative they acquiesced.
  • Why is Innate Solutions’ approach more sustainable than system dynamics (previously the benchmark for finding solutions in complex systems)?
    • They focus on both the human (psychological) side and on creating clarity so that everybody involves understands their own needs and the needs of others in their organization.
    • 90-day period pushes employees to figure out strategies they can rely on going forward after the consultancy ends.
  • How does Scott deal with “bullies,” i.e. individuals who do not want to participate in the process?
    • Tries to genuinely connect with them and build a personal rapport, turning their cynicism about the process into optimism.
    • For disruptive individuals, other members of the group can actually shame the bad faith actor into cooperating.
  • Which project is Scott most proud of?
    • Brokering a resolution between government and rebels in Guatemala.
  • What kind of non-profit organizations does Scott work with?
    • Chairman of the board for International Rivers, which seeks to protect the world’s remaining free-flowing rivers from damming.
    • Also chairman of the board for Bioneers, which focuses on nature-based engineering solutions.
  • Who has been the most impactful person in Scott’s journey to do well and achieve financial success?
    • Buddha or Jesus Christ for their focus on trust, cooperation and humanism..
  • Who has been the most impactful person in Scott’s drive to do good?
    • The people he works with.
  • When Scott is having a bad day, what does he do to get himself out of his funk?
    • Focuses on meditation, prayer, nutrition and exercise.
  • What are the worst and best pieces of advice Scott has received?
    • Worst: Focus on taking care of yourself first in a crisis.
    • Best: Trust yourself, and recognize when your ego is talking vs. your true self.


Do Well & Do Good Challenge Nomination:

“Since 1985, International Rivers has been at the heart of the global struggle to protect rivers and the rights of communities that depend on them.

We work with an international network of dam-affected people, grassroots organizations, environmentalists, human rights advocates and others who are committed to stopping destructive river projects and promoting better options.

We seek a world where healthy rivers and the rights of local communities are valued and protected. We envision a world where water and energy needs are met without degrading nature or increasing poverty, and where people have the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives.

Based in four continents, our staff has expertise in big dams, energy and water policy, climate change, and international financial institutions. We support partner organizations and dam-affected people by providing advice, training and technical assistance, and advocating on their behalf with governments, banks, companies and international agencies. The focus of our work is in Latin America, Asia and Africa.”

About International Rivers

Link to Donate

“Bioneers is an innovative nonprofit educational organization that highlights breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet. Founded in 1990 in Santa Fe, New Mexico by social entrepreneurs Kenny Ausubel and Nina Simons, Bioneers has acted as a fertile hub of social and scientific innovators with practical and visionary solutions for the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges. A celebration of the genius of nature and human ingenuity, Bioneers connects people with breakthrough solutions and each other. Our acclaimed annual national and local conferences are complemented by extensive media outreach including an award-winning radio series, book series, and role in media projects such as Leonardo DiCaprio’s film The 11th Hour. Our programs further focus on Women’s Leadership, Indigenous Wisdom, Community Resilience Networks, and Leadership Development and Youth.”

About Bioneers

Link to Donate

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