Why “Ecosystem” and “Democratisation” are fishy words in business

Szpylbert cartoon showing fish bones

Your cartoonist sometimes gets to go to places where business strategy is discussed. Always listening carefully, Szpylbert developed a pet hate for two particularly misleading words: “ecosystem” and “democratisation”. Both are supposed to somehow sound inviting and empowering – but in reality their meaning is very different.

Ecosystems are created by big businesses to get small companies to do risky things or stuff that they think is not worthwhile. Naturally, that includes the possibility of involuntary exit from the ecosystem, a.k.a. “death”. With survival being a struggle, an ecosystem is not a happy place!

Now for democratisation. This is normally suggested to entice amateur usership of technology or something without a proper value proposition, e.g. low-cost 3D printing or blogging. Of course, there is no real commercial opportunity here for the dilettante – and the money is made elsewhere. If there’s a gold rush, don’t join it. Sell shovels!


Something for the office

Szpylbert cartoon visualising Antagonism

Szpylbert’s been reading a lot of managment and economics books lately for work. One thing that is apparent is that seeking one’s own benefit usually comes at the expense of someone else. This has always been the case (think Sun Tzu’s The Art of War) and great efforts normally are made to hide this from the naïve. As the saying in poker goes, if you don’t know who the fish is, it’s you!

Breaking into the ivory tower

Szpylbert cartoon about trying to get a job as an academicBeing an “academician” doesn’t start when you’ve finished your last university degree. Oh no, sir. To be admitted into the ivory tower with a permanent job you must first prove that you can cut the mustard as a researcher (if you’re not a certified genius). That means: short contracts, long hours, pressure of finding own funding and publishing as much as you can. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

Burning ambición

Szpylbert cartoon about coffee and ambitionToday with Szpylbert: motivational training. Sometimes, even a small comment can greatly boosts people’s ambitions. Szpylbert suspects that this can be the case especially if they understand their circumstances well. An example: upon reviewing an (admittedly mediocre) paper written by Szpylbert, the reviewer stated that the article was “workmanlike but will not set the world on fire”. Because Szpylbert had a good understanding of what was missing, it was also clear that much more ambitious work could be delivered in the future – world still to be set on fire, though.