By John Mason
It takes a lot more than a good idea and a solid investment to succeed as a small or medium-size business today. It takes what psychologist, Urie Bronfenbrenner, described as a network of systems.
Bronfenbrenner introduced the idea of the microsystem, mesosystem, and exosystem, in his ground-breaking theory, The Ecology of Human Development, in 1979, and explained how each of these interconnected systems helps shape the individual.
As in society, the various parts of this ecology can be applied to SMBs to better understand their growth and development.
For example, the microsystem in Bronfenbrenner’s theory describes the groups of people that immediately impact the development of the individual. In an SMB, this would describe the employee base. Thanks to the consumerization of IT, this microsystem is well-connected, using sophisticated, but increasingly simple-to-use, cloud-based technologies at work and at home.
The exosystem, which describes those people or groups who can indirectly impact an individual, is alive and well in the SMB world, in the form of increasingly interconnected Managed Service Providers (MSPs), telecom operators, system integrators, ISV’s, venture capitalists, etc.
When it comes to Bronfenbrenner’s macrosystem, which describes the impact of an individual’s culture on their development, nothing is more applicable in the SMB community than that of open standards. The widespread use of open standards, as well as open-sourced technologies and services, is enabling SMBs to drive collaboration both internally and with external stakeholders. Open standards are also helping SMBs around the globe to reduce capital expenditures and deliver new and useful systems of engagement more quickly and with greater flexibility.
And while it may not always feel comfortable opening up to the many participants in the network of systems, simple cloud-based technologies are making this an easier and increasingly necessary way to evolve and compete.
As with the Ecology of the Human Development, a similar network of systems is forming at an astounding pace around SMBs in all sectors and geographies. The more engaged you are with each part of your ecosystem, the more you will improve your chances of driving healthy, sustainable, and long-term growth in your business.
* Urie Bronfenbrenner. (1979). The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-22457-4