How to Shift your Default Mindset to an Ecosystem Mindset
I have defined four main default mindsets that hold us back from achieving a much needed ‘Ecosystem Mindset’, which requires a move away from ‘we are in it for ourselves’ to ‘we are in it to build value together.’
Each of us will have a dominant default mindset that determines:
- Our internal definition of how we bring our individual value to the world.
Working for an organisation, offering a service, creating a business or being a leader are all ways we see ourselves contributing our worth.
- An external manifestation of how we are rewarded for the value we bring.
Earning a salary, being paid fees, generating product revenues or being in a position of power are ways we are in turn rewarded for the things we do and achieve.
Developing an ecosystem mindset is not as simple as learning how to trust or increasing our willingness to work across boundaries, we must also overcome the stubborn thoughts associated with our dominant default mindset to open ourselves up to the full value we can co-create and share in.
I have developed a toolkit and accompanying methodology to help those participating in business or innovation ecosystems to
- Identify their default mindset.
- Unlearn old behaviours and beliefs that keep them stuck in their default mindset.
- Relearn new behaviours and beliefs that shift them out of their default mindset.
- Adopt an ecosystem mindset.
There are limiting beliefs, restricting behaviours and finite rewards associated with each of the four default mindsets. In the absence of ecosystem mindset, these default mindsets become palpable in collaborative situations and will negatively impact the ecosystem in play.
Default Mindset 1: An Employee Mindset
An employee-minded individual believes the value they bring is defined by their role and job specification. For this role, their main reward is the security of a monthly salary and perhaps an annual bonus linked to performance reviews. An employee mindset is often characterized by a reluctance to go above and beyond one’s role, a fear to act outside of the safety of organisational norms and a lack of willingness to share in the credit related to assigned tasks.
By contrast, an ecosystem requires role overlap, the shattering of comfort-zones and sharing in the work and its rewards are the name of the game.
Default Mindset 2: A Consulting Mindset
In an ecosystem context, consultants tend towards their accustomed expertise, which may or may not be relevant to the needs of a particular ecosystem. If an ecosystem in progress has too many consultant-minded people, it can be very damaging, as each individual will champion a different focus or approach, which pulls the ecosystem in too many directions until it wrenches apart.
A consultant mindset also wants to be rewarded for the giving of advice. In a co-creative environment, everyone is constantly giving their collaborative inputs which means advisory takes a major back seat in favour of critical action-orientation, doing the work and implementation.
Default Mindset 3: An Entrepreneurship Mindset
While entrepreneurship mindset is a building block of ecosystem mindset, on its own it can be an ecosystem blocker.
Modern entrepreneurs have been drilled to have an idea, to validate an idea and produce a minimum viable product which they then get funding for. This means the entrepreneur perceives themselves as the singular driving force behind a solution to a problem and central to the solution that then radiates out to customers and communities (regardless as to how much customers are involved in the product design.) The entrepreneur sees themselves and their investors as the ones who accrue the rewards and who hold the power over the IP produced.
An ecosystem mindset prioritizes the need to build networks and to join forces with others who are solving similar problems for greater impact in the world that what one could achieve alone. Multiple minimum viable products can consistently be produced within a validated minimum viable ecosystem where many parties have been proven to work well together. The heart of an ecosystem is not the entrepreneur, but the problem or problems being solved as a collective and the rewards and ownership are shared.
While entrepreneurs are a very important part of an ecosystem, the buck no longer starts and stops with them alone. Their ‘golden’ ideas can quickly be improved upon with collaborative inputs, which is a big mindset shift to have to make. The scarcity mindset often associated with the struggling entrepreneur becomes one of shared resources and abundance in an ecosystem, but the entrepreneur must let go of their ego.
Default Mindset 4: An Executive Mindset
The biggest shift executives need to make is one from individualistic power and control to sharing in power and leading alongside others. This notion extends to sharing in ownership and intellectual property with other organisations and individuals, which is still a tough pill for many executives to swallow. In ecosystem mindset, co-opetition, co-created value and value-sharing should be commonplace. In practice, we are seeing a lot of executives implementing ecosystems in their organisations, but their one brand still takes all the credit with a view to stay ahead of the competition and to dominate the marketplace.
Another difficult shift executives must make when playing in ecosystems is that others’ roles will overlap with theirs. Their success is no longer linked to the job title they have achieved, but rather to the impact that their leadership produces in a multi-stakeholder economy.
Adopting an Ecosystem mindset requires the adoption of ALL FOUR DEFAULT MINDSETS INTO ONE UNIFIED MINDSET
An Ecosystem Mindset: The Unified Mindset
Unlearning old behaviours and beliefs and relearning new behaviours and beliefs is not something that happens overnight, and using this toolkit to ask ourselves the hard questions can help.
However, there is a big ‘A-Ha’ moment that every one of us, regardless of our dominant default mindset can achieve relatively quickly.
It is this:
See yourself as an empowered human being with value to offer the world that is much broader in scope than what these traditional boxes allow for. Every single one of us has the capacity to play the role of either employee, consultant, entrepreneur and executive as and when required. In other words, sometimes we need to play the role of the subordinate, sometimes the advisor, sometimes the bold initiator and rule-breaker and sometimes the leader.
Business and innovation ecosystems should allow us to do just that. In an ecosystem, the value you bring to the table should take priority over the job title you give yourself or that an organisation bestows upon you. In doing so, you can morph between these roles which allows you to overcome the limitations of each role in the context of an ecosystem.
The more of us who adopt a unified mindset, the more of us who will have an ecosystem mindset, the more of us who will ensure our ecosystems move away from traditional organisational structures to collective structures where our full value is activated and appreciated, which in turn ensures the world is better a place through the sheer power of what we can co-create.
To access the full toolkit, which is now available to our ‘By Invite Only’ Collective Community members, please make a request in the comments section or email me at