Let me start off the bat with a mea culpa as it relates to the four buzzwords or clichés that are anywhere on the continuum of painful to putrid: big data, native advertising, transmedia, and ecosystem.
Now that I’ve got that out there, let me concede along the spirit of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”, that I’ve reconciled myself internally to say “big data” and “ecosystem” without using air quotes or wincing. I’m even coming around to “native advertising”, although I still think this nothing more than classic branded content integration — even advertorial, if you think about it.
As far as “transmedia” is concerned, you can forget about it. I’m just not going there, although I’m all for gender equality among vampires.
So according to Wikiepdia, this is the definition of an ecosystem:
An ecosystem is a community of living organisms (plants, animals and microbes) in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment (things like air, water and mineral soil), interacting as a system…. As ecosystems are defined by the network of interactions among organisms, and between organisms and their environment, they can come in any size but usually encompass specific, limited spaces (although some scientists say that the entire planet is an ecosystem).
Interestingly enough, the entry begins with a small caveat: For the business metaphor, see “Business ecosystem.” That entry cites James Moore as having first introduced the strategic planning term in his book “The Death of Competition: Leadership and Strategy in the Age of Business Ecosystems,” (1990) and later in a Harvard Business Review article titled, “Predators and Prey: A New Ecology of Competition” (1993).
Here’s the definition: “An economic community supported by a foundation of interacting organizations and individuals—the organisms of the business world. The economic community produces goods and services of value to customers, who are themselves members of the ecosystem. The member organisms also include suppliers, lead producers, competitors, and other stakeholders….
Personally, I prefer the original definition, which encompasses several key themes worth expounding on:
- “community” – a strong recurring theme from “The Cluetrain Manifesto” forward, encompassing a central tenet of social media.
- “living organisms” – human beings; employees, partners, customers, stakeholders.
- “in conjunction with non-living organisms” – technology.
- “interacting as a system”/ “linked together” – connecting the dots so that employees can connect with other employees; employees with customers; customers with customers.
- “they can come in any size” – ecosystems within ecosystems; size doesn’t matter; the ultimate leveling of the playing fields.
The basic concept of an ecosystem implies evolution, co-dependence, interconnectedness, health and wellness, balance and ultimately survival. Take one critical piece of the puzzle out the equation (let’s say bees pollinating flowers) and the ecosystem itself can wither (plant life and food chain dying).
Thank you, Barry B. Benson.
In my book ‘Join the Conversation’, I introduced the concept that marketing is not a campaign; it’s a commitment. That statement is still true, except it’s now time to upgrade or evolve this to a vision of an interconnected “organism” that is dynamic, fluid, flexible, agile, growing and… alive.
On one level, an ecosystem is a hybrid collection or amalgamation of complementary, ongoing and symbiotic commitments. On another level, it is simply a better way of doing business — a more progressive, more productive, more profitable model.
Nike’s fuelband is an ecosystem.
Google is an ecosystem.
Apple’s cloud-based App Store is an ecosystem.