April 28, 2022

Ecosystem Roles from Medieval Market to Fashion Ecosystem

What role can your company play in a business ecosystem and where do they actually originate from?

The roles illustrated of one of the oldest business ecosystems is the medieval weekly market.

Our new book Ecosystemize Your Business will be published next week.

One of its key insights is that business ecosystems fulfill three roles: Orchestrators, Realizers and Enablers. 

Compared to standalone companies, ecosystems and their participants can leverage greater efficiency through “the power of the many.” To realize this advantage, companies must understand their current position and future options to participate in and/or build ecosystems. Using the Ecosystem-to-Human (E2H) perspective, ecosystem players can be categorized into three major roles depending on their relationship with the final customer/human: Orchestrators, Realizers, and Enablers.

One of the oldest business ecosystems is the medieval weekly market.

The city’s role was to provide the marketplace (physical platform) where business transactions happened. It Orchestrated vendors and their market stands, as well as the layout of the weekly market. The vendors provided products (e.g., a baker sold bread, a farmer sold vegetables, etc.) for the people to help them Realize and fulfill their need to eat. In the background, other trades and businesses Enabled the ecosystem to work: Carpenters to build market stands, toolmakers to make a plow for the farmer, or a mason to build the ovens for baking bread.

Business Ecosystems in the digital world: E-Commerce

Due to digitalization, marketplaces today look a bit different. E-Commerce is the key that facilitates today‘s modern business ecosystem. It still consists of groups that take on these three roles: Zalando provides a digital fashion platform and Orchestrates all vendors on it. Vendors like Adidas provide people with apparel options to Realize their clothing needs. Cotton farmers or software providers Enable Adidas to produce the clothing. But companies can take on multiple roles at the same time. Zalando could have its own labels in addition to its platform, which also makes it a Realizer.

B2B, B2C and E2H

The interactions between different roles can be divided into three types of transition: B2B players have no contact with the final customers but they support many different Enablers, Realizers and Orchestrators with their services and products. By contrast, B2C players provide their services and products directly to the final customer/human. 

When a company’s understanding of itself goes from a standalone B(usiness) to E(cosystem), it changes to a collective identity. Now, the questions become: “How can we create the most value together? How can I partner and contribute to the ecosystem? How can we optimize our ecosystem?” The new focus on the optimization of the entire system is more complex, but offers greater efficiency gains relative to self-optimization. And that’s where “the power of the many” comes into play. We refer to this shift to an ecosystem-to-human mindset as E2H. This involves contact with the customer/human on the part of a combination of players in multiple ecosystem roles. E2H is, therefore, a dynamic new paradigm for conducting business as a combination of partners that join forces to form an ecosystem. 

To learn more about the three roles and how to design a customized Ecosystem Strategy Map for your company, make sure to get your copy of Ecosystemize Your Business next week. Don’t delay.

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