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Building a Healthy Business Ecosystem of Innovation


Building a Healthy Business Ecosystem of Innovation

Kaihan Krippendorff explores the connection between ecology, evolution, and innovation in this article that draws inspiration from the ecosystem of a healthy coral reef and applies it to a healthy business.

Deep beneath the crystal-clear waters of the Pacific Ocean, there are vibrant coral reefs teeming with life. The coral, in shades of pink, orange, and green, spreads out like a colorful carpet across the seabed, creating a spectacular underwater landscape.

Schools of tropical fish dart in and out, their bright scales shimmering in the sunlight that filters through the water. Parrotfish nibble on the algae that grows on the coral, while clownfish swim through anemones that cling to the reef. As the day turns to dusk, the coral reef comes alive with even more activity. Crustaceans scuttle along the sea floor, while tiny shrimp and crabs crawl in and out of the crevices in the coral.

A healthy coral reef, like a healthy business, supports an ecosystem of life. Myriad species rely on the reef and support of each other to survive. When a reef is unhealthy, typically due to increasing water temperatures, the symbiotic relationship between the coral and algae that live on it breaks down, causing the coral to lose its color and eventually die. It can no longer provide a habitat for the diverse array of marine life that depends on it, and the entire ecosystem can collapse.

What can the ecosystem of the coral reef teach us about the health of a company, or a society?

A strong and vibrant entrepreneurial economy is like a healthy coral reef, supporting a community of people, ideas, and businesses that may both compete with and assist one another.

Last week I spoke for a Ukrainian university, MIM-Kyiv Business School, as part of an event to support and strengthen the Ukrainian economy after victory. As I listened to the different business owners sharing their stories, I was awed that their businesses ranged so drastically—startups aimed at global expansion; family businesses that do incredibly well but have no plans to scale; brand new ideas and tales of rebirth. It reminded me how much, both inside and outside of companies, success comes from diverse ecosystems, working and evolving together.


Key points include:

  • Competing offspring
  • Variations in business models
  • Promoting healthy competition


Read the full article, The Ecology of Internal Innovation, on