Published on in Innovation

Most people have heard the saying, “two heads are better than one”. But did you know that this isn’t the full quote?

One of the earliest recorded occurrences of the proverb dates to a 1546 text by John Heywood. In modern English, it reads:

“Some heads have taken that two heads are better than one:

But ten heads without wit, are as good as none.”

This extended edition, in my opinion, captures an important wisdom behind ecosystems.

Ecosystems are a diverse group of organisations capable of collaborating effectively together by working within necessary frameworks in order to achieve their individual and collective goals. They can include customers, partners, charities, academia and integrators, such as Fujitsu.

These days, no brand stands completely alone in our global market – everything is interconnected. And when two companies work together to address a challenge, not only do they double their strengths, but they also halve their weaknesses.

It’s a simple formula, but it has allowed human beings to reach increasingly loftier heights of ingenuity. Teamwork fuels innovation, and the larger and more varied the team, the more potential it has.

However, the reason I like the quote above is its added emphasis on ‘wit’, which for our purposes, we can modernise into ‘strategy’.

Simply naming the ten companies closest to you your ecosystem won’t automatically elicit innovation in your enterprise – thought needs to be put into who you choose to partner with.

Does an organisation share your values? Do it help address a key problem you have? Will it add to or elevate your corporate culture?

These are important questions because ecosystems are an extension of your brand, and it’s a two-way relationship. So, expect the choice of who you (professionally) get into bed with to reflect back on you.

Ecosystems are incredibly potent sources of innovation and they can provide your business with that missing piece it lacks. But only if the right partners are selected for the right reasons.

So, the first and most important question is – what goes into building a great ecosystem?

Diversity – the magic ingredient

In today’s global economy, things move so fast that no company really has a choice but to have an ecosystem supporting it. Customer expectations are higher than they’ve ever been and there’s an urgent need for good ideas from as wide a body as possible.

Therefore, larger ecosystems give you the best chance at being innovative and keeping up with evolving needs and wants.

However, there’s more to a large ecosystem than the number of its participants. The bigger an ecosystem is, the more representative of society it’s likely to be.

This is why I call diversity a magic ingredient; it leads to diverse thinking, which has been proven to significantly increase a business’ ability to innovate and stay ahead of the competition.

Creating a diverse ecosystem doesn’t just happen by accident – it happens by design. So, while you want a broad church of partners, it’s also important to make sure you communicate your values loudly and search for companies at least prepared to listen to them.

For example, a lot of the partners Fujitsu has are smaller start-ups with a lot of energy and agility. But often, due to their size, they may not be very diverse.

So, when a start-up joins our ecosystem, we not only share our best practices, training, market view, customer relations and the framework, but also our set of values – such as diversity.

By bringing them into our ecosystem, our emphasis on diversity can become more than just words. Because in time, we can expose them to the real-world benefits of these values in action.

Being able to change hearts and minds of other businesses on such topics helps us achieve our main goal of changing society for the better. It also means we can give a voice to smaller partners and ensure they have a seat at the collaboration table.

And by using our ideals as a compass, we can filter through the noise and make sure only the best ideas, innovation and values have their voices amplified by us.

Never stop searching for the missing piece

An ecosystem is a delicate criss-cross of relationships, and managing a successful one requires partners that not only help address a business challenge, but also respect you, your existing partners and your customers.

We at Fujitsu understand that we don’t have all the best answers. So, to make sure we’re respecting our customer’s goals, we’re always looking externally to collaborate.

The best ecosystem shares their innovative ideas, themselves, how they work so they can ultimately share their success.

But that requires being clear on what success looks like – simply hitting milestones isn’t a reason to celebrate, that should only happen once you’ve achieved your customers’ goals. And that doesn’t happen until the solution has been scaled and executed.

So strive to create real relationships with your partners and be prepared to take out old partners when you can no longer share benefits or become irrelevant to one another.

Because you should never be happy with your ecosystem, always be searching for the missing piece to the puzzle. But we believe responsible business is good business.

So don’t just look for the perfect partner, because part of the journey should be enabling them to become better.

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