The Ecology of Innovation

Biological ecosystems are similar to innovation ecosystems. They both are composed of elements that work in harmony to achieve a balance.

Biological ecosystems are similar to innovation ecosystems. They both are composed of elements that work in harmony to achieve a balance.

In the case of biologic systems, it includes all living organisms (biotic factors) in an area as well as its physical environments (abiotic factors) functioning together as a unit. It is characterized by one or more equilibrium states, where a relatively stable set of conditions exist to maintain a population or nutrient exchange at desirable levels. The ecosystem has certain functional characteristics that specifically regulate change or maintain the stability of a desired equilibrium state.

Innovation ecosystems, on the other hand, have elements that are arranged and connected to achieve innovation and user-defined value. The innovation ecosystem comprises two distinct, but largely separated economies, the knowledge economy, which is driven by fundamental research, and the commercial economy, which is driven by the marketplace.

Whereas biologic ecosystems have evolved over millions of years through evolutionary selection, innovation ecosystems are man-made entities that, for the most part, are the focus of trial and error.

Most innovation ecosystem efforts, whether at the personal, organizational, regional, national, or international levels are designed to overcome the barriers that exist between the knowledge economy and the commercial economy. Highly productive innovation ecosystems are characterized by knowledge based economy inputs outputs that result in high-value, efficient commercial economy outputs.

Innovation fails for many reasons. One reason is the failure of entrepreneurs to manage their innovation ecosystems.

Entrepreneurial success, in an increasingly complex and interconnected world, rarely takes place in isolation. Like biologic organisms, it needs to fit into a system that will support it and work symbiotically to support its growth and evolution. The valley of death is not just about lack of capital, but also about being a bad fit in the ecosystem.