Posts Tagged Journey Mapping

Introducing Ecosystem Thinking

 Ecosystem Thinking = Systems Design + Design Thinking + Holistic Strategy
It seems everywhere I go, everyone is talking about the importance, value and nature of the ecosystem.  It’s especially poignant as I am once again in the middle of one of the most active technology ecosystems in the world, working as a mentor again this week in Google’s Launchpad Accelerator program. In fact, the broader purpose of the program is to cultivate a startup ecosystem globally that engages all key stakeholders in this important sector of the economy.

While I won’t be getting too deep into the Google Launchpad case study today, it is relevant as I sit here in the midst of it, how perfectly it epitomizes what I have been talking about for a very long time. In the room around me right now are many representative stakeholders of the startup ecosystem. Several early stage and growth stage startups, numerous mentors like myself donating there time to help others, Google employees who run the program, Google employees who are here to contribute their domain expertise, a couple of VC partners, several academics and several AI experts.

There are a few foundational aspects to Ecosystem Thinking in my view, but none more paramount then the concept of convening participants for cultivating mutual benefit. The fact that Google does this without any strings attached to the startups, mentors and others beyond that important lesson from philosophers Bill & Ted, “Be Excellent to Each Other”, is literally the icing on the cake.

It is a strategy that many traditional business leaders would consider folly. But this level of openness, of good will and positive intent is the magic that  magnifies the value. No one needs to be here. Even the Googlers are here by choice. Everyone is getting what they need and contributing what they have. We are in it together.

This is another foundational tenet that will be harder for old school companies to support, despite its necessity. The program is designed for the interactions/relationships between participants to provide reciprocity for everyone. As Rachel Happe of Community Roundtable often reminds me, the most important ROI of a community is for people to feel as if they got more out then they put in.

Of course, this is what we learned from bringing Social Media Club to the world. It was also key to my work at Deloitte Digital in the development of the Engagement Curve. A realization that the proverbial lever for creating value and finding market success was the depth and breath of REAL Relationships the company formed with key stakeholders while serving the market. REAL being an acronym for Reciprocal Empathetic Authentic and Long lasting. This is indeed what I feel uniquely here as a part of this Google Launchpad ecosystem, and part of the inspiration for finally writing this today. That sense of belonging, the feeling of being in the right place, with the right people and being valued by the people here as much as I value them. My hope in writing this book on Ecosystem Thinking is to convince hundreds of world leaders from Global 2000 C-Suites to embrace this mindset, but I know that reading about it is no substitute for feeling what I am experiencing right now.

OK, so that is a practical introduction to what I mean by Ecosystem Thinking and some key aspects of it, but what is the key theory? what does it mean?

The Heart of Ecosystem Thinking

Ecosystem Thinking is based on the hypothesis that leaders who optimize their organization’s strategy and operations around the co-creation of shared value will be the biggest winners in their respective markets. This requires leaders to transcend their short term thinking for a more balanced approach to long and short term, with an expanded understanding of who the key stakeholders are. It’s no longer just the investors and shareholders, companies today need to serve the market, not just the stock market. So we accomplish our goals by thinking differently, a mix of systems design, design thinking and holistic strategy, supported by a natural sciences approach to growth and vitality.

Tactically speaking, we have a lot more to share on this, but first and foremost, the work supporting Ecosystem Thinking as I have come to regard it is based on applying experience design and journey mapping to all stakeholder relationships, not merely customers. This means employees, partners, local community leaders, families of employees, alumni and countless others. In our complex world, the only way to engender and earn the trust of so many people simultaneously is to do this intentionally, to come from a position of openness and empathy. A strong ecosystem won’t happen accidentally as it is not human nature to deal with the complexity that this entails.

You see, another foundational belief of ecosystem thinking is that everything matters. So in a world where we strive for simplicity, we often run from this level of complexity, but it is what is required to succesfully compete in today’s world. There are not many people who can contextualize such a wide set of data and disciplines thoroughly to strategically understand and lead an ecosystem, but this is indeed the sort of person that is needed in a role of Ecosystem Architect. I believe they share many character/personality traits in common with community managers, such as genuine concern and the sort of expert relationship management of connecting the right people, and proverbial dots. They also, like myself, typically will have an inter-disciplinary background and as a result, are likely to have a ‘non-traditional’ resume. But I am getting ahead of myself here, so lets wrap this up for now instead.

So What?

In today’s connected society, marked by a near real time market and increasingly higher customer expectations, getting things right is the price of admission in many markets. While we need to understand the sharing economy, the gig economy, the collaborative economy and the virtual economy and how all these evolving aspects of our broader socioeconomic framework impacts our organization, I believe it is the inter-connectedness of all people, information and resources that is truly paramount.

This is why I believe that Ecosystem Thinking will be essential for all organizations, or at least for those companies who are or aspire to be market leaders at scale. In order to enjoy the trust and support of a large market, adopting an ecosystem mindset, and cultivating as many REAL Relationships as possible is a necessity. This is across all aspects of the business – from talent recruitment, to supply chain management, to investments and of course to customer engagement.

To lead an organization that leads a given market is to lead an ecosystem. So studying how this is done well and constantly working to improve is the ultimate key to success. It is also, as we will discuss in the book and over the months ahead, how we reduce costs, increase quality and optimize profitability over the long term.

Are you ready to join this journey? Are you ready to lead an ecosystem?

BRACE Yourself.

HELP Others.

EACH Moment Matters.

This is the mantra of Ecosystem Architects and the change agents who will lead this emerging set of strategies and tactics. Are you ready? Let’s get to work.

Side Note: I’ve been working on this for so long but have been waiting to write and share this introduction till I managed to mold the thoughts into a more linear narrative. After receiving some great validation this week talking to other mentors here at the Google Launchpad AI/Machine Learning event in NYC, I realized I just need to write and refne it all later.

I’ve done a lot of work on this from my early startups to building the platform for the Palm Economy to building a global community of industry professionals. I’ve done a lot of thinking. I’ve spoken to hundreds of experts and practitioners. I was even reminded by my former counselor and mentor Matt Law that Deloitte has a partner focused on Ecosystems now – their report on Ecosystems is here. What’s written above isn’t the full story, it’s not complete, it’s not neat and it’s not ready for prime time. It is ready for constructive criticism, your insights, and your stories.

So this is the official beginning of the book which I’ve been developing across my whole life. To help more people see the world of business, and society more broadly, through the holistic lens with which I have been blessed/cursed. To share models, strategies and tactics that will provide valuable sense making. And ultimately, as the book is currently framed, to provide global business leaders with an understanding of the new mindsets, methods and measures required for optimizing business results in the modern economy.

Thank you for joining us on this journey.

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#CXDNow s1e2 – The Challenges to Overcome with Tom Illmensee from Prezi

#CXDNow - The Challenges to Overcome with Tom Illmensee of Prezi
Now that we have established the basics of Customer Experience Design, having talked with author Brian Solis, and IBM Journey Designer Product Manager Doug Foulds, we are going to start getting to more practical matters. In our next live Blab on Wednesday October 14 at noon PST, we will be talking with Tom Illmensee, the Director of User Experience and Design at Prezi. If you care about design, and great presentations, you know of Prezi, the dynamic visual storytelling tool that has transcended the typical boring slide show. So, it goes without saying that Tom is truly one of the masters in designing great experiences.

While we will certainly be tapping into his expertise to get some practical insights and advice, our focus for the next show in the series is going to focus on the challenges customer experience designers face. From selling the process to management, to coordinating teams, to making difficult decisions with little to no data and in particular in regards to the constant process of refinement that we must embrace to correct our mistaken assumptions. If you are striving to make CX part of your career path or simply trying to figure out how to bring CX into your organization’s processes around customer engagement and marketing, you must join us next Wednesday October 14, 2015 at noon PST.

Tom Illmensee – Bio

Tom Illmensee is the Director of User Experience and Design at Prezi, where he coaches user experience teams and fuels product innovation through design research. His 15-year journey in UX has covered wide territory: from a startup focused on philanthropy, to a software company helping people find service jobs, to an e-commerce giant and technology consulting. He’s even been a professional musician, preschool teacher, library clerk and cook. Along the way he has discovered new ways of collaborating and surprising paths to empathy. Tom has a master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University. He recently moved from Richmond, Virginia to Budapest, where he plays guitar entirely too loud, runs every day and refuses to shave.

Need help creating design moving customer experiences? IBM Journey Designer enables you and your team to collaboratively visualize journeys, set shared marketing goals, and create and refine tailored experiences for dozens of priority segments. Learn more on this blog post or try it at no cost at


For more about the #CXDNow series, why I am doing it and where we are headed, read this background post.

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#CXDNow Premiere – Brian Solis, “X – The Experience When Business Meets Design”

#CXDNow Premiere - Chris Heuer Interviews Brian Solis
The time for customer experience design is now! In this premiere episode of our new web series CXDNow, host Chris Heuer interviews author Brian Solis to discuss his perspective on Customer Experience Design and his new book, “X – The Experience When Business Meets Design“.

In part 1 of the interview we discuss the basics, providing an overview of what Customer Experience Design is and what is driving it. Specifically looking at creating and supporting a truly customer centric view. In fact, going beyond the traditional lip service to embrace “radical customer centricity & empathy”. We also discuss the role of journey mapping and its importance in coordinating marketing and engagement efforts across the company. In part 2 of the interview below, we go deeper into the challenges and opportunities this change creates and how to best approach the practice to find success. Finally, in part 3, we open up our Blab and are joined by Ross Quintana who shares his perspective having been working in this space for many years and helping organizations transform to reap the benefits that such forward thinking provides.

Our goal with the series is to help advance the field of Customer Experience Design, to provide you with the insights and advice you need to bring this important practice into your organization. By embracing radical customer centricity that creates true empathy for the customer along their journey, you can not only survive in the current market, but thrive. Over the course of the next six weeks, we will cover the basics, help you understand how to sell it to your leadership and get into the practicalities of how to do it better and ultimately look to the future.

If you would like to be a part of the taping of the show and join in our post interview conversation, you can join us on Wednesday October 7, 2015 at noon PST on Blab as we interview Doug Foulds, product manager for IBM Journey Designer as we discuss The Need for Customer Experience Design and Journey Maps.

Need help creating design moving customer experiences? IBM Journey Designer enables you and your team to collaboratively visualize journeys, set shared marketing goals, and create and refine tailored experiences for dozens of priority segments. Learn more on this blog post or try it at no cost at


Brian Solis Interview Part 1 of 3 – What is Customer Experience Design

Brian Solis Interview Part 2 of 3 – The Challenges and Opportunities

Brian Solis Interview Part 3 of 3 – The Blab with Ross Quintana


Join us on Blab on Wednesday October 7, 2015 at noon PST for S1E1 where we interview IBM Journey Designer product manager Doug Foulds to discuss The Need for Customer Experience Design and Journey Maps along with another special guest practitioner.

#CXDNow Interview with Doug Foulds - The Need for Customer Experience Design and Journey Maps


For more about the #CXDNow series, why I am doing it and where we are headed, read this background post.

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