When you hear the word ecosystem, you imagine forests, rivers, and oceans. The theory of business ecosystems was developed by James Moore in 1993. An industry ecosystem is when multiple businesses come together for the collective benefit of themselves and their common customers. They exist to create more value than the individual parties could on their own. To successfully stay competitive in today's market, industries have to work in an ecosystem.
Moore stated that there are four stages in the ecosystem – birth, expansion, leadership, and self-renewal. If they don't achieve self-renewal, the fourth stage is death. A successful business should understand the ecosystem they're involved in to stay relevant. A job seeker should know this information to open the door to broader career changes or a shift in industry.
Ecosystems in industries create an economic community. Supplies, lead producers, competitors, stakeholders, and even customers are part of the system. Each entity plays a role and is affected by others. Therefore, the relationship is constantly evolving, but only if each contributor is flexible and willing to make and accept changes.
Moore explained, over time, they co-evolve their capabilities and roles and tend to align themselves with the direction set by one or more central companies. Those companies holding leadership roles may change over time, but the function of the ecosystem leader is valued by the community because it enables members to move toward shared visions to align their investments and find mutually supportive roles. Rather than battling for market shares, companies can collaborate. Essentially, they function with simultaneous cooperation and competition.
Industries working as an ecosystem benefit the whole picture. The ecosystem works and interacts through competition and cooperation which results in growth and sales. Though businesses are often in competition and working individually can bring more immediate income, collaborating allows companies to continue to grow. They benefit from shared resources, increased employment, and reduced costs.
Apple is a good example of such success. When they first introduced personal computers, they led with their signature computer design and software. At the same time, they employed individual software developers to write programs and advertised their products with standalone magazines, stores, and training institutions. They weren't afraid to branch out and involve other parties. That was over 50 years ago, and we all know Apple is still thriving today.
Many people don't realize that they are able to change industries. You are not restricted to the role you're in. This is where your industry ecosystem comes into play. Ecosystems are like chains and connections. At any time, employees are interacting with colleagues, suppliers, manufacturers, and customers. Each interaction is a learning experience and direct exposure to the inner workings of other industries.
If you are considering making a shift, do a self-evaluation. What transferable skills do you have? Often these are soft skills such as communication, organization, relationship-building, negotiating, and problem-solving. But when your industry is working alongside others, you're also networking with professionals who can help you find your aligning qualifications. For example, if you work in car manufacturing, you're familiar with the raw material process, how logistics companies function, details of retail distributors, and modern technological developments.
If you need inspiration, utilize LinkedIn to grow your network. Look at where your former colleagues are working now to get an idea of what you could branch into. With your ecosystem exposure, you can identify gaps in your skill set. Before you make a career change, attempt to gain these skills to make you more attractive to an employer in a different industry.
Companies and industries must embrace collaboration. Technology continues to advance at a rapid pace. Partnering up means staying ahead of the game and providing the most innovative, advanced product possible. Achieving this solo isn't just difficult, but it also threatens to fall behind. An ecosystem is an opportunity to thrive alongside competition, developers, suppliers, and customers.
Working in this open environment means companies can benefit from a particular product and even expand what they're offering. Partnering up also makes it possible for new innovations to emerge that otherwise would never have been possible. If a company wants to stay relevant and competitive, it must embrace its industry ecosystem.
As an employee and a job seeker, the opportunity for skill growth is huge. Exposure to these developments and working alongside broader industries opens doors for career growth and shifts. Understand the ecosystem you're a part of. Don't hesitate to learn about who your company works with and what the process is. If you're in retail, get to know the packing system in the warehouse, who is designing the clothes, and where they're made. If you work in computer sales, learn about the product you sell, advancing software, and the supply chains involved.
The point is, while you're in a position – learn as much as possible and carry these skills on with you in your next job search.