Thursday, April 30, 2009

The “business ecosystem” subtext

A feature in the new Christian Science Monitor on restoring the Galápagos to their state before the invasives arrived – rats, dogs, lizards, and especially humans – suddenly revealed to me why the “business ecosystem” rhetoric makes me uneasy.

Here’s the key passage:
“If an ecosystem is a community of life forms that have evolved together and achieved equilibrium, then the restoration of that ecosystem begins with the removal of everything that upsets the balance.”
Users of the “business ecosystem” metaphor perhaps aren't even conscious that their goal is equilibrium, but I’ve now realized that it’s a foundation of this world view. Everybody needs stability in their lives, even when they also crave novelty; this is particularly true for large technology companies.

Catastrophe is as much a part of complex system behavior as continuity, but it's something we'd rather not think about too much. Radical change is bad news for incumbents - and it's bad for all of us when the "incumbents" are rare plant and animal species on the edge of extinction - but it is good news for newcomers trying to make their mark and change the world.

P.S. Here’s the quote in a little more context:
Certainly, reconstructing nature is a prospect fraught with contradictions. Can it really be natural if it is created by human design?

Cruz and fellow conservationists operate on a simple formula: If an ecosystem is a community of life forms that have evolved together and achieved equilibrium, then the restoration of that ecosystem begins with the removal of everything that upsets the balance. And so, somewhat paradoxically, the conservation of Galápagan ecosystems inevitably starts with a meticulous campaign of eradication. Animals introduced by people must go. Once the slate is wiped clean, native species, some of which continue to exist only in captivity – like Lonesome George, the iconic giant tortoise who's the last of his breed – can be reintroduced. Then the community, a system of checks and balances honed to perfection over time – of grazing tortoises and plants, birds and seeds that need each other – can reestablish.

1 comment:

johnnyz said...

Agree - and of course this is always the issue when people want to establish a 'sustainable' business model - over what timeframe would that be, for instance? Should it never be disrupted? Until capital is repaid?