The future of managing will be through ecosystems and platforms

I am constantly drawn to ecosystems and platforms as the connecting mechanism that can drive the need for greater collaboration, sharing, and exchanging, and for this, we need to learn a new form of ’emerging’ management practice

Collaborating in collective ways helps break down complexity. To be ready to respond we must be ready to seek out unexpected outcomes, to be increasingly exposed to new opinions, experiences, and to learn from all those adjacencies and external connections, so as to help us add and define new potential within our domain of expertise.

In our past management practices, we have operated and exploited the linear world for ever-increasing efficiencies and effectiveness. This relied on stability, predictability, and a willing end-user, ready to accept ‘our’ offer of product or service. All three of these conditions are increasingly absent from our world today and will increasingly be challenged in the future.

Our increasing connectivity, brought about by our digital world is giving us increasing volume, richness at increasing speed. We are in a hyper-connected world, potentially global for all of us and increasingly we will operate in interdependent ecosystems that allow us to collaborate and share, driving up awareness and performance.

What will be rewarded in this connecting world is the agility to respond, the ability to absorb and learn quickly, and the nimbleness to translate and adapt new learning into insights and eventual outcomes, that build out our businesses, keeping them healthy, growing, and sustainable.

Classic models of management get broken down in any ecosystem approach, that is why I believe we must search for ways to adapt to this new world of ecosystem and platform collaboration.

It requires some very different management thinking, let me offer some thoughts:

Our world is shifting from scalable efficiency to scalable learning

In the work of John Hagel and John Seely Brown and their associates at Deloitte University Press, this scalable change from efficiency to learning is a central tenet of their work. Achieving scale is critical for all in business, be it the entrepreneur or start-up or the large institutions wanting to span the world. If you wanted to scale it had to be “efficient and effective” in our past approaches.

Yet as the two John’s point out that is great in the stable, more predictable world or market conditions of the past but not when everything is evolving rapidly or changing before our eyes. The efficiency mantra often allows for applying the “lowest common denominator of need” and reduces the impact of ‘true’ innovation.

The ability to adapt to our digital world

We are now in a world that sees exponential change caused by digital technologies, this is making everything we do as uncertain. We are seeing increasing friction, deteriorating trust, and growing gaps in expectancy between “what we want and expect with what we actually receive” and institutions need to respond to these pressures. The pressures of sorting false information with the relevant knowledge needed to build on what you have to improve it.  It cannot be the approach anymore as “business as usual” it needs a new recognition, the new normal means we need to act and respond differently.

We are recognizing “existing knowledge is depreciating at an accelerating rate”. To create new knowledge we have to step out of our silo of the one institution into a collaborative world, connecting with others where the physical, virtual, and management of systems help accelerate learning.

Increasingly these learnings will come through ecosystems and platforms where you can meet and exchange in systematic and holistic ways, building growing trusted relationships, sharing, and exploring ‘collective’ knowledge to solve common problems.

You move from the need of conformity to be efficient, seeking out where you fit within a ‘given’ system you look for increasing the ‘flow’ of learning by encouraging increasing fluidity and being highly adaptive. Your role is not to fit as such, it becomes how you can separate, identify and deliver more value, to translate and learn faster, to rapidly connect understanding, ideas, and potential outcomes for the new value.

Balancing fluidity and stability

The world we live in is relentless, it is demanding and constantly changing. We begin to believe it is in a “continuously unstable state” yet it is this ongoing receiving of contradictions we can build a different, more fluid state that is adaptive, responsive, and encourages different thinking to break through our bewilderment.

We need to build far more for countervailing functions and opinions, have greater understandings of pattern recognition and maintenance, and be highly adaptive in our outcomes. We need to keep balancing the acts of fluidity with stability.

To get to a point of being fluid we need to hone our navigation skills, we need to have more assignment driven work, not stuck in repeating work that can be automated far more effectively in today’s digital world.

Where do we start to think this through?

We must start by establishing a different boundary building understanding (governance, risk-taking, ability to recognize managing exceptions are becoming the rule in individual consumer worlds).

We need a growing identity formation set of mechanisms and responses (in customer touchpoints, response alternatives, conflict skills to resolve issues early) and develop the problem-solving architecture to be constantly evolving (shared, reinforcing, and breaking down present orthodoxies).

Ambidexterity and countervailing processes need developing and embedding. Achieving a constant duality to manage in our three horizons that come into play, to manage the short-term (differently), and pivot into the longer-term. It is the horizon two exploration and exploitation that allows this change in managing transit from the old (h1) to the new (h3). We need to re-enforce and extend (h2-), we need to ‘undo’, explore and redesign (h2+).

The challenge becomes how can we eventually move towards a fluid state?

If we can design a framework that transforms us into being highly fluid and adaptive, we can move through horizon two and its conflicting challenges. We are seeking to balance stability with an ongoing need for dynamism and responsiveness, at agile and fast ‘reaction’ times from our ‘incoming learning’ and ‘outgoing value-added‘ outcome

To become fluid we need to absorb and respond at a faster rate and that comes from the increasing flow of new knowledge. We need to be highly adaptive to a constant, multi-faceted world of connections, systems and knowing where the different pieces need to be found, so we can then ‘pieced’ together into the ‘new whole’ you are needing to design, at the individual or institutional design level.

To get to a point of being fluid we need to hone our navigation skills, we need to have more assignment driven work, not stuck in repeating work that can be automated far more effectively in today’s digital world. We need to be looking to constantly enter and exit projects where we can truly contribute to driving up our own confidence and belief, our personal satisfaction, and contributing worth.

We need to be more agile, iterative, to be encouraged to be experimenting and exploring. We need to believe and given the trust to execute and drive our results into more value-add. We need to seek out empowerment, participate in collaborative endeavors, and most importantly grasp the makeup of value creation. To get to this point we need to build one of those boundary-spanning guidelines of a sound conflict resolution pathway for ourselves, our customers, and our institutions and these will be ‘living constantly evolving pathways‘ that feed on new learning.

To get to this ‘fluid state‘ we all must strive for authenticity, trust, and recognition.

This authenticity and trust will only come from a real willingness to seek out diversity in opinion, knowledge, and experience. We all need to have higher visibility and seek an understanding of what this means in risk and reward for taking this path. Our growing ability to look to constantly enter and exit projects where we can truly contribute to driving up our own confidence and belief, our personal satisfaction, and contributing worth.

If we can design a framework that transforms us into being highly fluid and adaptive, we can move through horizon two and its conflicting challenges. We are seeking to balance stability with an ongoing need for dynamism and responsiveness, at agile and fast ‘reaction’ times from our ‘incoming learning’ and ‘outgoing value-added‘ outcome

Seeking out the relevant flows within new knowledge for increasing scalable learning, our new institutional state.

The stock of our existing knowledge is rapidly diminishing, we need to seek out the flow of new knowledge. Our fixed and enduring know-how and sets of experiences are being diminished in their value inside organizations.

We need to harness the capacity of learning through the competencies for new knowledge acquiring. We need to replenish the internal diminishing stocks of knowledge with a constant flow of new knowledge. This comes from outside, it comes through networks, relationships, and collaborations increasingly built on ecosystem and platforms.

We need a call to arms, to establish a new set of operating principles

It is our increasing ability to participate in this growing formation of managing knowledge flows, harnessed through digital solutions, as they will through practice and time, move us towards achieving a greater value creation. We move towards an increasingly collaborative environment, between partners and appreciating all stakeholders but also more specifically sharing more understanding and exchanges with customers, all contributing, increasingly aimed at their knowledge, insights, and needs to finding joint solutions and resolving challenges.

To achieve better outcomes and to drive sustained growth we need different management practices. We require scalable participation (ecosystems) to relate too and generate new knowledge flows. We need to be increasingly responsive, adaptive, and fluid in any design of structures and solutions.

Performance requires us to quickly learn and translate, that cannot come from the pursuit of efficiency, it comes from learning to be highly adaptive and responsive, to have a high level of fluidity to fuse all the flows of knowledge into new potential value creation.

In summary

We do need this new management model to adapt to the digital world and all the uncertainty of our prevailing conditions of more open competitive and challenging markets, more demanding customers, and the constant waves of information and ‘forces of change’ raining down on us.

What is clear is we need a new way of working to counter this sense of constant disruption and exponential change. It is the recognition that ecosystems and platforms will be playing a far more critical role in our managing, that we need to become ready to fuse, flow, and become far more fluid in the ways we work.

 

**Largely taken from some early work by me as the author.

  • Amended on 7th October 2020.

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