Organizing For An Ecosystem World

As we witness the rise of ecosystems, organization structure becomes a critical area of focus. How do we operate in an increasingly horizontal world versus the vertical structures of the past? Should organization structure mimic the ecosystems that they will ultimately operate in? Do organizations ultimately become platforms? A recent video gives us answers provided by an early pioneer: Haier.

Ecosystems Set To Redistribute $60 Trillion In Annual Revenue By 2025

In a post back in 2013, I focused on value ecosystems and how they would blur the lines between industries, making Industry constructs irrelevant in the future. At the time, I said the phenomenon would accelerate and companies would ultimately identify the relevant ecosystem(s) that enable their growth strategies. It was clear back then that ecosystems are complex, relationship-oriented, and represent future growth opportunities that are increasingly outside a company’s traditional business.

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Innovating In An Uncertain World

Two words have come up frequently in leadership dialog: Innovation and Ecosystems. Several posts have described ecosystems and the dominant role they are likely to play in future economic activity. The number of organizations pursuing ecosystem-related initiatives is growing rapidly. Innovation on the other hand has been a topic of conversation for most of our economic history. Yet, something is different. The conversation about innovation culture is intensifying and the need for an innovation mindset to permeate the organization is increasingly recognized. Why? What changed? We can attribute some of the change to uncertainty. One could argue that business has always operated in uncertain environments. I would argue that a number of factors make the uncertainty in our current environment unique, comparable only at some level to past transformative periods in history. We then must consider complexity, pace, volatility, unpredictability, and the unexpected.

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Revisiting Experiences

So far, I have revisited Automation, Digital Transformation, and Autonomous Vehicles. This reflection on the past continues with a look at experiences. Back in 2013, as part of a series on digital transformation, I focused on what at the time I referred to as Next Generation Experiences. Back then, the issues of customer experience, customer-centricity, and customer intimacy were top-of-mind and dominated many executive discussions and conference agendas. I envisioned a next generation experience anchored in how customers think about it, not the way functional silos do. Those experiences would be delivered by the stakeholder ecosystem, requiring experience strategies to include all stakeholders whether internal or external.

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Organizing For Future Readiness

Back in 2013, weak signals clearly pointed to a structural change that was desperately needed. In a Post from that year, I described the type of change I envisioned in a world that looked very different than the world where these structures were born. The pandemic, as it has on so many levels, made something lying beneath the surface very visible. What it should also illuminate for leaders is that the future is uncertain, approaching rapidly, and likely to contain regular extreme events. Those factors make future readiness crucial to viability. To be future-ready, and to operate in a world dominated by uncertainty and pace, structures must change. When I say structure, I mean a broad set of things to consider:

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Is The Shareholder Doctrine Dead?

Fifty years ago, Milton Friedman announced that the social responsibility of a business was to increase profits. So was born the shareholder value era. Friedman was pushing back on dominant movements of the day: the new deal and European models of social democracy. Global inequality issues trace back to this rise of shareholder value. A recent Article explores the topic and the resulting power of the stock market. The authors suggest that while the market and the wealthy soared, consideration of the interests of workers, the environment, and consumers declined. 

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Strategy Looks Very Different In A Fast, Complex, And Uncertain World

In a recent Article, author Greg Satell describes strategy in a post-Digital world. Michael Porter positioned Competitive Advantage and dominating value chains as the foundation of strategy. Like many of our institutions and ideas, multiple forces are pushing that view into the dustbin of history. Two key forces are the shift to horizontal ecosystems versus vertical value chains, and technology cycles outpacing planning cycles. I have written extensively about Ecosystems and their impact on the value equation. Maximizing bargaining power among suppliers, customers, and new market entrants gives way to value-sharing scenarios where all participants in an ecosystem win.

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The Ecosystem Edge

I just finished another book and added it to my Book Library. Ecosystem Edge was written by Peter J. Williamson and Arnoud De Meyer. Ecosystem EdgeThe move towards ecosystems as an organizing principle for market activity has been a foundational piece of my research on the future of business. You can find that research here. The book goes into depth on the what, why, and how of ecosystems. Anyone looking for detailed guidance on how to execute in this ecosystem world, this is the book for you. Supported by several real-world examples, the authors explore the different aspects of succeeding in the ecosystem world. I highly recommend the book. The abstract is included below.

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Shifting Platform and Ecosystem Dynamics

As platform business models increasingly gain board-level attention, the ecosystem conversation intensifies. David Kish – a TCS colleague – recently worked with the broader team (Kevin Mulcahy, Rose Rodriguez, Bill Quinn, Bill Bosak)  to author an article focused on shifting platform and ecosystem dynamics. I am sharing Dave’s article via this guest post.


Since the advent of the internet, the combinatorial effect of innovation in science and digital technologies has rapidly driven the world toward a platform economy where software, apps and APIs enable every human activity and radically change how people interact and create value. Companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Alibaba and Tencent, which represent seven of the top ten valued companies by market capitalization, are leading this transformation and have created an imperative for all companies: develop platform capabilities and adapt your strategy to survive and succeed in the platform economy.

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Embracing the Collaborative Nature of Ecosystems

Thoughts I shared at this years TCS Innovation Forum in New York City.

Ecosystems in the Context of Digital Transformation

I recently authored an article on ecosystems and digital transformation along with leading platform strategist Simon Torrance. Here is a brief abstract of the article. You can read it Here on the TCS website – along with other perspectives on digital transformation.


ABSTRACT

As Frank Diana and Simon Torrance explain in “Defining Your Digital Ecosystem: The First Step in a Machine First™ Transformation,” many leaders are no longer looking at strategy and industry structure in the ways of a non-digital world. Business 4.0 and EcosystemsInstead, they’re analyzing how emerging ecosystems—networks of stakeholders, including business partners, suppliers, customers, and competitors that interact digitally to create value are supplanting traditional industries as the organizing construct. For example, in a mobility ecosystem, automakers no longer just make cars; they must redefine the very notion of automobile ownership and how people get around.

 

 

Ecosystem Readiness

As the world continues its march towards platform-supported ecosystems, organizational readiness becomes a critical area of focus. Four facets of an organization contribute or detract from success in an ecosystem world:

  1. The mental models that drive an organization
  2. The lens in which an organization views value creation and capture
  3. The orientation of an organization – which in most cases is shareholder value
  4. The organization’s culture

The growth engine that ecosystems represent will serve as a forcing function, pushing Organizations to Mature across these key facets. For example, I firmly believe that over time, a transition occurs from shareholder value to stakeholder value. This transition places purpose at the center, with shared value at its core (Click on the Visual to expand).

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Unlearning May be our Biggest Challenge

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that can’t read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn – Alvin Tofler, Rethinking the Future. 

As we all become life long learners, unlearning could be our biggest challenge. Our mental models prevent us from seeing the need for change. We are creatures of the only world we have individually known. Even if you are one hundred years old, the mental models established after humanities second Tipping Point dominate your thinking. They form our intuitions and belief systems.

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Monetization Strategies in Emerging Ecosystems

Emerging Ecosystems

As horizontal ecosystems become the primary means of value creation and capture, organizations will embrace various monetization strategies. Given the proven growth potential of platforms (the foundation of ecosystems) and the increasing collapse of Industry boundaries, the urgency to understand ecosystem dynamics is growing. Ecosystems enable producers and consumers to interact in ways that create shared value. In many cases, stakeholders will play either role at any given time – a phenomenon some have called side switching.

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Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

In a recent book titled, Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, Northeastern University president Joseph Aoun proposes a way to educate the next generation of college students, supporting society in ways that artificial intelligence cannot. His underlying premise is that the existing model of higher education has yet to adapt to the seismic shifts rattling the foundations of the global economy – I firmly agree. It was Alvin Tofler that said: The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that can’t read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

This conversation is broader than a focus on school-aged young adults. What Tofler pronounced applies to all of us. In his book, Mr. Aoun presents a new model of learning that enables us to understand the highly technological world around us, allowing us to transcend it by nurturing the mental and intellectual qualities that are unique to humans – namely, their capacity for creativity and mental flexibility. He calls this model Humanics. These Human Traits represent our future skills profile, including many of the right brain characteristics visualized below. We will want explorers, problem solvers, dot connectors, continuous learners, and those not afraid to challenge the status quo.

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The Fourth Iteration of Business in the Industrial Age

The evolution of business in the industrial age has mirrored the progression of three industrial revolutions; moving us from its first iteration to our current form. The emerging Fourth Industrial revolution ushers in another shift, culminating in something that likely looks much different than its predecessors. A brief look at this journey shows us the linkage:

Iteration One: The first industrial revolution introduced mechanization and had significant impacts on business and the labor force. Business in this period was transformed, as the steam engine enabled us to replace human and animal-based muscle with machines.

Iteration Two: Several forces converged during the second revolution to elevate our standard of living. The post-war period that followed was defined by a high level of consumption that drove business in the mass production era. Henry Ford famously said: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

Iteration Three: The third industrial revolution revolved around information technology, electronics, and communications, ushering in a period of computerization and automation. Businesses were once again transformed through significant gains in productivity and a shift away from Henry Ford era standard products to more customization.

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At the Heart of Digital Transformation

Creating a strategic foundation

To transform is to change in form, appearance, structure, condition, nature, or character. It is an overly used word that can be made to fit several narratives. Yet, given its definition, the dynamics of what is sure to be a volatile and complex future should compel us all to transform. I believe however, that the narrative must change. This is not a technology discussion, and it is not a digital discussion (although digital is the reason we are here). Rather, it is discussion of likely structural shifts that alter our beliefs and intuitions. These shifts will fundamentally change the way we think about organizations.

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The Rise of Ecosystems

When I first launched my Blog in 2010, it was titled Blurring the Boundaries. It was growing ever clearer that the lines between physical and digital, industries, business and IT, you name it, the lines were blurring. It was evident that our growing digital world would drive significant structural change. These new era structures would fundamentally alter our belief in long standing institutions like management, policy, process, procedure, legal frameworks, accounting principles, organization structure, business and operating models, governance, regulations, institutions, and the core characteristics of new era organizations. In essence, The Collapse of Traditional Structures will lead to a Third Tipping Point in Human History.

One of the most profound changes will be the dissolving of industry boundaries and the emergence of ecosystems. Our industry construct – born during revolutions that set the standard of living in the western world – will give way to a finite set of horizontal ecosystems. This visual depicts a perspective on an ultimate finite set of nine ecosystems.

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The Emerging Mobility Ecosystem

In segment four of my interview with Chunka Mui, we discussed the ultimate demise of our industry construct and the emergence of horizontal ecosystems that remove friction from our life experiences – one experience at a time. This platform-enabled transition can be witnessed in action today, as we watch the Mobility ecosystem form one piece at a time. We can no longer think of industries in isolation, as we witness the collision of various industries and a reconfiguration of the money flow – over $2.5 Trillion in car-related economic value. Chunka uses the example of the collision between the automotive and technology ecosystems to describe  this phenomenon: the shift from cars with computers inside, to computers with wheels on them.

Chunka Mui is the managing director of the Devil’s Advocate Group, a consulting team that helps organizations design and stress test their innovation strategies. Mr. Mui published a popular book titled The New Killer Apps.

Segment four is a quick three minute video.

You can view segment one – Autonomous Vehicles: An Interview with Chunka Mui – here.

You can view segment two – Reimagining Our Driverless Future – here.

You can view segment three – The Ripple Effect – here.

Download A PDF Version of the transcript.

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Autonomous Vehicles: An Interview with Chunka Mui

The convergence that is steering our emerging future manifests itself through a number of scenarios that drive multiple paradigm shifts. As the shifts themselves converge, they intensify the critical need for leaders to think differently about a world where the future arrives faster than people think. Some time ago, I had a great conversation with Chunka Mui regarding pace, the sheer number of shifts, and the need to think differently. We used the autonomous vehicle to explore the challenges of our emerging future. I will present the full discussion in five short segments, along with white board animation to visualize our dialog.

Chunka Mui is the managing director of the Devil’s Advocate Group, a consulting team that helps organizations design and stress test their innovation strategies. As a consultant on strategy and innovation, Mr. Mui has spent considerable time analyzing the autonomous vehicle scenario. He asked a question in his book The New Killer Apps about autonomous vehicles and what happens if traffic accidents are reduced by 90% as Google predicts. This simple question makes visible the broad and deep implications of these future scenarios. As society responds to their implications, new ecosystems emerge that alter our world. In this case, the vehicle is one of numerous components of an emerging mobility ecosystem that is defined by the responses that are playing out right now.

Here is the first of the five segments:

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