Predators and prey: a new ecology of competition

Harv Bus Rev. 1993 May-Jun;71(3):75-86.


Much has been written about networks, strategic alliances, and virtual organizations. Yet these currently popular frameworks provide little systematic assistance when it comes to out-innovating the competition. That's because most managers still view the problem in the old way: companies go head-to-head in an industry, battling for market share. James Moore sets up a new metaphor for competition drawn from the study of biology and social systems. He suggests that a company be viewed not as a member of a single industry but as a part of a business ecosystem that crosses a variety of industries. In a business ecosystem, companies "co-evolve" around a new innovation, working cooperatively and competitively to support new products and satisfy customer needs. Apple Computer, for example, leads an ecosystem that covers personal computers, consumer electronics, information, and communications. In any larger business environment, several ecosystems may vie for survival and dominance, such as the IBM and Apple ecosystems in personal computers or Wal-Mart and K mart in discount retailing. In fact, it's largely competition among business ecosystems, not individual companies, that's fueling today's industrial transformation. Managers can't afford to ignore the birth of new ecosystems or the competition among those that already exist. Whether that means investing in the right new technology, signing on suppliers to expand a growing business, developing crucial elements of value to maintain leadership, or incorporating new innovations to fend off obsolescence, executives must understand the evolutionary stages all business ecosystems go through and, more important, how to direct those changes.

MeSH terms

  • Ecology
  • Economic Competition*
  • Financial Management / methods
  • Industry / economics*
  • Industry / organization & administration
  • Interinstitutional Relations
  • Leadership
  • Models, Econometric*
  • Organizational Culture*
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Planning Techniques
  • United States