New focal firms are increasingly building new ecosystems to sustain their competitive advantage. However, the mortality rate of these ecosystems is high, particularly in their nascent stages, due to the fact that new focal firms lack a holistic, in-depth understanding of ecosystems' systemic, dynamic, and complex nature. To enhance understanding in this domain, a metatheoretical-level knowledge of the conceptual boundaries of ecosystems, that is, the aggregation of ecosystems' key features, is required. By systematically reviewing and synthesizing 84 articles, the present study developed a theoretical framework indicating that the coherence of the nine key lower-order features of ecosystems can be aggregated into three higher-order dimensions: roles (self-organization, non-linearity, shared vision), structures (complementarity, modularity, coupling) and processes (emergence, co-opetition, co-evolution). These higher-order dimensions exhibit temporal differences across the ecosystem development process. Overall, this study provides a comprehensive and general framework of the aggregated conceptual boundaries of ecosystems that highlights the basic guiding principles of any ecosystem approach within the field of innovation management. It can thereby contribute to ongoing debates pertaining to the differences between innovation and business ecosystems as well as allowing for an explanation of the differences in the developmental stages of ecosystems, from birth to maturity.
- Actual boundaries of ecosystems
- Business ecosystems
- Conceptual boundaries of ecosystems
- Innovation ecosystems
- New focal firms