What is a Ecosystem (in Business)?

There are many words in English that begin with "eco-", and they're being used more and more in everyday communication, including in business. This is a consequence of the general rise in interest in the state of the natural environment over the last 20-30 years.

An "ecosystem" describes the network and interdependence of natural phenomena in a given place. In the one pictured here, the Everglades of south Florida, the key players - animals, plants, water and the geography - support each other most of the time. In fact, contrary to what's often believed, the "flora and fauna" at least tend not to compete too much, except as absolutely necessary.

In the business context of ecosystems, there's also a food/supply chain that's typically competitive, but it's also increasingly collaborative. This is in part due to the technical standards of certain industries (e.g. aerospace is very commercial, but also requires close working between manufacturers and the airlines that fly their products), but may also reflect the fact that organisations now choose to outsource services (e.g. IT, marketing, HR) for a variety of reasons. As promised in our post of 15 October 2015 "Why do we need Companies?", we'll look at this in more detail in the near future.

A business ecosystem is a complex set of relationships that relies on mutual benefits, something the Everglades players instinctively seem to understand. However, as in many industries, the overall health of the environment there relies on the vigilance of a regulator, in this case Man, which controls access and behaviours within the ecosystem, so everyone can stay safe.


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