“At the heart of all beauty lies something inhuman.”

Albert Camus

photo credit: Christine Myaskovsky (chrissymckeen) via photopin cc

Do ‘economic ecosystems’ apply to small biz owners?

Or is it just a lofty topic better left to academics?

Is social media the bridge between communities that everyone says that it is?

I’ve been pondering a lot lately about how ecosystems might apply to the world inhabited by small biz owners. I hear the word community thrown around quite a bit among marketing geeks like me.  Usually it’s applied to the bland go-local campaigns being heavily touted these days, or to such in-human, disconnected digital worlds such as Facebook.

So in my usual fashion I drove straight into the belly of the beast, and began gobbling up as much information as I could on ecosystems, community, symbiosis, etc…

Here’s my cursory results:

DISCLAIMER: I felt seriously out-gunned writing this piece – the majority of articles I read were academic papers written by some hella smart people.  For a minute, I thought I had teleported into an episode of Numb3rs, with Charlie frenetically explaining probabilities, chaos theory and the various techniques to map complex systems.  I’m quite certain that I’ve screwed up some of the facts, however, my goal here is simply to distill the topic into a from digestible for small business owners like me, in the hope that it may strengthen and humanize their businesses.

Ecosystems vs. Community vs. Relationships

A community is made up of living entities and is mostly chaotic and difficult to define. An ecosystem imposes some order on that mess and includes “non-human entities”.

Put simply an ecosystem contains interdependent communities.

The strength of an ecosystem, and the connections between its communities (and their members) is dictated by the following criteria:

  1. Diversity – in nature, the diversity of the elements in an ecosystem lead to more rapid evolution, which in the end leads to the survival of the species within it. 
  2. Abundance – availability of resources, food, water, electricity, etc…
  3. Stability – the ability of the elements in the ecosystem to weather change.
  4. Parasitism – a non-mutual relationship.  The parasite benefits at the expense of the host
  5. Competition – interaction between living things in which the fitness of one is lowered by the presence of another
  6. Symbiosis – loosely: separate organisms that live interdependently with one another, without competing
  7. Membership – 1) Thinkers – Produce ideas, 2) Makers – Execute ideas, 3) Traders – Get makers and thinkers in the same room

 An ecosystem is a community of living organisms (plants, animals and microbes) in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment (things like air, water and mineral soil), interacting as a system

– Wikipedia –

Drilling it Down: Ecosystems and the Economy

When we look at ecosystems through an economic lens, some other factors are visible.

Fitting a keystone in an igloo. Credit: Doug Alan

Small Business Ecosystems: Winners and Losers

LOSER: Film (Non-Digital)

WINNER: the Open Source Movement

AND MY ECOSYSTEM: Private / Small B2B Companies

Some Questions

Applying the Ecosystem Concept to Your Small Biz

  1. Start with your neighbors (geographic or not)
  2. Promote independence – like state sovereignty (anti-membership / anti-club)
  3. Define your boundaries … boundaries are good thing (barriers to entry / compeititon, forces a tighter, stronger niches, higher quality relationships, etc…)
  4. Ecosystems survive because they evolve.  Diversity and its inevitable collaboration translates well into teaching.  By teaching others in your ecosystem, you strengthen its communities.
  5. Bigger is not Better … it’s easier to define the boundaries, easier to collaborate, easier to evolve, and easier to strengthen when working with smaller groups.
  6. Communities are supposed to be messy … learn when to get out of the way.
  7. Learn to spot and identify disturbances.


Communities are naturally formed, and ecosystems can be manipulated.  Ultimately the reasons for this are simple, HAPPINESS in the form of safety, comfort, and pleasure.

Honestly, I didn’t find the answer I was looking for, but I did uncover some important questions:


Business ecosystem as the new approach to complex adaptive business environments

WikiPedia – Media Ecology