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Ecosystems:

Von Whitney Johnson
20. September 2019
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Dieser Beitrag ist Teil einer Artikelserie der Harvard Business Review zum Thema "The Power of Ecosystems". Wir veröffentlichen sie anlässlich des Global Peter Drucker Forums.

Erik Bursch was good at his job and his team was delivering, but he was ready to learn something new. He was running a cloud platform within the Technology division of Gannett and he believed that if he could put himself in a new environment, the organization could learn and grow along with him.

Bursch could have looked outside Gannett for a new opportunity - many people do - but he liked Gannett, had been with them for over a decade, and had relationships throughout the company. He decided to reach out to Jason Jedlinski, SVP Consumer Products, and proposed combining their engineering teams.

Jedlinski was receptive and helped facilitate Bursch's shift to a new role as one of his direct reports. Bursch was able to bring his deep domain expertise in the full software development cycle and learned how to freshly apply it in Product. As Bursch said, "I was really seeking the challenge of aligning technology advancement to support a product vision. Being able to have a larger impact on our business gave me and my team the thrill and excitement that comes with a brand new job, without losing momentum and expertise."

The organization benefited too. As Jedlinski told me, "The skills and innovative mindset Erik brought to our product team have resulted in better architecture, cost management, operational discipline, incident response, quality control and career paths for developers."

Bursch's experience exemplifies the symbiotic learning relationship between an employee and an organization. High-growth individuals who embrace new learning make the organization smarter and contribute to its growth, but they can't do it alone. They need their managers to have a reciprocal interest in individual growth and create a learning ecosystem to foster it.

Like a biological ecosystem, organizations are either growing or they're dying. And organizations grow when their employees are learning. So if you want a high-growth organization, you need to create a learning ecosystem to support high-growth individuals - to expose them to new and challenging opportunities before their roles become stale.

People may stay in one place indefinitely, but, in most cases, they can't keep growing there forever. When they're no longer stimulated and engaged by their work, their benefit to the organization is diminished. At that point, an employee may be left to languish in place or forced to leave. Their accumulated expertise and institutional memory is lost in the process. Worse, they may take their learning to a competitor - a potentially exponential loss.

Companies need to see that a high-growth employee who loves to learn is a very valuable asset. Redeploying them on a new learning curve within the organization keeps their expertise in-house and allows them to share and build on it - a potentially exponential gain.

Biological ecosystems have the concept of carrying capacity, which refers to the number of people, other living organisms, and/or crops that an area can support without environmental degradation. Growth occurs until the limit of resources is reached.

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