A shift is taking place. It’s hard to say when it began or where it ends, but it’s definitely happening. It’s messy, uncomfortable and uncontainable…and hard to watch. We characterize it as a “disruption” in the hopes it’s going away, but it’s not. Awash in a surge of change, treading water in the hopes of regaining our footing, wherever we land will be unfamiliar. How am I doing summarizing our recent experience?
A more realistic response acknowledges the messiness and helps us adapt. After all, the imperative is not only to survive, but to thrive. What if we come out of this shift in an open, evolving ecosystem that creates collective strength and resilience in the face of constant change?
Ecosystems are communities that are:
– evolving, and
And they’re not necessarily biological.
Ecosystems celebrate diversity, not conformity, and that variety meets our needs in ways we cannot on our own. What one organism produces another consumes, creating endless cycles of growth. In the same way, organizations are forming ecosystems…orgcosystems.
Traditionally existing in industry silos, built to withstand head-to-head competition…a survival of the fittest…today’s organizations are seeking ways to connect and support one another through both their common purpose and unique differences. Their old assumptions and pathways have washed away, and while they may continue to lead, they can no longer do so within the security of a single, well-defined lane.
In an orgcosystem, companies find ways to contribute to one another’s program, product and service offerings, and everyone involved amplifies the resulting value proposition.
Consider the possibilities:
It’s a different way of thinking…doing…being. Organizations that weren’t even in your sphere in the past are now interested and available to form working relationships…not just transactional relationships…but interdependent relationships. Whether or not they directly map to your bottom line, they can provide you with stakeholders, services and supports that help sustain you moving forward.
While the graphic defines direct connections with your organization, each entity surrounding yours also has free-flowing relationships with one another. Of course, your orgcosystem won’t be as large as the one pictured, but it will provide you needed value through a select combination of:
– Former direct competitors that provide expertise after making the shift
– Product suppliers that make key components for your business
– Service providers that support key processes in your organization
– Community partners that help you connect to your stakeholders
– Higher education partners that provide action research and analysis
– Member associations that offer you access to their audience
– Nonprofits that share your organization’s values and vision
– Charities and foundations to fund your worthy philanthropic ventures
– Government agencies that serve your stakeholders
– Technology providers that offer solutions and services
– Media agencies that enhance and extend your public relations impact
– Transportation providers (cars, buses, trains, airlines) using your services
– Health groups that share your values and use your products/services
– Entertainment providers (television, movies, music) promoting your vision
In the same way, you provide reciprocal value to the other organizations in your orgcosystem, creating a mutually beneficial balance.
Orgcosystems adapt and evolve to remain viable. As they grow in size and complexity, more energy is distributed across the entire community. As a result, organizations can divest themselves of processes they previously paid for to remain self-sustaining and redirect those resources to their core mission.
Imagine the power of even five or six organizations forming an orgcosystem. It’s time you start building yours.
Walter McKenzie is Senior Director for Constituent Services at ASCD, leading its affiliate, connected community, professional interest community, student chapter and emerging leader programs.