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For the last four months or so, I've been busy on a collective project called the $300 House. While I still spend my time working on my day job and traveling, I find this project fascinating. The key challenge is this: how do we bring individuals, companies, NGOs and governments to build and deploy a $300 House village for the poor?

The answer, to me at least, is to build an ecosystem of smart folks, and let the Power of Pull do the work for me.  So far, it seems to be working. We've put together an informal group of advisors, signed up almost 500 interested individuals from all over the world, and formed a small online group to see where this goes.

The first step was to create as much noise as possible to attract the attention of the right people.  When VG, my partner in crime, took our blog post to the Harvard Business Review, the response was overwhelming.

We ended up bringing together a series of blog-posts on the challenges posed by the $300 House, thanks to the extraordinary support from the editors at HBR (Scott Berinato even joined our group as an advisor!):

We then got some visibility in the Economist when they chose VG's 2011 Agenda as a leading thought.

Now we're starting phase two - D E S I G N.

Stay tuned!
 
I'm posting this because Forrester, the analyst firm which advises so many companies on how they should manage their web presence, just destroyed their online ecosystem. History has a way of repeating itself, because we don't learn from our mistakes. In terms of online brand presence, we are often our worst competitor.

Here's the same mistake, made by another famous institution.

Back in middle of 2009, the folks at Harvard Business Review moved to a new online home. They left the shelter of the business school and established a site of their own. They switched domains from hbswk.hbs.edu to harvardbusiness.org.  

Good idea, bad execution. 

Why? Because when they moved, they switched the old site off.

At the time, I created two charts - a before and an after - to see the extent of the damage they had caused to themselves:

BEFORE:

eco_hbr_before.gif

AFTER:

eco_hbr_after.gif

Overnight, they went from being the center of the thought-leadership universe (BusinessWeek, The Economist, Knowledge@Wharton, The McKinsey Quarterly, and Strategy + Business were all satellites in the old ecosystem) to a stand-alone with no connections.  They lost 80-90% of their traffic, and more importantly, they lost their preeminent position in Google and Yahoo.

Luckily, being Harvard Business Review, they recovered.  But they lost important ground to their competitors. Knowledge@Wharton has far outpaced them online.

And now Forrester makes the same mistake.
I promised my readers on ChristianSarkar.com that I'd dig into the October HBR article on shaping strategy by JH3 and JSB.

What is a shaping strategy?


A shaping strategy is "an effort to broadly redefine the terms of competition for a market sector through a positive,galvanizing message that promises benefits to all who adopt the new terms."

Think Apple's iTunes, Salesforce.com's AppExchange, or IBM's role in eclipse.org.

A "shaping" company builds a platform for others to engage in the co-creation of value.

The shaping company builds a critical mass of participants in its ecosystem and becomes the platform of choice in its industry.

shapingstrategy.gif
In essence, the "shaper" is the critical hub in building out the dominant ecosystem. 

In our work, we sometimes find multiple "shapers" in an industry, all trying to build critical mass with their ecosystem partners. When this happens, it is often the consumer who decides which  platform or ecosystem will prevail.

Download the article here >>
What can companies learn from SAP's efforts to build a scalable ecosystem at the edge of its enterprise?

- Effective ecosystems generate differentiation and specialization

- Ecosystems evolve over time, but the orchestrator plays a key role in seeding and feeding participant initiatives

- Robust ecosystems are helpful to individuals, not just institutions

- Robust ecosystems require mobilizing large numbers of specialized third parties, not just the vendor and its customers

- Ecosystems at the edge bleed into the core of the enterprise

- Ecosystems are not just about connecting to existing resources--they help provide platforms for distributed innovation and learning

More here from John Hagel and John Seely Brown >>

Virtually all executives now buy into the wisdom of Bill Joy's observation that "there are always more smart people outside your company than within." Almost everyone pay lip service to the idea of open-innovation -- that coming up with new value in the marketplace often depends upon connecting effectively with other companies and individuals.


For the past eight years, I have been studying online ecosystems, learning to discern patterns of traffic, relationships between sites, and the relative positioning of competitors in a crowded (or not so crowded) marketspace.

In this blog I look forward to sharing my insights and discoveries as we learn about different types of online ecosystems.  Join me as we discover, analyze, measure, and  learn to leverage online ecosystems
 

Feel free to contact me >>

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