On The Horizon
A new publication from Work Futures on Platform Ecosystems
On The Horizon
These days, a different ideal for organizations is surfacing. We want organizations to be adaptive, flexible, self-renewing, resilient, learning, intelligent — attributes found only in living systems. The tension of our times is that we want our organizations to behave as living systems, but we only know how to treat them as machines.
| Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers, The Irresistible Future of Organizing (1996)
Ecosystem is a term borrowed from biology and reapplied to strategy research and practice. The term has grown in use, increasing sevenfold over the past few years. At the most basic, the term is used to characterize a group of interacting firms that rely on each other’s abilities. The term is used in many different ways. For example, focusing on a single company and a community of partners, as in the Slack ecosystem. Alternatively, a given innovation -- like Android -- could be described as the heart of an ecosystem. Or a technology platform, like Amazon's commerce platform, can be seen as the center point of an ecosystem.
Ecosystems are 'a distinct solution to the problem of inter-firm coordination, distinct from the use of alliances, supply chains, or market-based interactions', as Michael Jacobides and his coauthors wrote in Towards a Theory of Ecosystems. Alternatively, we may look at ecosystems as a new way to structure economic relationships between partners, specifically with the goal of lowering the costs of participation and therefore allowing for non-linear scaling.
| Stowe Boyd, Evolution of the Platform Organization
Today, Work Futures is launching a new publication: On The Horizon.
On The Horizon is intended for those who want to gain deeper understanding of the economics, structure, and behavior of platform ecosystems in an accelerating world. This includes leaders of organizations competing in platform-dominated industries, practitioners building platform-based businesses, and those involved in understanding the strategic implications of a world transitioning to ecosystem economics.
We want On The Horizon to be a resource for the expanding community of researchers, developers, and strategists exploring this new frontier. As I recently said in an interview with David Card, managing editor of the publication,
Clearly those involved directly in projects to create or build on platform ecosystems will find On The Horizon a critical resource. That can include strategists, software developers, and those charged with developing such capabilities. Given the fact that this is such new territory, I believe this will also include all sorts of consultants: those working in strategy, digital transformation, and organizational design consulting companies. Plus entrepreneurs who have left larger firms to establish platform startups. As companies decide to become ecosystem partners with larger and rapidly expanding platforms, they will want to understand how it works.
Our contributors will be drawn from many sectors, ranging from economics, business management, organizational development, social psychology, and technology. We will uncover and share the techniques of platform ecosystems, to understand the dynamics of self-organizing systems of increasing complexity, and to explore the boundaries of markets, governments, and new forms of governance for open, distributed, and decentralized business ecosystems.
The principal inspiration for this publication is the work of Zhang Ruimin, the CEO and Chairman of Haier, who has revolutionized that company from a single refrigerator factory into the world's largest appliance corporation, and leading exponent of the platform organization. In a 2018 interview with the Corporate Rebels CEO Zhang said,
Currently we live in the Internet era. And in this era anyone or any group can start his or her own enterprise. But there will not be a future for the traditional enterprise.
The platform organization will be the future. Many platforms will be built, and decentralization will be very important. Competition in the Internet era is not between companies, but between platforms. You either own, or are owned by, a platform.
Haier is sponsoring On The Horizon to help spread ideas such as these across the world.
Here's a sampling of articles:
Evolution of the Platform Organization: What We Can Learn From Haier — An examination of the patterns of organizational change in the transition to a platform organization.
Hamel and Zanini on The End of Bureaucracy — A precís of Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini's magisterial overview of Haier's revolution, growing into 'an enterprise that has rejected the premises and poisons of bureaucracy through the creation and roll-out of Rendanheyi, Haier's antidote to bureaucracy'.
The Limits of Digital: Ideas, Creativity, and Cultural Reformation — A reply to Eric Brynjolfsson and Seth Benzell's Digital Abundance and Scarce Genius, where the authors wonder what is causing the bottleneck in productivity we are experiencing globally.
We plan numerous series, including discussions with open source innovators, economists, and in-the-trenches practitioners. In the coming weeks we will be announcing other contributors and activities.
Sign up for the On The Horizon weekly newsletter to remain informed on new writing, events, and other activities.
We are actively seeking contributors and subjects to investigate, so please contact us via our contributors page.
Welcome to On The Horizon.