The fall has been filled with interesting projects, and creative problem solving with customers and partners. Now, with the year end approaching, and projects being wrapped up like Christmas gifts, it is time to unwind and reflect, and of course make plans for the new year.

Discussion and sharing experiences are a great way to ignite reflection. That’s what we did on the 09.12.2021 in the Ecosystem Morning organized by Taival, where like-minded people gathered together to discuss a topic that is close to our hearts – ecosystem leadership and everything that it entails.

After the event ended, there was an interesting discussion on site. One of the participants challenged ecosystems and collaboration as “innovation theater” with limited value added. While I strongly agree with “what you measure is what you get”, I would like to remind, that there are different tools for different purposes. Ecosystems are not a tool for everything, one should ask the question “to ecosystem or not to ecosystem“. Or in other words, carefully review their strategy and fit their innovation strategy to it. And seek collaboration when solving problems that they cannot solve alone. That’s where ecosystems play a role!

Experiences about ecosystem leadership

But back to the event, that took place in Innopoli and online. With the COVID-19 picking up speed again and the early morning and cold weather encouraging people to stay, there were only few of us on site. That did not matter though, because together with the online participants, the discussion was vibrant. If you did not make it, no worries, you’ll find the link to the recording at the end of this post.

Reko Lehti from Taival moderated the discussion, and the speakers approached the topic from various viewpoints with their expertise and insights.

  • Value creation and value capture: To frame the discussion, I was asked to define ecosystems, networks and platforms. Since it is one of my favorite topics did it along the lines that I described in the earlier Ecosystem Handbook blog “fundamentals of value creation“. My point? The role of ecosystems is to act as innovation incubators and accelerators that create value. Role of an ecosystem leader or orchestrator is to manage the transition needed towards more closed structures like networks and platforms to capture value.
  • Solving meaningful problems together: As ecosystems are inherently about solving problems that any organization cannot solve alone, it was great to have Clarisse Berggårdh from BWC and soon Helsinki Partners to speak about the way she sees ecosystems in the context of a public organization – the City of Helsinki. Her conclusion: It is about the heart – winning people through purpose and meaning.
  • Best kept secret: We all know Reaktor from their innovativeness and thought leadership in the digital space. But how many of us knew that they have been building their Fusion Ecosystem since 2014 and learning tons along the way. According to the ecosystem lead Heikki Härkönen there are five principles that they build on: To create value Reaktor is striving for a market driven ecosystem with overlapping capabilities, trust in relationships, premium talent, and lean operations that enable focus.
  • Business driven ecosystems: Kaisa Suutari from StoraEnso joined to share experiences in solving problems together by experimentation with global start-up and scale-up community. Her takeouts: Start with a clear business problem or need, build a committed team and ensure management support.

As seasoned leaders who have worked in various contexts over the years, the message was clear. Ecosystems are about people and collaboration. They need money and resources, but above all commitment and trust.

Next level of trust: Data sharing

Interestingly, all speakers mentioned data and digitalization when talking about ecosystems in which they operate. They pointed out that data is the source of sustainable competitive advantage in the digital era. Unlike oil it is a renewable resource that does not run out, but instead has potential to multiply value when used right. Indeed, collaboration and open innovation create value, but in the digital era, sustainable value capture is oftentimes built on data and digital capabilities. That’s why the ecosystems that I have worked with recently, there is a strong interest towards data and numerous challenges around sharing it.

To create value from data, one needs to share it – and sharing is possible only when there is trust between organizations and people. And while there are tools like data sharing agreements and rule books that help with rational aspects of trust building, fundamentally, data sharing is about people. Making a decision to trust.

Reflection: Building sustainable success with data

Last year the Ecosystem Handbook introduced the ecosystem journey as a framework for analyzing how ecosystems emerge, evolve, adapt and expand. Now, about a year later, after working with a number of ecosystems, we see a clear connection with ecosystems and data. And are playing with the idea of “Ecosystem Databook” – answering the question of “How to create and capture value from data along the ecosystem journey?” from both rational and emotional viewpoints.

Closing the year with reflection is a good start. Getting into action calls for a fresh start and an open mind. That’s what I hope for the year 2022 – both rationally and emotionally!

PS. Any comments and feedback about what you would like to learn about ecosystems and data would be highly appreciated by the writing team me, Ulla Koivukoski, Reko Lehti and Jyrki Suokas.