Just as natural resource-based bio-ecosystems operate in a complex natural balance, business ecosystems require deliberate, conscious management and shepherding of their resources to thrive.

Recap: What we know about business ecosystems so far

By Greg Ruff WHITE SPACE STRATEGY

In the first article of the series, I wrote that the business ecosystems in the Greater Yellowstone region can and should interoperate like the bio-ecosystems that enable them, with each part of the business ecosystem enabling all the others so that the total opportunity grows and can expand.

My second article addressed the idea of scarcity and abundance in both natural and business ecosystems, and explored the idea that it is hard for bio-ecosystems to expand because of limited natural resources. Business ecosystems, on the other hand, can be virtually unlimited when all the businesses work together to expand the opportunities for new product offerings, attracting new customers and expanding the total ecosystem market.

The third article addressed the concept that business ecosystems provide constant opportunities to evolve both in adding new businesses and services, and responding to competition. In all cases we learned that there is always opportunity to expand the markets that the ecosystem addresses and that by adding new value, the whole market can expand.

The fourth spoke to how ecosystems adapt to succeed, and how knowing what customers really want and need is a matter of understanding the “job” they’re trying to accomplish when buying products and services. Customers themselves often can’t tell us what they really need or want, but by understanding the steps of the job they want to accomplish, we can then find the work steps where they are least satisfied, and identify the new value and services that will truly benefit them the most.

In the fifth article of the series I introduced the concept of the “whole product” that a customer needs to accomplish the job they want to do, and how that whole product can be provided by services and products supplied by multiple members of the ecosystem. By insuring that the required whole product is supplied by a coordinated, well-formed business ecosystem, businesses won’t just satisfy customers, but expand markets as well.

The sixth article of the series illustrated how business ecosystems need to be structured, managed and expanded as needed to supply all of the elements of the customer’s desired whole product. By ensuring that every part of the ecosystem delivers excellent value for its part of that whole product in a coordinated way, achieving the customer’s job and providing a great experience becomes superior to any other choice they might have made, so they literally can’t make a different choice.

The seventh article demystified the process of evaluating and understanding where the greatest opportunity exists to provide the most important new value to the customer. By addressing the areas of importance where dissatisfaction with the current solution is greatest, a business ecosystem can create a new value based on a superior whole product versus all its competitors. This literally resets the rules for the market and creates an essentially “unfair advantage” and new set of rules for the value that competitors have to offer to compete.

So now we know how business ecosystems need to operate to create just as valuable an experience as our bio-ecosystems do. We know the secrets of discovering what customers really need to complete the job they want to accomplish when they visit our natural ecosystems, and how the two are both similar and different and must operate together.

The next several articles will focus on how we can best create strategies, plans and tactics to apply all this knowledge and create a Yellowstone-Big Sky-Bozeman business ecosystem that complements and expands the opportunities of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem that surrounds us.

Greg Ruff has consulted to Fortune 500 companies and startup businesses on management, market and growth strategies since 1987. He first visited Big Sky in 1993 and recently relocated here. In this column, he writes about how business- and bio-ecosystems can mutually benefit from creative thinking.