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September 16, 2009

What species development can teach social business design


From the Australian National Botanic Gardens website:

‘The Bottlebrush is a plant native to Australia and is found all over Australia, from its tropical north to its temperate south.

The flower spikes of bottlebrushes form in the spring and in summer and are made up of hundreds of individual flowers. The flowers can be spectacular and they are irresistible to nectar-feeding birds and insects.

Most species are frost tolerant. Many species can tolerate or thrive in damp conditions. They grow well in a wide variety of soils, except those that are highly alkaline. Plants grown in full sun produce the best flowers.’

The Bottlebrush is one of a kind, one of the things that makes 'down under' a place unlike any other. Culture is often all about coherent differences. Species of distinction are the things that make a place, a person, an organization, an experience, unique and irreplaceable.

Species differentiation is at the heart of the health and wealth we enjoy by having a diversity of life. There’s a similar value in encouraging species differentiation in terms of social business.

Social business design may very well spell the end of the ‘me-too’ brand.

In a social environment, culture becomes a very important point of distinction. As new marketplaces evolve to become ecosystems, the unique DNA of each organization is what sits at the core of its ability to sustain itself as a successful, distinctive, and sustainable life form because when marketplaces act as ecosystems, there’s an inherent value in being different.

Social business design is far less about tools and channels than it is about behaviours and relationships. Within the social sphere where consumers are not ‘mass’ anymore, what matters are durable, strong relationships, relationships that are trusted, and are discreet and niche. Business must engage authentically at a community level as a consequence.

Just as the Bottlebrush’s value has come from how it has adapted to its environment, organizations that have strong definition and strength of purpose can achieve the same.

This is especially the case in a marketplace that’s increasingly being powered by attention and ideas. If attention’s a commercial currency, there is a value in being remarkable, in one way or another, if you can connect to an ecosystem that can support you.


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Culture - the Human Element. See slide 47 and following on

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How insightful you are Anne. With your metaphor and especially "there’s an inherent value in being different" you lead me to conjure up images of a vast grassy savanna, nothing to interrupt its sameness as far as the eye can see. But no- off in the distance is a little grove of trees. Or a creek supports all manner of plant varieties, some of them edible.

Most people wouldn't turn away and head towards the featureless tracts of grassy sameness. Most people would strike off towards the stand of trees or the creek. They're different and interesting and potentially useful.

So it is with business....

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