The Value Department

Why is ecosystem thinking important for your present and future business models?

Today, at the end of the digital revolution, IBM is at a similar juncture as it was four decades ago (when almost missing out on the minicomputer personal computer revolution). However, the approach IBM currently takes is 180 degrees different. Instead of secretly developing a new product, it is building a collaborative network to develop quantum computing. IBM indicates that the technology is simply too complex for a single firm to develop alone. 

And so, it goes for many challenges we face today, whether it is the energy transition, digitalization, or a growing necessity to address climate change, a single firm has a hard time, if not a mission impossible, to solve the complex and required transitions we are about to face.

That’s where ecosystem thinking comes into play.

Ecosystem thinking is the belief that value creation is a collaborative result that involves multiple stakeholders within an ecosystem.

A business ecosystem consists of multiple stakeholders – centered around the value proposition for your client or your client’s client – where the value created together is more than the value created alone.

Compared to traditional thinking, ecosystem thinking is a shift from “me” to “we”;

  • from internal value chain focus to external ecosystem value growth
  • from focus mainly on operational efficiencies and ‘economies of scale’ to creating user snowball effects (so-called ‘network effects’)
  • from development alone to teaming up with partners and co-creating
  • from competitors to complementors
  • from suppliers to partners

Each client proposition (product/market combination) has its own business ecosystem and that leads to the fact that the centre of gravity of a business ecosystem plays an important role in addressing your customer needs and creating a stronger competitive advantage. To determine the strategic direction of your company, it is very important to consider what the role of your organization in this business ecosystem could be. Are you a leader or a follower, an innovator or an imitator, an orchestrator, or a participant?

Sound easy? Well, the challenge is to find the sweet spot in your ecosystems. Trying to lead or to orchestrate doesn’t always make sense… Your added value needs to be unmissable. You need to find your spot where nobody is going to be better than you, where you can’t be made redundant, and your business still adds value, and the ecosystem creates value. 

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