An enormous swarm of sardines swims on the coast of Africa. The sardines move extremely fluently, accurately and deliberately. The fish change their course in a blink of an eye and create beautiful artworks one after another. How is this possible? How can the sardines make this happen? And who leads the ecosystem of fish?
Luckily the biologists have researched this. The answer is that there is no single fish, which leads the swarm. The swarm is steered by itself, autonomously.
The scientists have evidence that the fish don’t have any leaders in the swarm. An interesting discovery is that the smooth motion is based on continuous sensing of environment and rich interaction between the fish. Every single fish follows the activities of its closest colleagues. The actions of the closest ones affect the decision making of a single fish. When all the sardines in the swarm act in a similar way, this kind of magnificent movement is established. The scientists have also recognized the same kind of behaviour in flocks of starlings.
Companies live in the same kind of ecosystem as sardines and starlings are. The way the fish and birds are acting in the ecosystems should be the dream model for companies on how to act in their own business ecosystem.
What’s the lesson to be learned? Firstly, companies form an ecosystem. For a single company it’s impossible to interact simultaneously with all other companies in the ecosystem. Therefore, a company chooses the closest ones, which affect their own business the most. Usually there exists only 10 strategic relations. Secondly, every company makes its own decisions. No one else can make decisions on behalf of another company. But you can always behave and act with a manner that has the most positive effect on your company. And thirdly, a single company is always in the centre of its own network. Every company has a different network of strategic relations.
Do you believe in sardines? Test it! How many customers and suppliers can you find in your CRM or SRM? With how many of those do you discuss monthly? Do any of your customers or suppliers have the power to make decisions of behalf of your company? Is it easier and more productive to work with a supplier or a customer, who interacts actively than with those who don’t interact at all?
How does your company behave? Are your motions fluent, accurate and deliberate or clumsy, imprecise and unconsidered? Be honest and answer these questions. Then you may have a better perspective for your expectations of the partners.