Thinkers50 new book Ecosystems Inc. featuring Geoff Tuff & Steve Goldbach

In Thinkers50 new book Ecosystems Inc., some of the world’s leading management thinkers make sense of what it takes to understand, harness and develop organization ecosystems. Geoff Tuff, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and Doblin senior leader, and Steven Goldbach, principal and Chief Strategy Officer, Deloitte Consulting LLP share their insights on the strategic choices of ecosystem participation in Chapter 23: “The sea star syndrome: on the strategic choices of ecosystem participation”.

Below is an excerpt from the chapter:

Try as we might, we can’t think of a business that could credibly say it doesn’t participate in any ecosystem as part of its business model. Any company with a value chain – even if the outsiders comprise just suppliers, customers, and competitors – is technically part of an ecosystem. But even though they have existed forever in business history, ecosystems suddenly seem to be the hot new thing in management thinking. What is new is the urgency to access the best possible capabilities as quickly as possible just to survive, let alone be competitive.

Increasingly, if an organization wants to remain competitive, it can’t rely on the capabilities it can conceivably create within its four walls. Further, because of technology, it’s becoming easier and easier to access the capabilities of outside organizations. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the topic of ecosystems is rising quickly on the strategy agendas. Ecosystems are not new, but in the face of this new optionality, it is newly important that leaders need to make very clear ecosystem choices.

Specifically, we believe leaders need to wrestle with two broad choices in particular:

1. Where to Play (in ecosystems): For which business objectives should we leverage ecosystem partners (versus developing all the necessary capabilities ourselves) and therefore which other organizations should we work with towards our objectives?

2. How to Win (in ecosystems): What form should our ecosystem take and how can we ensure that it results in our fair share of competitive advantage? How will we differentiate our ecosystem from others attempting to pursue the same objectives?

Ecosystem participation is one of the few genuinely recursive strategic choices, requiring not just close attention but near-continuous monitoring and revisiting. Every time you make a shift in both your Where to Play and How to Win choices as relates to ecosystems, there will be a ripple effect through every other aspect of your strategy. And we are increasingly finding that no company should rest on its business model laurels in the face of uncertainty.

As with any trend in management science, there will be leaders and laggards when it comes to exerting choice around ecosystem strategy. And the winners will almost surely be those who take a proactive stance, avoiding the fate of the wave-whipped sea star pulled by the nature’s forces from one tidal pool to another, never in control of its destiny.

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