Business Ecosystems: Rethink in Biological Metaphors

The Multiplicity of Classroom

The Multiplicity of Classroom

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  The future, as depicted by the movie “Matrix”, seems gradually becoming true: We now live in a world with an unprecedented level of complexity. Individuals and organisations become nodes in a large interconnected and intertwined web. Innumerable data is being transferred from one node to another each second, and

 

The future, as depicted by the movie “Matrix”, seems gradually becoming true: We now live in a world with an unprecedented level of complexity. Individuals and organisations become nodes in a large interconnected and intertwined web. Innumerable data is being transferred from one node to another each second, and meanwhile old nodes are disappearing and new nodes forming. Transversely, the complexity is reflected in many aspects of our living world.

 

The academic fields of sociology and sciences seeded the conceptual map long ago. The concept of Ecosophy, developed by Guattari and Deleuze (1980), describes subjectivity as the growth of “Rhizome” that changes between deterritorilisation and reterritorilisation constantly. Changes of the respective self-organising and chaotic individual status form the collectivity of a large group. The emergence of Economic Sociology, emphasises the importance upon how individual people and organisations are linked to one another since the1970s (Doerr & Powell). This takes effort to research in relation to the complicated networks between associations. On the system level, an organisation’s researchers take a more biological approach to investigation. “Ecosystem”, is the word for them to describe the complex status (1993, Moore). Adapted from biological science and combined with dynamic theory, “Ecosystem” demonstrates a system composed by loosely linked self-organisations that push the system toward co-evolution through negotiations amongst one another.

 

The reality shows some correspondence with those conceptual predictions. Design makes it possible to demonstrate data visually, as the popular infographics provide a useful way to draw those links beautifully and interestingly. The avant-garde architects design the incredible “emergence” model that derives from computing complex systems and patterns arising out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. Leaders from business giants start to talk about “building an ecosystem regardless of industries” around their companies. The players that weren’t competing before now come together, with the formation of the overlapping ecosystems, competing on resources and customers. Companies as Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook etc. are currently doing so.

 

How does such changing landscape affect our way of doing things? First, is to be capable of seeing things you need to see among so many distractions. What is the right data to approach and how to interpret them are key questions. This is also what consulting firms claim they can do and what they are good at. The models and methodologies proposed by them are essentially narratives that arrange data into a certain logic, which will lead to certain insights. Therefore, the new landscape requires new narratives that are capable to interpret respective complex systems. For business practitioners, the implication is to use such narrative to cultivate a different eye to view the complex business environment as an ecosystem. It contains two folds of meanings. In short-term, they should view their individual businesses as constantly changing biological species that form multiple links with stakeholders and competitors around it. They react in accordance with the change of the ecosystem. In the long run, they should figure out what is the best way to co-evolve with other species inside the ecosystem, if possible, figure out what is the evolution direction of a particular ecosystem. Then they need to decide what needs to change at the gene level and what needs to stay as the advantage accumulation.

 

Business ecosystem perspectives opens a new window for business practitioners to retrospect their strategies, decision-making processes, and the ways of doing business. If the ultimate goal is to co-evolve in the long run, all the endeavors to accelerate the competition, take over the resources and get the short-term profit should be rethought.