Finding the Right Scope: Utilizing Ecosystem Domains and Super Topics for Growth and Innovation
Ecosystem Domains to identify which ecosystem topics fit for your future positioning and which Super Topics work for your business.
A significant challenge when working with managers in business ecosystems is to get clarity and focus in the jungle of possible options.
On the one hand, it's great that companies essentially have infinite partnering options allowing them to create business opportunities in almost every segment. But, on the other hand, because of the scarcity of resources for establishing and running ecosystems effectively, (top) management must set priorities for any new business endeavours.
We've developed a logical and intuitive structure to adequately address this issue and discover the proper scope for your ecosystem activities.
Companies must first understand that ecosystems develop and evolve in response to human needs.
This paradigm shift is known as Ecosystem-to-Human (E2H).
Two factors drive the logic behind this:
1) Operating model/identity
2) Value creation focus/purpose.
After utilizing the E2H viewpoint and analyzing the different life areas and roles, a company must decide what to do and what not to do. You can use the so-called "Ecosystem Domains" to identify which ecosystem topics might be a good fit for your future positioning. Using Ecosystem Domains will also allow you to analyze your assets and market position to formulate your specific ecosystem strategy.
How were the Ecosystem Domains developed?
Since many of our ecosystem project clients have struggled to determine the correct scope for their ecosystem efforts, our goal was primarily motivated by a practical need to solve this problem.
We began by researching scientific papers and practitioner-oriented publications. Due to a lack of relevant concepts, we developed a unique approach for ecosystem scoping.
By analyzing current mega and technology trends and developments among major ecosystem players, we were able to identify 15 Ecosystem Domains across all life areas. Then, through intense desktop research, we examined each domain concerning specific ecosystem activities and potential.
There were two underlying goals:
1) Relevance: Identifying the most relevant issues for ecosystem activities
2) Practicability: Establishing an intuitive approach that can be generalized and applied to each company.
We analysed using a worldwide perspective, recognizing obvious distinctions in each country and community. By deliberately taking a high-level position, we could gain a substantial understanding of the "big "Ecosystem Domains independent of particular market environments. We then further divided each domain into Ecosystem Topics that are currently developing or thriving as established ecosystems.
We continuously tested and validated the methodology through multiple workshops and increased its practical use for ecosystem scoping. During that process, we refined the definition and the limits of the Ecosystem Domains based on relevant practitioner feedback. This process was deemed finished when there were no more significant adjustments expressed.
Which main Ecosystem Domains and Topics were identified?
We divided the domains into two categories: Converging Domains (running across several Life Areas) and Super Domains (incorporating all Life Areas across a Role). Super Domains are usually foundational for companies positioned in a related Role, for example, the Super-Realizer Domain for Realizers and the Super-Enabler Domain for Enablers.
There is also a "Super-Topic" of Sustainability relevant for every business, regardless of its definition of sustainable economic activity.
The complete list of Domains and Super-Topics we identified are as follows:
This domain focuses on efficient and integrated personal transportation solutions. The two big topics of this domain are autonomous driving and shared mobility.
This domain is focused on health as a whole. The most important topics of this domain are complementary and alternative medicine, corporate health, elderly care, healing architecture, health literacy, digital health and finally, preventive health.
Rest and Relaxation:
This domain revolves around people's physical and psychological well-being. Relevant topics are sports, travelling and wellness.
This domain is about new ways of working together and managing the workforce. One of the main topics is a 'new office' (rethinking physical workplaces and accelerated transformation in home offices).
Other topics include gig economy (which refers to a sector of the labour market in which typically small jobs are performed by freelancers on a short-term basis) collaboration to fulfil different tasks or platforms that simplify working together.
Finally, the whole topic of human resources, including job placement, recruiting, contract law, employee development that are more and more performed through ecosystem initiatives, is also part of this domain.
Personal Wealth and Legal:
This domain is all about individual finance and investment and includes planning and managing personal financial activities such as income generation, saving, investing, and wealth protection. This domain also covers legal (e.g. criminal law, civil, and tax law) and real estate topics (buying, renting, and selling private properties).
Customized and Fast Demand Fulfillment:
This domain revolves around everyday outsourcing services such as grocery delivery, furniture assembly, car repair, and cleaning services. Other topics are advertising, agriculture, e-commerce and retail, and the sharing economy for goods, services, and resources.
Belief and Mindfulness:
This domain highlights religion, awareness (e.g. meditation, yoga, reflection), and esotericism (e.g. astrology, alchemy, magic, illuminism).
This domain includes topics like communication and social networks, as well as dating and sex. Moreover, the broad topic of networking is also part of this domain.
This domain is split into three main topics: science, lifelong learning, and formal education (preschool, school, apprenticeship, and university).
This domain is all about different forms of entertainment, including sports events (such as soccer, American football, and basketball), gaming, arts and digital media, which can include areas like streaming of music, videos, and e-books.
This domain highlights the topics of Smart Cities, Smart homes and home improvement (Do It Yourself). The Smart city describes holistic development concepts that aim to make cities more efficient, technologically advanced, greener, and more social utilizing sensor-based decision making. The Smart home is the equivalent on the private side. It describes a system of networked, remote-controlled devices and automated processes in living spaces and houses that increase the quality of life, safety, energy efficiency and more.
Super-Realizer & Super Enabler Domains:
- Security: This domain is all about information technology (IT) security, both in business and privately. It highlights, among other things, instruments, processes, and procedures for establishing and verifying the privacy and identity of persons. This domain also encompasses justice, defence and law enforcement.
- Infrastructure: Important topics in this domain include telecommunication services (e.g. 5G infrastructure), Smart building and construction, Smart Energy and Smart logistics. Other significant topics are financial transactions and e-government (simplification, implementation, and support of processes for information, communication, and transactions within and between state, communal, and other official institutions).
Super Enabler Domains:
- B2B-Services: The main topics of this domain are business administration, including software (e.g., for project management, communication, etc.), data analytics and various other business tools and services, accounting, business law and consulting. B2B Banking and B2B Insurance are also included in this domain.
- Industrie 4.0: This domain is mainly about Smart production and its related services. These topics are based on computer-integrated manufacturing optimized for high customizability, fast design changes, and digital information technology.
Super Topic Domains:
- Sustainability: The most critical topics in this domain are circular economy, green investments and zero-emission economy. Green mobility - which includes car-sharing, public transport, and last-mile mobility like e-bikes, electric scooters, and electric skateboards are also a relevant part of this domain.
To get a detailed understanding of what is behind each of the Ecosystem Domains, let's use Holistic Wellbeing as an example. This domain is converging since it spreads across Life Areas, including Health, Recreation, Work, Consumption, Spirituality, and Living.
The most crucial Ecosystem Topics in this domain are:
- Healing Architecture: is an aspect of environmental health. It focuses on natural and built environments beneficial to health. Integral to this area is Smart homes and Smart buildings — applying technological processes and systems to improve the quality of life in homes, workplaces, and other facilities.
- Elderly Care: is driven by a rapidly ageing population worldwide. People with disabilities and special needs, no matter their age, also use many of these services. Elderly care includes ambulatory care, nursing homes, (ambient) assisted living, and health-related retirement provisions, among other services
- Corporate Health: is holistically integrated into the everyday life of both healthcare consumers and healthcare providers. It includes health software and tools that collect, analyze, and transmit health data to improve healthcare and health consulting services and health infrastructure.
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine: are used in addition to, or instead of, conventional medicine. Areas of practice include mind-body therapies (e.g. meditation, yoga); therapeutic manipulation of muscles and other soft body tissues (e.g. massages, reflexology); energetic medicine or biofield therapy (e.g. Reiki); biologically based practices (e.g. botanicals like cannabis, strategic food diets, etc.); and entire medical systems (e.g. naturopathy, ayurvedic, or traditional Chinese medicine).
- Preventive Health: seeks to maintain or improve health by understanding and minimizing health risks. It includes areas like epidemiology (dealing with the causes and consequences of health-related conditions and events in populations); preventive immunology (improving the body's defences against biological pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi); stress management (learning to relieve everyday stresses and strains that take a toll on health); sports and physical activity; healthy diet.
- Health Literacy: knowledge about health is more important than ever. Potential niches to explore include information technology (electronic data processing and the hardware and software infrastructure that can contribute to Health Literacy); integrative medicine (enabling doctors to treat the whole person and not just the disease); and self-assessment of one's health.
- Digital Health: is an overarching topic that has evolved primarily around collecting and using health data to benefit holistic well-being. New players and corporate initiatives in Healthtech, Fittech, and Sportstech are emerging to improve healthcare efficiency and more effectively individualize therapies, treatments, and preventive measures. Supporting these initiatives are digital devices such as smartphones, tablets or trackers and their respective apps. Digital Health also includes "distance medicine" technologies like telemedicine and remote surgery, which provide healthcare services across physical distances.
When looking at the Ecosystem Domains in an overview, you can see that they are not mutually exclusive; there are conscious overlaps between particular domains. For example, grocery delivery to consumers as a topic in the domain 'Customized and Fast Demand Fulfillment' can be performed by a workforce who are part of the gig economy matchmaking platform (a topic in the New Work domain). The first topic is consumer service, whereas the latter is in the B2B context, and both topics require unique ecosystem approaches.
There may be multiple instances of domain overlaps, which can be challenging since we are used to having clearly defined categories. However, there is a significant reason to accept them despite the challenges. Ecosystem Domains serve as teasers for ecosystem scoping.
The identified Ecosystem Domains were selected in a collectively exhaustive way across and within the domains. That means all currently relevant ecosystem topics are listed. When considering that the primary function of Ecosystem Domains is to find the proper scope and identify beneficiary ecosystem topics, we see the logic behind these decisions as acceptable.
How to use the Ecosystem Domains in practice?
The 15 defined Ecosystem Domains and Super Topic: Sustainability guide you in determining the most relevant areas for future ecosystem activity.
A good exercise is to do a walkthrough with your ecosystem strategy team. First, together with your team, review each of the 15 Ecosystem Domains (plus the Super Topic: Sustainability). Then, go through the most critical ecosystem topics and put those that seem most promising into three buckets:
- The low-hanging fruit: The Ecosystem Topics that most closely align with your company's current ecosystem strategy, based on your current Strategic Ambition and core strategy.
- The high-hanging fruit: For adjacent Ecosystem Topics that your company feels comfortable pursuing.
- The rotten fruit: For Ecosystem Topics that present your team with no meaningful touchpoints or topics that are out of reach.
You can either do this physically, printing each Ecosystem Topic description on a separate page and using three actual buckets or similar containers. Alternatively, you can review the lists in digital form.
Based on what you now have in your three buckets or three lists, you can work as a team to discuss, research, prioritize, and vote for the best topics that are worthy of further consideration.
At the end of this exercise, the results can be aggregated and a heatmap created with the most relevant Ecosystem Domains.
Once your top Ecosystem Domains have been identified, you can further analyze your assets and market position for each Ecosystem topic by reviewing the prioritized Ecosystem Topics and starting the ideation process for specific ecosystem use cases.
Given the dynamic nature of ecosystems, we view these domains not as absolute and static, but rather as current perspectives that will likely change and evolve. However, these domains have proven stable enough to be useful for strategic discussions and long-term decision-making. To stay as accurate as possible, they should be constantly adapted and changed with trends, new legal bases and current findings.
Our management book Ecosystemize Your Business, includes the first version (v1). If you are interested or have any questions, please contact us.