VU Center for Ecosystems

Organizing for Agility, Disruption, and  Resilience
Traditional (linear) strategic thinking and execution has become ineffective. Organizations must move away from repetitive-function hierarchies with rules, enforcement and silo-thinking. Instead, companies need to formulate and effectuate strategies that allow them the flexibility to deal with unexpected and unpredictable changes in their environments. This requires decision-makers to rethink, reconsider, and redevelop their organizational boundaries and strategic practices. In today’s VUCA environment, success lies in organizations’ ability to develop and execute ecosystem practices, allowing them to navigate the unknown. Ecosystem thinking enables strategists to build agile organizations that are ready to not only benefit in the present, but also be prepared for an unexpected future or, more ambitiously, to create the very future that makes current capabilities obsolete. Even best-in-class organizations need to continuously explore, experiment, and develop new collaborative resources that make their own best-in-class capabilities antiquated.

Ecosystem are different from – and encompass often – other collaborative organizational arrangements, as they are (1) organized around a core product/service/technology supported by a wide-range of complementary product/services/technologies, (2) accelerate growth and innovation, and (3) continuously co-evolve through learning and adaptation. An ecosystem thus represents a constellation of organizations that continuously realign capabilities, resources, roles, and investments to create and distribute value. Ecosystem members come together to create and deliver a shared value proposition in a partially intentional, highly self-organizing, manner, such that members provide contributions that fill out and complement those of the others. Against this background the VU Center of Ecosystems generates and disseminates actionable knowledge in pursuit of answering the following questions.

The nature and forms of Ecosystems
  • What are ecosystems, and how do they differ from other inter-organizational arrangements? 
  • What types of ecosystem exist, and how are platform ecosystems, innovation ecosystems, and business ecosystems, purpose-ecosystems different? 
  • What is ecosystem performance, and how can economical and societal impact be reconciled?
The Governance of Ecosystems
  • Why do organizations want to become ecosystem leaders and/or participate as a complementer in an ecosystem?
  • What roles and contributions do different actors, such as companies, governments, and other organizations fulfill in ecosystems
  • What are viable ecosystems business models and how do business models enable members to create and appropriate value?
  • What are the value-creating conditions and value-appropriation mechanisms? 
Ecosystem Dynamics
  • How do ecosystems emerge and develop?
  • What mechanisms and processes drive ecosystem transformation?
  • How does the interplay between ecosystem and ecosystem members  drive ecosystem development? 
Organizations as Ecosystems
  • How can organizations adopt ecosystem thinking, design, and practices? 
  • What organizational (design) approaches – e.g. Agile Organizations, Spotify model, Holacracy – enable organizations to embrace and embed ecosystem practices?
  • What does leadership entails, if approached from an ecosystem perspective?

The VU Center for Ecosystems is a center of expertise, which aims to be platform for research, education, and valorization. Propagating cross-disciplinary and multi-level research into the emergence, governance, and transformation of ecosystem organizing the center organizes research colloquia (e.g. mini-conferences) to advance a research community on ecosystems. Furthermore, focusing on the diffusion of knowledge across practitioners the center organizes roundtable sessions where academic and practitioner engage in meaningful conversations. Furthermore, the center will disseminate the results of its an annual ecosystem survey assessing state-of-the-art ecosystem practices.

For information, please contact Brian Tjemkes (

Tjemkes, Dr. B.V.
dr. Brian Tjemkes
Man, Prof. dr. A.P. de
Prof. dr. Ard-Pieter de Man

Affiliated Scholars 
Khanagha, Saeed
Saeed Khanaga 
Duplat, Dr. V.
Valerie Duplat 
Castañer, Xavier
Xavier Castañer (visiting professor)

 Affiliated Phd Candidates
Vink, Jet
Juliet Vink
Leek, John
John Leek
Sande, Job van de
Job van de Sande
Luo, Lucia 
Xiya Luo
Rietdijk, Björn
Björn Rietdijk