Framework for Ecosystem Change (2): Evolution

Below I introduce a framework for Ecosystem Evolution, a collaboration-based process to achieve innovation in our social ecosystems, which includes complex spaces like Healthcare and Public Education.

Our thought process has been evolving since August 2009, and can be tracked in this stream.

This problem-solving approach is intended to be comprehensive in its objectives and capabilities, yet straightforward in its design. It is made possible by incorporating insights from complexity science, as well as the rapid evolution of the social media platform, which allows cross-disciplinary subject matter experts (“SME”s) to work together in an efficient, virtual manner.

Paradigms: the Way Things Work

At the core of this framework is a realization that there is a current way of doing things, and multiple, new, innovative ways of doing things better.

Using paradigms to frame and analyze developing ideas is important, especially in early stages, when the alternative solutions are still formative [1]. It provides an intuitive frame of reference for discussing ecosystems: boundaries, rules, behaviors, and outcomes, all important elements that describe the complex systems we will be tackling. This “way of doing things” (both current and improved) is often the source of significant debate. Semantic challenges abound. Traditionally, problem/solution scenarios are written down in many ways, ranging from pure text (popular in legislation) and napkin drawings all the way to complex diagrams and flow charts, using a multitude of formats and tools. We will need to keep the process focused on ideas and content, not tools.

Due to the complexities of our social ecosystems, the nature of changes involved must go far beyond any notion of incremental adjustments. Contemplating the “game changing” notion of a paradigm shift precedes any fundamental, structural changes in our current paradigms [2]. To innovate, we’ll need to challenge conventional wisdom in each domain, or subject area. This approach will help us achieve that.

Let’s take a look at my proposed Ecosystem Evolution model, which provides a collaborative overlay to the Current State view that I originated in my last blog post.

Ecosystem Framework pt 2

Ecosystem Framework pt 2

The over-arching characteristics of this new model are:

– All stakeholders will have opportunity for input
– Social media plays a critical role as “open collaboration forum” for idea exchange
– Invested producers with a financial stake will have more limited roles
– Consumers (most impacted by ecosystem outcomes) will have a voice in articulating outcomes
– Consumers will get final validation (via “rating”) of proposed solutions
– Several open-loop cycles ensure iterative improvements toward final innovation
– Multiple iterations or “feedback cycles” ensure consensus

There are a couple key points to take away from this.

(1) Actionable Scope (need to be realistic). A framework like this is a representation of a complex set of relationships, interactions, intermediate steps, and deliverables. The simplicity of the model should by no means imply trivial efforts or shallow treatment of the topics. Rather, considerable work is implied. This model creates the process backbone for a series of connected collaboration teams. Further details on “how” will be forthcoming.

(2) Adaptable, Scalable and Efficient. This approach creates the means by which the rigorous and appropriate discussions might evolve uninterrupted, through a “hub and spoke” model of work group replication. In other words, any number of problem-solving teams may be spun off from the core problem team within the ecosystem, to work on sub-issues, and report back. This makes the Ecosystem Evolution process adaptable, scalable, and via multi-tasking, quite efficient. Given the complexity of our ecosystem issues, this is perhaps the ONLY way problem solving could be meaningfully performed.

(3) Focus and Rigor. We will begin to ask the right questions, and record all viable answers.

(4) Meaningful Social Innovation (“disruptive”, and otherwise). Using this model, we can embark on a journey of discovery and social change that has heretofore been unsuccessful. It will be powered by people, connected using social media, supported (with further discussions) by both government and industry, and ultimately, embraced by all stakeholders. Clayton Christensen has made strong and insightful statements about the need for “disruptive innovation” to achieve change from outside ecosystem walls, and the many mechanisms required [3]. I think his vision is the right one, and this Framework intends to achieve it. However, with participation from producers and consumers alike, the degree of “disruption” can be minimized, and simply acknowledged as a working objective. After all, we won’t score a “win” if we create economic chaos. I believe the collaborative approach is the disruptive innovation that has been needed. The approach itself is an innovation in collaborative techniques imagined by Don Tapscott, but not (as yet) fully implemented [4].

(5) Who benefits? First and foremost, it will be the consumer, as this approach is designed to achieve their objectives. But in the end, all stakeholders will win, because we will have created a viable, optimal, balanced approach for delivering services.

This is clearly ambitious. Why am I so optimistic?

Because there are lots of smart people out there. We simply need to engage them to start solving the tough problems.

It’s time for our second test (and this is a non-rhetorical question): Can we make this work?

[1] Kuhn, Thomas, Structure of Scientific Revolutions. (1992).
[2] Meadows, Donella. Leverage Points (web, 2008).
[3] Christensen, Clayton. Disrupting Class (2008): McGraw-Hill, Ch.8, pp. 179-196.
[4] Tapscott, Don. Wikinomics (2006): Penguin, Ch.6, pp. 151-182.

8 thoughts on “Framework for Ecosystem Change (2): Evolution

  1. I kind of gather where you are going with this model. I’m thinking what may encourage understanding and perception with where you are going is to apply this model to a real-world story. It may even be great to pick a problem from the past, where you could point out the similarities and differences between the model used and how your model works.

    It could be something as recent as healthcare reform, but I’d steer away from hot-button topics so people can focus on the methodology as opposed to having their emotions get wrapped into this.

    Perhaps something like how people would have collaborated using social media to build the great pyramids of giza. You could make the problem more interesting by say adding in extra criterion like energy efficiency and maybe even health and worker safety issues, in order to bring more SME’s together to build greater pyramids in 2000 B.C.

    Just a thought and maybe a way to give people a theoretical, yet fun problem to work on using these methods and not getting emotions wrapped into hot-button issues.

    The compare and contrast will be interesting too, especially as problems are approached in different time periods, like this vs after the ‘age of reason’ and ‘the industrial revolution’. These approaches may really make us wonder and see what age we are approaching.

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    • So glad you like the model, Gene, we can definitely discuss additional diagramming and even enhancement, that’s why it’s Creative Commons. Talk to you shortly ..

  5. Lots to think about here. Just one observation for now. I think it’s a mistake to stay away from “hot button” issues. The very swirl of emotional opinions is what gets to clarity much faster.

    A further thought is that “hot button” issues, often by the very fact of so much blabla instead of rigorous thought, is at the heart of an impoverished Public Discourse.

    If we could play even a small part in removing the communication pollution that makes solving public issues much slower than it needs to be, it’s a task worth doing.

    • Agree Michael, avoiding the hard problems doesn’t help.

      My original thinking was avoiding red herring issues, those trumped up in the discourse you refer to, often due to political positioning, alignments or agendas. In this category would be all gross generalizations.

      So who decides which issues are real vs. trumped up?

      To your point, that is where objective, open public discourse comes to play. Critical thinking serves to neutralize emotional appeals. If we can sustain focus and context, it allows us to get down to the facts and the data.

      Not an easy task. But certainly at the core of the Ecosys approach.

      Thanks, as always, for challenging our thinking. That’s the only way we will make meaningful progress.

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