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Thinking in Ecosystems: What It Takes for Large-Scale Change

We live in a world of open systems, so for the success of an organization (state or cultural institution, business, etc.) you need to be able to see yourself as part of a wider system and interact with its other players. What result can be achieved by changing your thinking? And what are the prerequisites for changes in large systems? This was told by Helena Savruk, managing partner of the Mohyla Strategic Agency (MSA), head of the "Strategic Architect School" and "Strategic Leadership in the Security and Defense Sector of Ukraine" programs at kmbs.


About nature and design


Once I heard the opinion of an artist: "The main thing now is to combine nature and design." For me, nature is about authenticity: energy, creation, the leader's personality, the authenticity of the attitude towards the systems you manage. And design is about how to achieve a dream. After all, a dream is the basis. And it must be implemented. And for this, the design of its embodiment is needed. Now we are forming the sixth set of the "Strategic Architect School" program. In my opinion, its special feature is the combination of two components: authenticity and design.

Authenticity arises due to the unique composition of the participants. We search for them for a very long time, select them in such a way as to achieve a multiplicative effect for the group. These should be leaders who have not only done a lot for the systems they lead, but also strive to do even more. The participants of the "Strategic Architect School" are managers, powerful personalities from the public and private sectors, representatives of non-governmental organizations. These are people who already take or are ready to take responsibility for large companies, cities, clusters, ecosystems, the country as a whole.

The desire to create is what distinguishes our members. And also - openness to new things. And, of course, we look at the values, personal and those that these leaders embed in their systems. This is the main criterion by which we make decisions about each potential participant.

Our task is to gather a group of personalities who, at first glance, are not at all similar to each other. They may have opposing views, different experiences and levels of ambition. In interviews, company managers often say that they do not want to learn anything from government officials. This reflects the huge gap between the business community and government institutions that exists in our society. However, a miracle happens on the program - the participants discover other worlds for themselves: business finally sees how powerful state leaders can be, or thanks to acquaintance with the military, they understand what leadership can be like in different systems.

Why is the cooperation of different players necessary?

We communicate a lot with the governments of other countries and the Ukrainian government, so we see that state and social systems around the world are currently facing problems of a very high level of complexity. So much that it is impossible to solve them on your own. Therefore, the ability to find partners who will strengthen us is what we can win at the expense of. Including as a country. But for that we have to open ourselves up. We have to look for who will play together with us and strengthen our result. We also have to understand other players. For example, the state should understand what business is, not to treat it like a younger brother, not to tell it what to do. Business in Ukraine is already very mature, and the war made it even stronger.

Even those sectors that were previously closed now need to open up to cooperation. For example, security and defense players. They need to seek new solutions with partners that can strengthen complex and rapidly changing systems. Security is no longer the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Defense or other similar entities. Military program participants see how creative solutions are created by business representatives, how many state managers from other areas develop their systems. And it helps them also open up and generate solutions with a completely different level of design.

Public organizations that also participate in the program are hidden assets of the country. They are able to quickly multiply the capabilities of state and social systems. However, neither social systems nor business realize the possibilities of public organizations. For example, in Ukraine there is a powerful international public organization that is concerned with a healthy lifestyle. At the same time, no agribusiness knows about it. And he could cooperate with her, instead of investing a lot of money in the promotion of a healthy lifestyle.

Cooperation with players who are not like you requires a willingness to understand a different way of thinking. For example, public organizations have a completely different speed of decision-making and the rhetoric of setting tasks.

About systemic thinking

Today, thinking in terms of systems is a necessary competence for a manager. Systems surround us, we are parts of different systems. An ocean, a city, a family, a company, an education system are all examples of systems. It is important for the manager to understand not only what elements the systems consist of, but also - this is much more important! - what are the connections between them.

A manager needs to be able to model the future desired state of his system and be able to balance it. Otherwise, he may face the fact that attempts to change the organization will throw it back, in a much worse state.

There are certain natural laws of functioning of systems that need to be known. Then the manager will understand that if there is a problem, then, most likely, it is not the fault of one person (for example, a salesperson who did not meet the target). And he will not manage manually, exhausting himself and the team, because manual management does not allow developing people.

About ecosystems

In order to implement large-scale changes, a large-scale dream is needed. It should include not only our business, our team, but also partners. It should create value and provide development to partners in the ecosystem of which we are a part. Moreover, it is not about one or two partners, because then it is a strategic partnership, but about an entire ecosystem. The value we create must be what the ecosystem needs, then the players will reinforce each other.

In the ecosystem, you cannot tell your partner directly what to do. You can't control it. He has his dreams and ambitions. You can manage only through the balance of interests.

Therefore, each player needs to understand what he can create for his partners. Who are they? What roles do they play? What does it take for their roles to be successful? What are they missing? What can I add?

Emotional strength and energy are important in the creation of ecosystems. If you have it, then the partner can "fall in love" with this energy and believe that you are able to create value for him. We need love for the joint result, for what we create and how we do it. And this is possible only when you yourself are full and harmonious.

About humanitarian knowledge

The participants of each set of the program must include leaders of humanitarian organizations in the fields of art, religion, and culture. These are the people who constantly create what they dream about and blow our brains.

During training, we hold meetings with religious and cultural figures, work with creative thinking, modern art, and theatrical performances. This greatly enriches each of the participants and gives an opportunity to start looking for answers to important questions: Who am I now? What am I dreaming about? What do I want? What makes me happy? How can I fill myself up so that I can then give back? What requirements do I put on myself?

It really makes a difference to the participants. For example, one group included a general and the head of an art museum, who with her team saved the cultural heritage of Ukraine during the Revolution of Dignity. For the general, it was a discovery - that such people protect Ukraine no less than the General Staff. Thanks to such insights, you look at your role and the roles of others in a new way, and you begin to build a new "bar" for yourself.


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Mar 31 2020, 04:19

Serhiy Yevtushenko, co-founder and managing partner of UDP Renewables, shared his own experience of working in an open system and the effectiveness of the methodology of the School of Strategic Architect program at the Kyiv-Mohyla Business School (kmbs)

Jun 18 2019, 16:18


A small company becomes a partner of a global corporation - and reaches a new level of development. The business instantly "repackages" the solution, adapting to the customer's needs. All this is possible due to the logic of open systems. What is it and how does it concern Ukrainian business?

Mar 9 2020, 04:09

The success story of Intertop, which has achieved its goals through an ecosystem approach, transformed the business and changed the business model, can be indicative not only for fashion projects, but also for any company that looks to the future. Today, a manager can no longer think only of the boundaries of his company or partner companies. You need to include other players in your system.

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