A sea with just sharks will soon be a sea devoid of life. The fish in a sea are as important as the predators. They keep the circle of life in balance. Our human society is not that different from natural ecosystems. In order to survive as an apex ‘predator’ one needs to understand the workings of an ecosystem, without misinterpreting the connection of ‘large’ and ‘success’. It is not the survival of the biggest, but the survival of the fittest. Successful organisations of the future are not by definition large, but they are capable of managing an extensive network of people and businesses, with only one purpose: customer centricity. What does this mean? How do businesses acquire the skills that are needed to build and maintain a business ecosystem and make sure they thrive in it?
Success is not measured on the days when the sun shines. Success is measured on the dark, stormy, cloudy days. And if you can’t absorb failure, you’re never going to meet success.” – Robert Herjavec (Shark Tank)
It is all about having the adaptive power to anticipate what is coming, and that is mostly change. Creating value in a continuously changing environment is crucial. Not only changes that derive from innovation, technology and the economy, but also change as a consequence of failures will define your company’s role within an ecosystem.
How to chart your course in an ecosystem
When you want to create or join a flourishing business ecosystem, what are your basic principles? What do you need to do?
Define. Define your company’s purpose. The ‘why’, what is your story?. The more this purpose is tied to solving a societal problem, the more engaged employees, partners, suppliers and customers will feel. Communicate your story clearly on all levels. It is the crucial step that should lead the way to your company’s mission and vision (and not the other way around!).
Understand. It is important that you understand the ecosystem and how the organisations in it interact. Your network is your key currency. How your network will introduce you to interesting parties is determines your likeability factor. Who you are is considerably influenced by who you know. Knowing the right people is what will give you the competitive advantage in business. Put it out there. Exposing that network publically will boost your position. Networks like LinkedIn Twitter, Facebook and Google give you the opportunity to establish credibility and influence to open doors that can help you thrive. Before you create this exposure for your business, you need to understand your own value creation in relation to the ecosystem. Ask yourself, “Am I prepared to evolve not only in the ecosystem but also as an organisation?”.
Follow. Follow the money. I know it sounds capitalistic, but decision making should be based on revenues. Only with investment money, you can make money and contribute to society. Follow the talent; to optimise the synergy of your network, it is important that you gather the right set of skills. Last but certainly not least: follow your instinct! When you use these three building stones, you need to developed your survival strategy along the way that will simultaneously define your role in the ecosystem. You can be the shark and, as the biggest fish in the sea, dominantly stipulate your conditions for success. Or maybe you function better as fish within a large school that hides among others in order to operate inconspicuous but effectively. Sometimes you need to be the parasite and hitch a ride on someone else’s fin in order to survive. And there are always opportunities for the diverse or dangerous species, so you might find out that you thrash about as a flying fish or a poisonous fish. Pick the role and strategy that helps you become valuable in your ecosystem, that are in line with your strengths. This might not always be the role you had dreamed of. But to make this circle round again: to successfully live with each other in an business ecosystem, every member should always focus on the ‘why’ (purpose) instead of on the ‘how’, so roles are harmoniously balanced and all members in it can benefit from a healthy ecosystem.
Take your entrepreneurship further
What more will empower your social entrepreneurship? They say luck is something you create. You can. Always be on the lookout for chances and opportunities, whether you are a shark or a flying fish. Regardless of the role you play within an business ecosystem, when you are on the move all the time and keep looking around, opportunities will knock on your door a lot of times. Do not only count the successes that derive from them, also your failures. Your survival depend on the way you deal with both valuable moments. It will establish your reputation in the ecosystem.