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February 01, 2011

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Abbie - this is a nice post, and you outline the challenge for large enterprises well. This is where community comes in. Those successful large enterprise who thinking long term, and placing themselves in a larger context, are proactively and deliberately leading and participating in communities with their customers, their employees, and other key stakeholders. They are focused on evolving mutual value and extending opportunity in the context of their broader environment.

I am glad to see folks discussing emergence vs. entrenched players. There is an entire set of driving forces and circumstances that differ considerably with life cycle phase. These driving determine how an organization should enact/enable/approach change. If a company/product progresses from emergence to growth to mainstream, there is an overwhelming tendency to optimize around that market/product. This is all well and good, but continued optimization (whether with legacy or modern enablers) is a game where a company assumes an equilibrium. In reality the equilibrium, if it exists at all, is at best punctuated.

Through continuous optimization of products/processes/technologies, etc. a company becomes entrenched and starts to ossify. The trick to fitness is to have structures that are quickly adapted to new conditions as well as having a highly developed observation and detection system that alerts the company to weak signals - signals that portend the emergence of something that might disrupt (or viewed another way, enable) growth. This depends entirely on whether the signal is found, realized for what it is and acted upon with respect to their own set of circumstances.

Even within industries that have a slower dynamic, companies tend to add weight as they age. This weight is a kind of operational complexity that erodes effectiveness and efficiency. If this internal tendency is not recognized, the fitness of the organization will suffer even in a stable environment until complexity outweighs operational capability and the organization is forced to transform - radical departures from the norm - or die out.

Michael

Thanks for your commentary Abbie. Your message should serve as a wake up call for those entities who are still consumed by the considerable momentum of their legacy heritage. The work of Business "Ecologists" should additionally be recognized and accepted by all enterprises as an important way forward in support of the growth and development of sustainable customer-focused business value everywhere...

Harvey R. Koeppel
Executive Director
Center for CIO Leadership

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