Posted by: Katherine Raleigh
Programme Manager on Tue 01 May

Welcome to the latest in a series of brief interviews with guest experts from KnowledgeBrief’s Innovation Programme, providing a window into the experts’ latest ideas and new advice for executives.

Following the Innovation Day in April, Jeanne Meinholt, Head of Research at KnowledgeBrief (KB), interviewed Dr Jan Brown (JB) from Liverpool Business School to discuss the importance of finding and creating value in our business ecosystems to stimulate innovation.

KB: What’s the key business challenge that organisations need to address that your research tackles?

JB: The key business challenge is reviewing and rethinking where value is being and can potentially be created for themselves and for a broad range of stakeholders in their complex operating environment. My research uses the broadened definition of value (exchange, use and context) and explores where value is being created from a business ecosystem perspective and how innovation can be stimulated to create new value webs. The concept of the ecosystem develops the concept of a business network and is viewed as an evolving and adaptable system in which value is built and efficiency increased by all stakeholders collaborating by synchronizing their resources and evolving their roles and capabilities. Ecosystems are nested open systems and within any one all-encompassing ecosystem there are multiple sub-ecosystems.

KB: What advice would you give to executives, based on your findings?

JB: Ecosystems can only be formed and sustained in the long term when all of the stakeholders involved believe that their collaboration is mutually benefit to all. If the idea of working as part of an ecosystem is completely new to your organisation and your stakeholders, then rather than trying to create a total ecosystem straight away it is suggested that the concept is tested by creating a smaller sub-ecosystem with stakeholders who are ready and willing to embrace change. Test and evaluate the value being co-created and if successful roll out this ecosystem thinking on a bigger scale.

KB: How does your latest research approach this? What do the results indicate?

JB: My latest research explores how ecosystem thinking can be put into practice. This research suggests a six-step approach to implementing ecosystems thinking in practice:

  • The first two steps involve mapping and measuring where value is currently being created.
  • The second two steps involve defining the ecosystem stakeholders and identifying the activities that need to be either created, maintained, adapted or changed.
  • The final two steps involve selecting the appropriate business techniques to aid change and setting up evaluations systems that monitor value added.

To date this research indicates that by using a simple step-by-step process all stakeholders can gain a much broader understanding of where value is being co-created which can produce novel ideas for innovation and change.

KB: What did you learn or take away from meeting with the executives in the KnowledgeBrief Innovation Programmes?

JB: I learnt how useful the concept of the ecosystem could potentially be in practice. By applying ecosystem thinking to their own context and by using the broadened definition of value the executives were able to explore where value was being created in their own organisations, how this value was currently being measured and how by re-imagining their networks as ecosystems how value could be redesigned and measured in the future.

However, the executives did feel that this was a more complex way of looking at their current value creating systems and that a clear understanding would be needed, and maybe guidance required, to be confident in applying this thinking in practice. Starting off small and demonstrating how ecosystem thinking could increase co-operation and provide mutual benefit and value to all seemed to be felt to be a good way of trying to implement this new way of thinking in a complex operating environment.

With thanks to Dr. Jan Brown, Senior Lecturer in Project Management at Liverpool Business School.

Part of a series of brief interviews with expert guests from our Innovation Programmes, we cover insights from the latest research and key advice for executives to stay ahead in management and innovation.

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