“The «What» and the ‘Why’ of Ecosystems: An in-depth examination of the meaning and formation of ecosystems”


Ecosystems are a way of thinking about businesses and their environments; however, as a relatively new concept in strategy there remain a number of questions about their specific meaning and the processes by which they form. The literature on ecosystems offers little in the way of consensus, nor of contrasting ecosystems with similar forms of organization, despite this the term has gained in popularity over the last ten years. Furthermore, there is relatively little in the way of research focusing on the reasons why ecosystems would form in the first place, with researchers choosing to focus primarily on how ecosystems form. The first gap in the literature lead to a confused understanding of what the field of ecosystems research includes and how it is distinct from other concepts; the second gap leaves unanswered questions about what firms can gain from being in ecosystems as well as motivations for joining. With this in mind, in this proposal, I focus on defining ecosystems based on definitions used by previous researchers, as well as separating them from clusters, a related concept. I go on to theorize about the reasons why an ecosystem formed around Vipps, a Norwegian mobile payments company. This proposal plans contributions to the literature in defining ecosystems and elaborating on the reasons behind their formation.