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May 15, 2020

The Ecosystemizer Story

Learn more about the Ecosystemizer Story. How it all began and how our idea came about.

Light bulb against a blue background and Ecosystemizer logo.

The story of Ecosystemizer and the Ecosystem Strategy Map begins over a couple of pints in one of Dusseldorf’s traditional breweries back in March 2017. We, Prof. Dr. Julian Kawohl and Dr. Denis Krechting met for dinner to discuss a potential research collaboration between our universities, HTW Berlin and RWTH Aachen. However, that night we ended up talking passionately about the necessity for business leaders to manage ecosystems and a lack of good solutions to help them.

An Unsolved Problem

Through our research, we had growing evidence that the digitization of our economy is leading to the formation of powerful ecosystems. This higher degree of digitization is allowing companies to manage greater complexity and create value propositions so dominant that they turn markets upside down. This should make it one of the most important initiatives on a company’s strategic agenda, although our experiences speaking to business leaders told a different story.

At the time, Denis was working with managers on multiple research projects on industry 4.0, while Julian was consulting managers from all industries on digital transformation and innovation strategy combining his academic expertise with his past experience being a strategic manager for a big insurance company. The situation was always the same: Business leaders knew of the importance of ecosystems but avoided the topic. Many had difficulties clearly structuring their thoughts on ecosystems. They weren’t aware of the requirements and key success factors to address the increasingly pressing issue.

That night it became obvious to us that we wanted to help companies and their leaders to easily navigate and position their offerings within ecosystems. Based on our findings we were certain of two things:

  1. Companies that aren’t part of an ecosystem will fall behind.
  2. Companies have to broaden their perspective beyond traditional industry sectors to human needs and ask the question: “Which human need(s) are we fulfilling within our ecosystem?”

Based on this insight, we created the first draft of our Ecosystem Strategy Map on the only thing available to us at the time, a beer mat.

Our version of the napkin pitch - a beer mat. The origin of the circle shape for the Ecosystem Strategy Map.

The Power Of The Many

Disruptive innovations and business models always impact our way of living. Whether the smartphone, social media or streaming - all share the commonality that they first change and later dominate our lifestyle by satisfying human needs.

Many of these new innovations were created by tech giants and unicorn startups. While most of these players gained their initial success through a blockbuster product or service, today many of them have evolved into powerful ecosystems that play a significant role in our lives.

This core paradigm is key to our world view. An ecosystem’s power lies in its ability to create and deliver dominant value propositions. This is achieved by addressing relevant human needs and solving them effectively through “the power of many”. No single company can compete against this community of collaborators. While being beneficial for all organizations involved in ecosystems, it is detrimental for those who aren't.

Our Why

Our goal for the Ecosystem Strategy Map is to find a way to intuitively visualize our worldview for any company. We are driven by the power of ecosystems evolving around human needs to spark dialogue, allow for analysis, and to make ecosystem design possible for everyone.

Within a few months of conceiving the idea, we developed an initial concept and started validating the Ecosystem Strategy Map with other tools that we created alongside every strategic business practitioner we met. After one year, we’ve already had more than 250 practitioners give us valuable feedback and we’ve continued to improve the tools through a series of workshops and consulting projects.

Many have confirmed the difficulties they experience managing the complexity of ecosystems. And countless business leaders have said how much the tools are helping them: To visualize their challenges. To analyze their ecosystem environment. To discuss ecosystem positioning and strategy. To design and communicate action steps. To create opportunities. To avoid falling behind.

Fast forward to today, we’ve spoken with more than 1,000 strategy practitioners, published articles in journals and magazines, and helped more than 20 companies navigate ecosystems - with Shell, Mercedes AMG, and Deutsche Bahn being some of the names among them.

These successes make us happy. They’re why we started the journey and created this website. This is only the beginning...

What You Can Find On This Site

This website aims to help you successfully navigate ecosystems with ease and fun:

  • You can learn more about our framework on our blog with more content coming regularly in the future.
  • Use our Ecosystem Strategy Map for your own business success and download for free. It is licensed under creative commons, so feel free to share it with others. We will upload more tools in the future.
  • Finally, to help you master ecosystem strategy and design we offer training solutions and consulting services.

In the coming months, we will continue to improve the content and tools of the website. We hope that you enjoy what you find here and we wish you all the best for your ecosystem success!

Julian & Denis

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