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The Other Yellowstone Ecosystem

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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.

How an ecosystem should look

Business Ecosystems, just like natural ecosystems have a specific shape, size and optimum configuration. However, they must evolve to reflect the whole product that customers want to buy.

As discussed in my last column, that whole product consists of everything a customer wants to accomplish during his or her time in the ecosystem.

In natural ecosystems, the climate, flora and fauna, geography and topography of the ecosystem dictates the available resources to provide the specific whole product needed for a species to survive. Deserts give rise to ecosystems that thrive in arid conditions; forests to other types of ecosystems; and tropical climates yet another shape, size and optimum configuration.

In business ecosystems, the shape size and optimum configuration of the ecosystem is determined by the job the customer wants to accomplish, which then defines the whole product needed to successfully accomplish that job.

To support this whole product, the business ecosystem has to evolve to provide all of these whole-product elements in the most easy and convenient way possible.

The Apple iPod ecosystem is a near perfect example of this kind of business ecosystem. It revolutionized the personal entertainment market, beginning with music then evolving to video, the Internet and applications. If we look at that ecosystem and how it evolved, we see an evolution in both the customer jobs and the whole product, as well as Apple’s masterful management of the ecosystem.

For the original iPod, the ecosystem had to include not only the iPod music player, but content provided by the major record labels, the iTunes Application for PC’s and Macs, and add-on products like cases, headphones, and adapters. The original iPod ecosystem looked like this:

As the iPod’s capabilities increased, the ecosystem grew further to include video content providers and finally application developers.

For each customer job, a business ecosystem must evolve to provide the whole product required by the customer. We might diagram the Big Sky Resort ecosystem like this:

It’s our responsibility to see that these ecosystem elements grow and thrive to provide a better, richer ecosystem to provide a superior Yellowstone-Big Sky-Bozeman Business Ecosystem.

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.

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