Designing platforms to design ecosystems

E cosystems form on top of platforms. Ecosystem design starts with platform design.  By designing the platform and guiding interactions on the platform, ecosystem builders can encourage the formation of productive networks that link and leverage assets across the ecosystem.  Collaborations self-organize on the platform.

Platforms provide a valuable approach to convening willing participants in a new network or ecosystem. Here’s why:

  1. Platform metaphor enables the ecosystem to form without provoking an “immune response” from existing organizations.
  2. Plaforms balance open participation with leadership direction. The invitations can be open, but leadership can set the “rules of the game”, pose the ambiguous challenge, and provide the guidance.
  3. Platforms can be explicitly designed with strategic focus areas and a process to launch experiments quickly.
  4. Participants on the platform can “pull” shared resources to create value.   A platform for ecosystem development provides access to resources that can be configured quickly and easily through collaboration. Hagel and Brown refer to these design devices as “pull platforms”.
  5. The concept works well both inside and among organizations. Purdue has been collaborating with Fraunhofer IAO and the New Jersey Innovation Institute to experiment with different platform design concepts both inside the university and among the university and other entities.

Some Background

The concept of platforms first emerged in the business literature to explain how companies design and guide the formation of ecosystems to generate a capture value from networks. Platform-based business models are designed to create customized ecosystems within which the business co-creates value with outside parties: suppliers, competitors, customers, universities. Platforms are closely tied to the notion in of Open Innovation 2.0.

An Example

Here’s an example of platform design for a multi-disciplinary research project.

Ed Morrison is Director of the Purdue Agile Strategy Lab. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. For the past five or six years, he has been developing new, agile approaches to strategy in open, loosely joined networks, a discipline he calls Strategic Doing. Prior to starting his economic development work, Ed worked for Telesis, a corporate strategy consulting firm. In this position, he served on consulting teams for clients such as Ford Motor Company, Volvo, and General Electric. He conducted manufacturing cost studies in the U.S., Japan, Mexico, Canada, Italy, Sweden, and France. Ed started his professional career in Washington, D.C., where he has served as a legislative assistant to an Ohio Congressman, staff attorney in the Federal Trade Commission, and staff counsel in the US Senate. He holds a BA degree cum laude with honors from Yale University and MBA and JD degrees from the University of Virginia.

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