How to put the ecosystem diagram to work

Many business leaders with extensive institutional knowledge and industry experience work in a methodical fashion – loyal to the processes and systems that have historically driven success. This fixed mindset creates a bottleneck throughout the organization and impedes the team’s ability to evolve, excel and innovate.
Wednesday, October 26, 2022

It’s human nature to behave like a fish in water. A fish goes about its life in ways that are aligned with its goal — survival. It hunts for prey, moves from place to place to search for sustenance, and finds suitable mates to ensure the survival of its own species. While the fish is typically incredibly self-aware and self-sufficient, it’s often unaware of the very thing that makes its existence possible — water.

In business, if we aren’t deeply entrenched in our ecosystem, we tend to behave like a fish in water.

Start with a map

Generally, your ecosystem is a visualization of your business and how it operates. When you start to map it, it’s important to first identify the elements that make it work and all the activities working in concert to ensure processes operate smoothly. This includes your people, resources, deliverables, infrastructure, and partners along the supply chain.

Essentially, this map provides an inside glimpse at the business and the state of operations in a way that’s easy to digest and understand. More importantly, mapping your ecosystem equips you with rich indications on how you’re tracking towards your objectives.

Orient yourself

As you navigate from where you are to where you want to be, your business will eventually show movement and activity. However, it’s normal to get lost in the navigation, unsure if you‘re truly charting the path forward.

In such times, take a step back and reorient yourself to ensure you’re moving in the right direction. A single misstep is all it takes for things to fail, and mapping your ecosystem can save you from vulnerabilities. It’s critical to recalibrate and resync, which is one of the key benefits of mapping your ecosystem.

Put things in perspective

Many companies are comfortable conforming to the status quo, especially if they’re not alerted to anything glaringly detrimental to the business. However, if your company is already successful, your perspective may change when you discover the opportunities you still stand to gain.

If you’re intimately familiar with your ecosystem, you may realize you have too many eggs in one basket. For instance, you may have production centers concentrated in one area, which makes you vulnerable in the event of a natural calamity. Mapping your ecosystem can also shine a light on other opportunities that might have been overlooked otherwise.

Overall, ecosystem mapping makes it easier to react, plan, ideate, and strategize ahead of time.

Parker Lee

Parker Lee is the managing partner of Territory, a design consultancy, who has developed and led teams in transformation, design thinking, and business development for decades. Co-author of The Art of Opportunity, he has created and facilitated dozens of design and visual thinking engagements.

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