As organizations look to differentiate in a dynamic digital economy, increasingly they are adopting the same innovation model that new entrants are so dependent on - an ecosystem-driven innovation model. Defined as an “economic community supported by a foundation of interacting organizations and individuals”, an ecosystem has three characteristics :
- Every member has a mutual relationship where the survival of all members means the survival of the ecosystem
- Partners grow and evolve their capabilities around new innovations together, and lastly
- Ecosystems are often based on a platform – tools, services or technologies that enhance the performance of its members.
Businesses cannot rely solely on internal resources to bring new products, services, and experiences to the market, especially if they aspire to be a first mover. Chances are, they just don’t have the resources, skillsets, or the time to build those skillsets before others gain competitive advantage.
In an ecosystem-driven innovation model, dynamically specialized partners work collaboratively towards a shared goal, creating new possibilities individually and collectively for each of the ecosystem’s constituents. Collaborating with others in an orchestrated manner improves efficiency and more importantly, builds the capability to innovate from new and diverse areas of expertise.
While it may seem overwhelming to work with many different ideas and key players, when managed well it also creates an empowering sense of purpose and ambition for all involved. The motivation to work at the pace required comes from having a clear line of sight to the end goal, especially if it is one that clearly benefits the consumers of your product or service.
Ultimately, ecosystems, like any meaningful innovation, strive to solve a problem and even better, address a fundamental human need. One of the reasons that innovators miss out on being a market leader is that their ecosystem lacks rapid problem-solving capability. It is human nature for individuals, even those who have been genuinely empowered to act, to hesitate in raising a problem that can be solved by the larger ecosystem. They hope that difficult problems can be solved through their individual effort and/or expertise. Think about the last time you engaged others on a problem you could not solve? How much time was lost before you got help? To be a first-mover you need to be able to be decisive, courageous, and collaborative. The more you can reward those who step up to solve difficult problems quickly through the ecosystem, the quicker you will solve problems and the better the chances your innovation will be in time to be a first-mover.
Ecosystems do not need to be complex or overly sophisticated to be effective. They do, however, need a solid foundation of ambition, mutually helpful relationships, shared rewards, and a clear line of sight to a common goal. Orchestrated ecosystems of empowered partners with shared intellectual property are winning the race to be a first-mover while providing limitless opportunities to bring innovation to market faster, better, and smarter than anything you have experienced before.
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 &  J. Bosch & P.M. Bosch-Sijtsema (2014). ESAO: A holistic ecosystem analysis model. In proceedings (Springer) of ICSOB 2014 - The 5th International Conference on Software Business, June 15-18, Cyprus.