Forge A Business Ecosystem

The days of the self-sufficient and self-sustaining business are long gone. Business owners must recognize the need to join forces with other businesses in order to flourish.

Here is simple assumption for you to get your head around: Businesses will always seek to establish new types of partner relationships that clearly define mutual gain for the parties involved. Fairly straight-forward, right?

Of course it is! And, it’s because of this hypothesis that businesses of all sorts and sizes are forging new commercial arrangements with one another. As a result, immense networks of interdependent parties have emerged. In turn, each one of these forms unique ecosystems from which all of the member businesses benefit.

With the continual advancement of technology making inter-business bonding easier, you can be sure that the evolution of these New Economy Ecosystems will continue. That said, as a business owner you’ll need to see how and where you can fit. Here’s why:

Rationale for Ecosystem-Building

The game has changed. The days of the self-sufficient and self-sustaining businesses are long gone. The global marketplace requires businesses to establish highly integrated and cooperative relationships with one another. It rewards speed and flexibility.

Consequently, new inter-company relationships continue to be established in order to help firms respond to changes in their respective markets.

Businesses cannot afford to be an exception. Ecosystems seek to forge new types of relationships with their members that provide economies of scale and greater reach than can be achieved by any single entity on its own. Indeed, joining and contributing to larger ecosystems is essential to survival – especially for smaller businesses.

However, there are several implications that must be considered, including:

1. New strategies will need to be created that can leverage the opportunities that ecosystem participation offers.

2. Similarly, innovation will be a key driver for flourishing within one’s ecosystem. Thus, new ways of thinking and doing will need to be considered and implemented as opportunities to introduce new products and services emerge faster than ever before.

3. As a result, speed counts! Therefore, steps will need to be continually taken within every business to become more agile in order to keep up with the demands of ecosystem partners and their customers.

4. Businesses will have to work with a larger industry community, including competitors, in order to establish new kinds of business arrangements that work within the ecosystem. Exposure of one’s competitive strategies and protection of associated trade secrets will continue to be huge considerations when seeking advantages from ecosystem membership.

5. Existing contracts and agreements may need to be embellished and new rules created, in order to better support the re-definition of attendant business relationships.

6. Lower-level business managers must be on the “look-out” and be prepared to explore new ways of defining their firm’s relationships with the providers that they work with – continuing to be keenly aware of new opportunities to leverage existing partner relationships in novel ways to drive advantage.

7. Front-line staff will need to be trained in contract administration in order to better manage the business relationships that they are responsible for maintaining on behalf of their companies

There is no doubt that, as the new economy continues to evolve, it is imperative for business leaders, regardless of size, to actively seek-out opportunities to participate in broadening their reach and capabilities through participation in business ecosystems. They must recognize the need to join forces in a larger community of players to remain vital and prosperous in the years ahead.

To close, this article only touches the tip of the iceberg regarding business ecosystems. So, please feel free to continue to drive the discussion by offering your ideas and comments below or reach-out directly to me. It’s an important topic that deserves more attention.

Autism in the Workplace: We Must Leverage What People Have

NOTE: I wrote Autism in the Workplace in recognition of World Autism Awareness Day, which was on April 2nd.  This piece was originally published by Inc. on March 7, 2016 under the title “Why We Must Leverage What People Do Have (and Not Penalize Them for What They Don’t)” :

Once upon a time, people with disabilities had no place in business. Now, thanks to innovative programs being introduced at several large companies, those times may be coming to an end. Business leaders are beginning to recognize that people diagnosed with autism, for example, can bring some great things to the table.

Companies, including SAP, Microsoft and HP have all begun programs intended to integrate autistic people into their respective workforces. Besides being highly functional, what has been found is that many on the autism spectrum offer real skills that these companies need in order to continue to grow and to prosper, including a temperament that supports long periods of concentration and a strong ability to recognize patterns and discover irregularities in those patterns–desired attributes needed for programming computer code and debugging software.

Driven by a desire to leverage what people have, and not penalize them for what they lack, these software giants have made a commitment through their programs to provide the support mechanisms and infrastructure needed to enable these employees to perform at their best. Here are some of the elements that have been put into place through these corporate programs:

  • Pre-assignment prep centers that allow these workers to practice working with others in a business setting prior to being assigned to a permanent work unit within the business;
  • Onboarding programs that train new staff on the workings of the office setting. Topics from the use of security ID badges to lunch and meeting areas are all part of the program.
  • Quiet office work settings and sound-softening headphones for those people with sound sensitivities;
  • Offsite work settings that enable employees who may be intimidated by a typical office social setting to test and debug software from their own homes;
  • Buddy systems that pair these employees with internal staff “buddies” who have some familiarity with the disability (perhaps, through family member with autism, etc.). These buddies can act as mentors and be the linchpin for a new employee’s assimilation into the company.
  • An awareness sessions for existing staff, with messaging and training organized around high-, medium- and low-contact interactions, which helps new employees be better integrated and accepted by their co-workers, when they arrive at the job site.

To close, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3.5 million Americans are estimated to have an autism spectrum disorder. With about 1 in 68 children affected, it is one of the fastest-growing developmental disabilities in the U.S. Clearly, more programs, like the ones cited above, are needed to leverage the skills and brain power that these people can offer.

Tune-In to the Rebroadcast of SiriusXM’s Innovation Navigation

If you missed me on today’s segment of Innovation Navigation on SiriusXM’s , no worries.Innonavi Logo

You can tune-in to the Rebroadcast of SiriusXM’s Innovation Navigation on SiriusXM’s Channel 111 as follows:

  • Wednesday @ 2PM ET
  • Thursday @ 12PM ET
  • Saturday @ 2AM ET
  • Sunday @ 7PM ET

On the show, I discuss key points from my book with host Dave Robertson.  We explored how a business leader works to foster continued innovation in the company. We contrasted JCPenny and DreamWorks as an example of differing cultures as drawn from The Executive Checklist. We examined differences in management structures – hierarchical versus new flat models at W.L. Gore and Valve Software – and freelancer-rich operational models.

You won’t want to miss it!