Unlocking VUCA


In the third of the series in which we examine our responses to the challenges of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity & Ambiguity), we take a look at collaboration.

Collaboration: (definition) Cooperative arrangement in which two or more parties (which may or may not have any previous relationship) work jointly towards a common goal.

Lennon & McCartney, Watson & Crick, Ben & Jerry – think of one and the other naturally follows. Whether it’s in music, the science lab, the ice cream parlour or in business, winning partnerships take the strengths of each party to create something greater than the sum of their parts.

They’re the result of a push-me, pull-you negotiating dance. One in which egos are bruised and territories trampled upon, but successful collaborations bring benefits that outweigh the compromises made along the way.

Take IBM’s partnering with Apple back in 2014, for instance. The arrangement combines the best of both parties - Apple’s consumer experience, hardware and software integration and IBM’s big data analytics and more than 100,000 industry sales consultants and software developers – for their mutual benefit.

What works for IBM and Apple is valid too for GAC.

As a Group, we are collaboration in action – a collection of small and medium-sized companies working together, united by our global brand and reputation for service and professionalism.

Smart response

As Group President Bengt Ekstrand points out, collaboration is both the dominant trend in the markets GAC serves and the smart response to increasing complexity of those markets: “In shipping, we’re seeing new alliances forming on a regular basis. Logistics customers are looking for longer-term relationships with suppliers to drive lower transaction costs. Collaboration is seen as an effective means of dealing with jittery markets.”

It is a powerful tool for innovation and the development of successful solutions the market is crying out for.

Look no further than GAC EnvironHull, which combined the invention of Robert Andersen and the business smarts and connections of GAC to launch its multiple award-winning eco-friendly HullWiper system.

Then, there is the partnership between GAC and the National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI) that formed GAC Training & Service Solutions (GTSS) to provide innovative, cost-saving safety and personal development training for the global maritime sector.

“It’s collaboration in the truest sense,” says Head of NMCI Services James O’Byrne. “We draw on one another’s unique capabilities for the benefit of the seafarers worldwide.”


It’s not just outsiders we collaborate with. It’s also our colleagues sitting at different desks, in different departments and in different locations around the world. For GAC veteran Gobind Kukreja, collaboration has long been the name of the game throughout his 25 years in the Middle East and since 2011 when he relocated to the Caribbean to lead GAC Trinidad & Tobago. It is especially helpful for a small operation dealing with global clients, particularly in the oil & gas sector.

“That all-important G2G (GAC to GAC) collaboration has certainly helped us,” he says. “Our colleagues at GAC Global Hub Services, Husbandry Services, UK, Singapore and North America have really made the difference in helping us to connect with and work with international players.

“They have been our guiding light on all manner of issues – including streamlining invoices and keeping track of expenses. They are always willing and able to give any help or advice we may need in dealing with international customers.”

Everybody wins

GAC Bunker Fuels has adopted a G2G strategy for the past eight years, and has seen continuous year-on-year growth. The strategy is simple – get local GAC agency offices involved in selling bunkers in exchange for a share of the income. The credit risk and operational process is centralised through their ISO 9001-certified HQ in Dubai. As GAC Bunker Fuels Global Director Nicholas Browne says, everybody wins: his teams get greater market reach and local companies can increase their operating income.

“We have appointed ambassadors throughout the GAC World - Stewart Hendry in Saudi Arabia, Sudhir Jai in Qatar and Rahul Bhoj in Malaysia – who sell bunkers through the local offices,” he adds. “Then we have Jessy Karam-Castillo in the US, Ole Fredrik Torpe in Norway and Bob Bandos in North America who add bunkers as an extra service in their contracts. And, of course, we work closely with people like Simon Doran from GAC EnvironHull, members of the Group Marketing Team, and many more colleagues worldwide. They help us sell bunkers and, in return, they get a share of the income.”

In 2016 alone, GAC Bunker Fuels paid out USD 2.3 million in commissions to other companies throughout the GAC Group.

Working together to beat the odds

Collaboration plays a key role in GAC Pindar’s handling of the logistics for world class sailing events like the Volvo Ocean Race and the Extreme Sailing Series. Without the smooth cooperation of GAC colleagues at venues around the world, their job would not be possible.

The value of that collaboration was dramatically underlined in April this year when GAC Pindar and GAC China worked together to beat the odds and deliver the goods in time for the opening of the Extreme Sailing Series event in Qingdao. Get the full story here.

The things they say about collaboration

“When you need to innovate, you need collaboration.”

Marissa Mayer, information technology executive, former President and CEO of Yahoo!

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Author, political activist, and lecturer Helen Keller. The first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.

“Collaboration is the essence of life. The wind, bees and flowers work together, to spread the pollen.”

Amit Ray, Indian author and spiritual master, in “Mindfulness Living in the Moment - Living in the Breath”

“As a collaborative leader, you support people in their work—you remove roadblocks and help them win.”

Kenneth H. Blanchard, author and management expert, in “Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster”

“Life is not a solo act. It's a huge collaboration, and we need to assemble around us the people who care about us and support us in times of strife.”

Tim Gunn, fashion consultant, television personality, actor and author

“In order for collaboration to take place, managers must give up their silos and their perceptions of power.”

Jane Ripley, author and cofounder of WiredLeaders.com, in “Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster”

“Strategy is not really a solo sport – even if you’re the CEO.”

Max McKeown,  writer, consultant and innovation culture advocate, in “The Strategy Book”

“Gen Ys work best in groups, collaboratively, transparently, interactively and entrepreneurially - and have already created positive change in many local communities and around the world.”

Charlie Caruso, author and founder & CEO of PuggleFM, in “Understanding y”

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