Strategies for Ecosystem thinking - what's yours & are you ready for it?

The world is full of ecosystems. From the rainforest to Silicon Valley, ecosystems have a common purpose to grow and to develop, and the thinking behind ecosystems is beginning to take root in Europe as organisations look at more agile ways to find growth in a post-pandemic world.

The new dispersed workforce has brought ecosystem thinking into sharper focus. In contrast to the traditional hierarchical model of work where strict reporting lines are reporting, ecosystems are more fluid – small teams from different divisions within the business or across many businesses, acting together to tackle specific challenges.

With more businesses now looking at hiring across the globe for remote roles, the cultural challenge of bringing these people together under one banner is resulting in new structures. These structures or ecosystems are often cross-departmental or even cross-industry, and are formed with a common vision.

Real-world business ecosystems

There are times when a challenge is perhaps too large for one business, and alliances have to be formed. A recent example would be the new smart home market where appliance manufacturers around the world found themselves racing to catch up with a market that demanded quick integration and innovation.

By developing an ecosystem, these manufacturers were able to face up to this challenge and open up new sales channels.

Another example is the Executive Growth Alliance (EGA) which has allowed business leaders around the world to come together to face up to the post-pandemic challenges of digitalisation and remote work.

In both cases, the ecosystems were driven by that common vision. What’s more, we’re seeing Silicon Valley businesses develop new ecosystems as they look at how to build the metaverse.

Building ecosystems within your organisation

Ecosystems don’t always have to be cross-company. With the development of dispersed workforces and remote working, the opportunity to grow ecosystems within organisations has blossomed. These project teams have been given the freedom to grow value chains within businesses that would previously have been hindered by rigid structures.

To build this kind of innovative ecosystem, a business has to:

  • Carefully define the purpose of the ecosystem and define the KPIs
  • Allow the freedom for the ecosystem to achieve its results without micro-management
  • Ensure that the ecosystem allows for diversity of opinion and competency

Strategies for developing ecosystems

Very often, when an ecosystem develops, the people in the room might be surprised to be in the same room as each other. When Rolls Royce and the McLaren F1 team started working together on ventilators during the pandemic, few could have expected a few months’ earlier that they might have been in an ecosystem together developing products that were previously not core to their business.

However, the development of that ecosystem is hardly any different from the challenges faced by, for example, the appliance manufacturers when they chose to come together to build smart home solutions. A situation arose that one business alone could not tackle in isolation, and the result of coming together would be of benefit to all businesses involved.

Bringing the right people into the room

An ecosystem has to be an open & transparent environment in which, if the ecosystem is to be successful, the right people have to be in the room. Defining the contributors to the ecosystem early on ensures that this ‘working group’ is pulling together and able to be greater than the sum of its parts.

Creating the right circle of businesses

An ecosystem may be multiple industries that are looking to develop a value chain. That could involve manufacturing, distribution and shipping and government bodies working together to get products to market more quickly. The definition of an ecosystem relies much on the definition of the businesses involved.

Sharing resources, sharing results

Many industries are keen to protect their IP and it’s only natural for organisations to question what value they might be receiving from the ecosystem. Most ecosystems are built around developing the industry itself or creating joint value and opportunities.

The groundrules

Confidentiality has to be baked into the ecosystem. It has to be a safe environment for collaboration and sharing between businesses or individuals within a business where they feel liberated to work equally with each other and that they can commit to taking action and share learnings.

Are you ready to work in an ecosystem?

Think about your organisation. Are there challenges that you, as an industry or as a business, are facing that can better be dealt with in partnership? Or are there challenges within your business that could be tackled with an internal ecosystem?

Does your business, post-pandemic, need the diversity of thought and opinion that an ecosystem could bring?

These are all questions that organisations have to ask themselves constantly. Challenges come out of nowhere, and it requires the vision to foresee some of those challenges and the audacity to work sometimes with competitors and partner businesses to take those challenges on.

Ecosystems are driving serious innovation within Silicon Valley and around the world – and in this post-pandemic, dispersed workforce culture that is growing right now – they could be the key to unlocking serious growth.

Interested in ecosystem thinking? Our free webinar, Ecosystems and how they are changing the world of work and business, looks at how Ecosystems are formed and how businesses are working together to find new markets, products and opportunities. Hosted by Jennifer Vessels and the FutureWork Forum in association with IPI Academy, the webinar is available on-demand here.

Published on Jun 13, 2022 by Dwane Charalambous