29 Sep Connecting the Ecosystem, Transforming Education
‘Connecting the Ecosystem, Transforming Education’ is a key purpose for us at LearnTech Lab and this post will unpack and elucidate what is meant by the word ECOSYSTEM. Currently, the word is being used widely across a large number of sectors and given that the simple definition is ‘a complex network or interconnected system’ it is easy to understand why.
The problem with this though is that there is a danger that the word ECOSYSTEM becomes what Marvin Minsky termed a ‘suitcase word’. Suitcase words can be defined as those that contain a variety of meanings packed into them depending on the background or purpose of the person using them with the greatest risk of it only being used to sound current or trendy.
Whilst we are proponents of keeping everything as simple as possible, we’d like to share our definition of an ecosystem from a LearnTech Lab perspective.
“An ecosystem is a complex network of stakeholders that extends across traditional industry verticals. These stakeholders— schools, start-ups, investors, industry, advisors, and government — connect through both digital and physical platforms and interact in ways that have a positive impact on learning, teaching and leading. The ecosystem is co-evolving in temporary clusters of semi-permanent relationships and participants have a high degree of autonomy, and their roles are not constant.”
So definitely not simple! But, what does this look like in practice and why do we think it’s important to connect the ecosystem?
Characteristics of an ecosystem
An important element of the ecosystem for us is that it is purpose-focused with the school (student, teacher, and leader) at the centre. The ecosystem needs to be multi-entity, meaning it has a range of traditional and non-traditional stakeholders including, but not limited to:
- School Leaders
- Corporate and Industry
- Advisors and Mentors
These networks of shifting semi-permanent relationships between stakeholders ensure that all members co-evolve as they redefine their capabilities and relationships with each other over time. To thrive, the ecosystem will be dynamic, collaborative, emergent, influence based and network-oriented.
To enable this to happen we believe the following mindsets are required and are adapted from The New Ecosystem World -Tata Consultancy Services (1):
- Purpose focused: this is a central piece for the ecosystem and for all members to enact in their interactions with each other.
- Risk-embracing: a challenge in education has always been that at its core is the student which has led to risk-averse responses in many situations. We believe there’s a need to shift the mindset to risk-embracing while ensuring student safety and wellbeing is a paramount concern. Our SandBox Lab, which we’ll talk about in our next post, is a way to manage this tension.
- Co-opetition: all members of the ecosystem operate within a competitive environment if not now, soon. Our ecosystem only includes those with the mindset that more can be achieved by working together to share resources and knowledge, than by keeping these closed. By adopting this mindset, greater outcomes are produced and all benefit.
- Exponential growth and thinking: while there are always limitations on resources, the network effect of exponential thinking by individuals and organisations leads to exponential growth, particularly with the convergence of emerging technologies, which links to the final point…
- Thinking glocal: glocal is the concept of thinking global and, at least initially, acting local. A key focus of the ecosystem is scalability and having a positive impact both locally and globally. Additionally, the ecosystem operates within a glocal context where local members also have the opportunity to partner with global ecosystems or partners around mutually beneficial projects.
Benefits of the ecosystem
For any system to succeed there needs to be identified benefits for all members. By adopting the ecosystem mindset traits, we believe the following benefits will emerge:
- More opportunities – by connecting the ecosystem(s) greater access to the latest thinking, knowledge and other supporting factors will create more opportunities for all involved.
- Improved collaboration – the need to develop collaboration skills between individuals and organisations is increasingly recognised as a key factor in being successful in a largely automated future.
- Expand learning potential for all – the ecosystem enables all members to learn from each other through horizontal integration of thinking and learning as opposed to the traditional vertical integration that most sectors display through siloed organisational structures.
- Innovation is supported – another key skill for the future is that of creativity, and the ecosystem, when running well, will enable more great ideas to come to life to help learners learn better, teachers teach better, and leaders lead better.
- Rapid experimentation – through the ever-evolving high-quality relationships and direct contact with the ‘client’ (student, teacher, leader), enables people with great ideas to test, iterate and develop in rapid time leading to better outcomes for all.
- Exponential and glocal impact – through all of the above, the impact is exponential as opposed to linear, and positively impacts both the local and global community.
Our Role in the Ecosystem
At LearnTech Lab, we see our role as a catalyzer who helps to ignite and shape the evolution of the ecosystem. A key dynamic of successful ecosystems is that they are ‘shaped’ as opposed to ‘lead’ where there are constant iterations and co-evolution for the mutual benefit of all involved.
To achieve this our focus is to:
- Engage ecosystem partners who both ‘talk and walk’ the ecosystem mindsets and to create a shared vision of the future of education where technology is seamlessly integrated to enable learners to learn better, teachers to teach better, and leaders to lead better.
- Support and develop the capabilities of both the members and the ecosystem generally for enhanced collaboration and information sharing.
- Create processes to enable the ecosystem to be adaptive and data-driven by what’s important not just what we can measure.
We hope that by sharing our understanding and interpretation of the term ‘ecosystem’ we can all be inspired to play our part in CONNECTING THE ECOSYSTEM, TRANSFORMING EDUCATION. Our next post will dive into how we are planning to bring this to reality via the SandBox Lab ™.
- The New Ecosystem World: How to Navigate a World of Digital Ecosystems by Frank Diana, Bill Quinn, Kevin Mulcahy and Rose Castellon-Rodriguez, Tata Consultancy Services
- The Myths and Realities of Business Ecosystems by Jack Fuller, Michael G. Jacobides and Martin Reeves, MITSloan Management Review