Ecosystem leadership as a dynamic capability – Foss, Schmidt, Teece (2023)

Nicolai J. Foss, Jens Schmidt, David J. Teece

Under a Creative Commons license

open access


We analyze the role and effect of ecosystem leadership understood as the exercise of effort towards others with the purpose of establishing and maintaining an ecosystem around a focal systemic innovation. While there has been much attention to the firms that sponsor ecosystems in the ecosystem literature, ecosystem leaders are usually characterized in an atheoretical manner, and the emphasis is on, leadership in existing ecosystems, thus neglecting the role leadership might play in ecosystem emergence. We clarify and provide theoretical grounding for the important role of leadership in emerging and maturing ecosystems. Building on transaction cost economics, we conceptualize an ecosystem as a governance structure that enables and sustains coordination and cooperation among multiple economic agents towards a focal innovative value proposition. Our basic argument is that the emergence of such an ecosystems is hampered by coordination and cooperation problems which markets and the price system cannot solve by itself. Resolving these problems requires assistance, and such assistance is what we call ecosystem leadership. To further characterize the exercise of leadership we use Teece’s tripartite dynamic capabilities scheme. Leadership enables ecosystem emergence through three externally-oriented dynamic capabilities: facilitating the formation of a shared vision (sensing), inducing others to make ecosystem-specific investments (seizing) and engaging in ad hoc problem solving to create and maintain stability (reconfiguring/transforming). The latter capability in particular often continues to be important in a mature ecosystem. We provide a characterization of these capabilities and argue that the ecosystem leader role in a mature ecosystem likely stems from having successfully exercised these capabilities and that their exercise also puts the leader in a prime position for value capture. We discuss implications of our arguments for ecosystem theories, for managers and for policy makers.

Ecosystem leadership as a dynamic capability – ScienceDirect