This sponsored article by Diane Alleva Cáceres, PhD, is published as part of Market Access International‘s annual sponsorship of Global Atlanta’s Canada Channel. 

Diane Alleva Cáceres

Few organizations, industries or regions are “born” knowing how to deal with global shocks like pandemics or financial crises. They have to create a mindset and structure that helps them “learn-to-learn,” instead of just reacting. 

Our work with Canadian provinces and other entities around the world has discovered the importance of organizations in the public, private and academic spheres collaborating and changing old ways of doing things in light of new knowledge to create resilient structures.

These structures should be:

  • Deliberative
  • Flexible
  • Inclusive/multi-stakeholder
  • Industry-led by an individual strategy entrepreneur in partnership with government
  • Informed by previous policies/institutions and latest science and industry trends

An example is the knowledge-oriented strategy team (KOST), which can help break down silos, leverage resources, share knowledge, frame problems and create competencies to reach goals. 

Organizations that intentionally and systematically adopt this approach can be better prepared to face external challenges and thrive in spite of them. 

A Surprising Canadian Case: Prince Edward Island’s Bioscience Industry 

Following the 2008 global financial crisis, the Prince Edward Island (PEI) bioscience industry was resilient and actually grew its life sciences footprint, increasing its number of bioscience companies in the ensuring decade. This was due, in part, to the PEI Bio Alliance, an example of a KOST that was established prior to the crisis.

The organization represents PEI’s bioscience cluster, including companies, research institutions, economic development agencies, the university and a virtual bioscience business incubator that provides business, technical, research, legal and other services for participating companies. PEI Bio Alliance led a holistic approach – addressing finance, skill development and global networks, among other components – to a niche strategy that focused on natural products and bioactives. These efforts helped the province weather external shocks. Its success shows that even the smallest of provinces can thrive in a complex sector like life sciences with the right learning mechanisms and partnerships. 

Not that this case was easy; naturally, there was conflict among the various stakeholders with competing interests. But gaining consensus was less difficult because the province’s life sciences sector had learning mechanisms in place that helped it “puzzle and power through.” 

This is a process of learning and negotiation among government entities, academic research labs, nonprofits, consumer groups and companies. Various stakeholders must “puzzle” over challenges and opportunities by meeting regularly to acquire knowledge and build competencies, examining who sets the agenda and ensuring decision-making processes are inclusive and represent diverse views. Competing interests must then “power through” to reach consensus.

This is not to say that biotechnology startups, large pharmaceutical companies or research institutes abandoned their individual growth strategies. Rather, their participation in the KOST provided net benefits. It also enabled them to maintain their commitment to the sector and more easily regroup to facilitate faster recovery following hard times. 

Key Considerations for ‘Learning to Learn’

Whether you’re a start-up, fast-growing small firm, large company, or economic development agency, there are three key considerations you need to think through before leaping into action:

  1. Do I have a learning mechanism and mindset that enables me to consistently and effectively identify, evaluate, gain consensus, and invest in ideas and opportunities to withstand global shocks and bring new products, services and technologies to market?
  2. What are the opportunity costs of shifting resources to creating and managing this new structure?
  3. How quickly should I adopt this new approach to improve my organization’s (or region’s) resilience and competitiveness? 

“Learning-to-learn” during times of fast, massive change can help your organization capture new knowledge, create competencies and not only reach but sustain growth goals. 

Opportunity in Action: Atlantic Canada Virtual Trade Mission to Georgia

This month, Atlanta was the focus of a virtual trade mission from Canada’s four Atlantic Provinces: New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Market Access International, Inc. was engaged with market briefings on key sectors that propel the Georgia economy. Our partners at MAI Canada Inc. and old friends at KisserUp International Trade Roots coached the Canadian companies and set up virtual meetings for them with potential Georgia partners.

Please review the strong profiles of these visiting companies to discover quality food products, environmentally friendly health and beauty products, consumer products, farm equipment, parking management solutions, enterprise software for HR, and a perfect little anchor for kayaks and canoes. 

For more information,  Click Here . The trade mission concludes April 23.

Contact Market Access International at (770) 434-7756 or