Knowing Your Ecosystems|A rich universe of opportunity
It’s become common to speak about the “connected” world. Most of the time, this refers to the power of the internet and communications. In my worlds of BTB consulting and community work, it’s the power of the personal and professional ecosystems at play. In fact, it’s getting more challenging to separate the personal and professional connections and I believe the ecosystems themselves can overlap in productive ways that enrich all parties involved.I believe the ecosystems themselves can overlap in productive ways that enrich all parties involved. Click To Tweet
Common definitions of an ecosystems include “a group of interconnected elements, formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their environment” or a system or network of interconnecting and interacting parts.”
Certainly I am not alone in honing in on this trend. Gartner ties it into the “Platform Economy” specifically honing in on API’s and their integration. These cloud-based technologies have accelerated the interest in the topic and put a business model into play that is essential in the software world.
Last October McKinsey published an article challenging companies to take on the “next frontier” of the “ecosystem economy.” Says McKinsey, “The emergence of ecosystems marks a shift in the landscape as unexpected alliances are forged, sector boundaries blur, and long-standing strengths count for less. It also marks a shift in how business leaders manage relationships within an ecosystem.” But the article leaves a chunk of ecosystem opportunity on the table and that’s what I plan to address because I am passionate about building them in all my personal and professional endeavors. From my earliest assignments in the corporate environment to nearly every marketing consulting assignment I have undertaken, ecosystem building plays a key role.
Get personal| It all starts with Relationships:
Before LinkedIn was conceived, the PowerSkills relationship management framework (Masciarelli, 2000) and companion book laid out the essentials for strategically identifying and cultivating key relationships.
The biggest myth going is the one that says relationships are all about ‘clicking’ or are the result of some vague form of chemistry or due to just plain luck….Relationships can be constructed, grown, fashioned, championed, fabricated, turned around, re-built, reborn, and materialized.
Masciarelli’s formula for achieving this is: Relationships= Trust + Value +Dialogue [ “R=T+V+D”]. My thesis is that having a strong base of diverse relationships is the foundation for Ecosystem building. Coupled with today’s electronic tools and the institutionalization of “partner” and “channel” programs, the sky is the limit for cross-fertilizing and growing healthy Ecosystems – but they still need to be managed with effective communications and mutual respect.
PowerSkills and its many case studies do any excellent job of outlining what form these take. Point of fact, a shared philosophy about relationships led me to working relationships and long friendship with Jim, who is now joining a new ecosystem. I defer to his book, PowerSkills and associated thought leadership for this essential jumping off point for Ecosystem building.
Yours, Mine, and Ours| Helping build Ecosystems
New Market Development has been a core part of my advisory practice. By its very nature, that means the client does not have a foot-hold in the market that is on the horizon. Therefore, identifying new entry points via relationships is a critical success factor. The first step is often helping clients sort, prioritize, and reach out to their own networks to check on their status and see if they can be a jumping off point to the new ones. It’s also an opportunity to reach out to others in the organization and do the same. Here are a few use cases that speak to the new market development aspect of ecosystem building.
The first is from an assignment in the educational technology market where the client was seeking to sell a new line of products that were not in the purview of the existing buyer/persona, the Director of IT. The new target was the university provost. To understand the market, research with these academic persona required outreach to an entirely new group of individuals and these relationships were scattered throughout the organization and current partners.
The second – a very robust case involved work on behalf of a Venture fund on an industry collaboration. The target contacts were in the marketing organizations of the technology companies. However, the client’s contacts were often with the CIO’s, founders, CEO’s or investors. The programs required us to create an entirely new ecosystem of marketing contacts. By doing so, we woke up many relationships that were dormant and created entirely new lines of communication with companies large and small.
The third involved a concierge services company. My client needed to understand if the hospitality and travel markets were going to be target “vertical markets” yet they didn’t have the resources to hire someone to call on this market. The solution was to tap a friend who is a travel industry expert, working as a senior product executive on the wholesale side of the business. In a ½ day, she downloaded an in depth FTF review of the industry, its challenges, and other insights that sent us in the right direction. Effectively, we borrowed her from her day job. I don’t work in travel and neither did the client, but by crossing over into a personal ecosystem I was able to help.
Ecosystem Value Added| Bridging your worlds
Strategically adding my own relationships to the clients’ is a win-win scenario I call this simply 1+1=3. My diverse interests ranging from technology trends to golf to art (and everything in between) allows me to cross over many personal and professional networks. There always had been a perceived “boundary” between the personal and professional that seems to now be challenged in our newly connected universe. Finding the right cross over is where it can get really interesting since each relationship brings its own “ecosystem” into the framework.
“Common ground” is a long-developed notion. What’s new is all the ways to identify and amplify that common ground in our uber-connected ecosystems and platforms. What does it take to build our personal and professional ecosystems? How can they help us in business and personally? Where can I begin to find and better understand them? In the coming months, this series will present some ways of looking at various ecosystems that we already may have activated with an eye toward how they can be better utilized and cross-fertilized. I will address my experience with the various ecosystems with some client examples where appropriate.
For now, I will offer this notion before we meet again. Do you apply the same set of ecosystem principles to all your relationships – business colleagues, friends, family, acquaintances, and mentors? Do you or others put up barriers – real or perceived? Perhaps crossing this bridge will be the first step in opening up new opportunities – both personally and professionally.
 James Masciarelli, PowerSkills, Nimbus Press, 2000