The Ability to Scale and Collaborate in Platform Thinking.


Credit Tatiana Plakhova @

For no specific reason, I went a little quiet on my posts on this site recently. There was not one reason, it felt that February just slipped by.

Actually, I can partly explain it as it was partly caught up in a project that took more time than I expected.

Also partly caught up in a lot of mixed feelings that held me back, so I got a little blocked in my thinking. You do have moments like that but you eventually work through them and “something” unblocks and things start to flow again.

Suddenly in the first few days of March, like Spring arriving, it was a very different burst of energy, well actually more insights, that have kicked off my month well.

Firstly, I finally caught up with Simon Torrance. Simon advises on Business Model Transformation and specifically platform strategies. He is based in London and first came to my attention as he was the organizer of the 1st large scale leadership summit on the ‘Platform Economy’, last 20-22 November in Berlin. Here is a short summary video from last November: 

I did not go but I read some good reports on it as an event so I took the opportunity to reach out to him and make deeper contact.   He is already revving up for the next #platformeconomysummit, event to be held on16-19 Sept in Frankfurt but we covered a fair amount in our conversation together..

Now Simon is accelerating away. Firstly the whole area of platform management is up there in most senior leaders minds as they traverse into this different way of managing. Simon has recently linked up with Factor10, based in Germany, a consultancy that is exploiting the niche of combining corporations with tech entrepreneurs in the ability to co-create, launch and scale digital business models, as well as contribute into the understanding of the right business platform models for organizations.

Simon’s other work is first as a contributor into the WEForum and their digital platform and ecosystem working group as well as recently launching, authoring and supporting a New Growth Playbook series that does a really good job of exploring the impact and effects of the changes undergoing from digital business models and specifically how platforms are becoming a core need. His company website is here.

The wonders of coming across White Papers that just shift or add to your thinking

The other great stumble across for me was a WEForum White Paper “Systems Leadership and Platforms: How to mobilize people to transform systems and build the platforms to scale these efforts” written by one of my all-time favorite authors, John Hagel, this time in collaboration with Gemma Mortensen. They are Co-Chairs of the Global Future Council on Platforms and Systems.

Now, John is one of those authors that seem to gets his timing right for me. Whenever I am “casting around” a bit, searching for a way to catalyze my thinking, push it a little further, more often than not, John “pops up”.

In this paper, they open with the challenge they are seeing, one of System Leadership.

“We have always lived in a world shaped by complex and evolving systems, consisting of many participants that interact with each other in rich and ever-changing ways. Such systems range from the ecosystem of a forest uninhabited by people to the increasingly dense cities that are home to a growing share of the global population (this is one area I am placing more focus upon in the coming months- Smart Cities).

“The growing connectivity enabled by the Fourth Industrial Revolution means that systems are scaling and evolving at an unprecedented rate. Systems that were once relatively independent are becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent, which makes it harder and harder to discern the boundaries between one system and another. All of this leads to increased volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, making it more challenging for leaders to achieve the impact they intended.

Too often, we seek to reduce systems to component parts so that we can better understand and manage each system, obscuring our ability to comprehend and work across the system as a whole. Overwhelmed by the speed and complexity of the systems that surround us, we are spending too much time in passive or reactive mindsets. The question we explore in this paper is how do we change that”.

In this Whitepaper, they discuss the design elements that platforms require for supporting change-driven systems initiatives as well as the attributes of system leaders.

They introduce the notion of intentional systems that are weaved together by transforming existing systems that bring about change in the system as a whole. The emphasis is on “intent and action to take root” and this requires a specific form of leadership. They suggest this is through tailoring, stimulating, nurturing and scaling the web of relationships and those interactions needed. It requires a level of stewardship that inspires and not that ‘command and control’ that many leaders still believe is the style that works.

I think there is this growing recognition that people, events, activities need to be shaped and influenced far more and it is in this “system” style we gain greater motivation and a far richer engagement and participation. It becomes a “collaborative collective pursuit” and that can be very powerful and transforming.

They provide a very rich outline of what makes up system leadership as well as platform design and deployment elements and it is here I really gained some stimulating thinking.

This Whitepaper is well worth a read for anyone interested in business or social platform and how to lead them.

So in the first few days of March, two stimulating contributions into my own understanding of platforms and ecosystems and I have still to read the MIT SMR Frontiers article as part of their initiative on how technology is reshaping the practice of management. This article is entitled “the Myths and Realities of Business Ecosystems“. Good reading for the coming weekend I feel.

So it is nice to feel the emergence of fresh ideas at this time of year. Puts a certain “spring” in my step.


**The Whitepaper referred too had been published by the World Economic Forum as a contribution to a project, insight area or interaction






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