The enterprise ecosystem is the constellation of entities — customers, suppliers, investors, regulatory bodies and so on—that affect, and are affected by directly or indirectly, the actions of the enterprise.
An enterprise ecosystem differs from a stakeholder system in that it includes entities not generally viewed as stakeholder groups (such as competitors, anti-clients and activist organizations).
¹ The term ‘anti-client’ was originated by Tom Graves.
Enterprises do not ‘have’ an ecosystem. It is not theirs to own. The enterprise is but one interdependent part of the enterprise ecosystem, and it does not sit at the centre, pulling the strings.
The ‘ecosystem’ metaphor
Although an enterprise ecosystem resembles a biological ecosystem in various ways, it is not really an ecosystem as defined in the text quoted below. In the context of this website, I am using the term ecosystem metaphorically.
Likewise, an enterprise is not really an organism, but it can sometimes be useful to think and act as though it were one.
Language is rich in metaphor, but all metaphors are fundamentally flawed as they are crude representations of reality. Ecosystem is no exception.
Choose the Right Metaphors and Analogies
Metaphors and analogies matter a great deal. Refer to a problem as a “cancer” that’s eating away at the compassionate culture of your team, and you’ll likely cause people to focus on what’s wrong with their team spirit and attitude that employees exhibited in the past.
But call the team-spirit problem a “blimp on the radar” of their normal compassionate culture caused by “technology hiccups” that have momentarily diverted their attention and you’ll likely have them pulling together again as a team.
Source: Speak To The Heart To Lead Change, by Dianna Booher
The term ‘ecosystem’ was first used in a publication by British ecologist Arthur Tansley, although the term was coined in the early 1930s by British biologist Arthur Roy Clapham at Tansley’s request. Tansley devised the concept to draw attention to the importance of transfers of materials between organisms and their environment. He later refined the term, describing it as “The whole system, … including not only the organism-complex, but also the whole complex of physical factors forming what we call the environment”.²
Ecosystems are composed of dynamically interacting parts including organisms, the communities they make up, and the non-living components of their environment.³
Ecosystems are dynamic entities—invariably, they are subject to periodic disturbances and are in the process of recovering from some past disturbance.²
Ecology (from Greek: οἶκος, “house”; -λογία, “study of”) is the scientific analysis and study of interactions among organisms and their environment. It is an interdisciplinary field that includes biology and Earth science.³
The word ‘ecology’ (‘Ökologie’) was coined in 1866 by the German scientist Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919). Ecological thought is derivative of established currents in philosophy, particularly from ethics and politics.³
Ecologists seek to explain:
- Life processes, interactions and adaptations
- The movement of materials and energy through living communities
- The successional development of ecosystems
- The abundance and distribution of organisms and biodiversity in the context of the environment.³
On this website
Metaphors we live by (pdf), by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson
The value of a metaphor: Organizations and ecosystems (pdf), by Matthew M. Mars, Judith L. Bronstein and Robert F. Lusch, in Organizational Dynamics (2012) 41