Social networking and relationship ecosystems

The current focus on ‘social networking’ might make us think we should spend all our efforts warming up distant relationships and creating new ones. However it would be a big mistake if we neglected the relationships we already have. We can learn a lot about relationship ecosystems from Jim Henson the inventor of the Muppets.


One of the first books to use the, now fashionable, term “Business Ecosystem” was “The Death of Competition” written by James Moore and published in 1996.

One of a number of 'gems' within this book is the idea of a “Personal Ecosystem” (p268-271) or an "egosystem".

Moore describes the way Jim Henson, the inventor of the Muppets, developed a highly effective personal ecosystem made up of three distinct groups:

  1. Kitchen Cabinet
    These are the guys who help generate new ideas.
  2. Advisors
    These are the folks who critically analyse these new ideas to see which ones are worth developing further.
  3. Agents
    These are the guys who can take an idea which has survived the critical assessment of the advisors and can bring it to life through effective implementation and action.

James also suggests a fourth group within a personal ecosystem – Decision-Makers .

In Jim Henson’s case this is a group of one - himself.

So what shape is your personal ecosystem or "egosystem" in, do you have one, how much effort are you investing in it and are there any critical gaps?

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Belbin's management theories would play into these kinds of things. He identifies a number of organizational roles. Those above would include people like "Plants" (idea-generators), Completer-Finishers (the detail oriented people)... and there is another one (I forget its name) that constantly questions. There are also types like Chairmen (coordinator/facilitator types), catalysts (who like to shake things up, get things started), Resource Investigators, and others.

Justin thanks for a very useful comment.

Belbin has a huge respect for ant colonies too.....



Interesting post... at the Data Mining Lab, our ecosystem is similar to Henson's, except the individuals are in overlapping groups. We essentially have just two groups:

1. Kitchen Sink / Agents
2. Advisors / Decision-Makers

Also, there is even some overlap between these two groups. Social networks are amazingly complicated systems.


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