Several years ago, I was hired by a software client to help with strategic planning. When the company started fifteen years ago, its product was revolutionary but its uniqueness was not a permanent state. Other companies were offering software that provided similar functions. The channel partner who sold the company’s software was now offering a competitive product. Furthermore, hardware companies were embedding the software’s features into devices like printers, scanners, and faxes. This company needed help figuring out how to move forward amidst these challenges.
Eight years later and 2000 miles away, a diverse group came together to improve the health of adolescents in Austin, TX. Led by Nikki Treviño, Program Supervisor at the Health & Human Services Department in Austin, and facilitated by Stephanie Nestlerode of Omega Point International, the Austin Healthy Adolescent (AHA) Initiative envisions a world in which adolescents are active decision makers and fully engaged in improving their own health and the health of their communities. The AHA Initiative ran into a critical issue: different groups perceived the system in radically different ways. These perspectives were so complex and varied that it became difficult to intervene.
Both groups used business ecosystem mapping or value network analysis (VNA)—or both—to help them navigate complexity. This article, recently published by OD Practitioner, presents both methodologies and shows how they can help companies like the software client and communities like the AHA initiative think about the complexity of their environments and find innovative options for action.