From Lifecycle to Ecocycle: Renewal via Destruction and Encouraging Diversity for Sustainability

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The evolution and sustainability of complex adaptive systems includes the natural and necessary processes of destruction and renewal. The ecocycle framework invites leaders to think about what they need to deliberately destroy or stop doing to facilitate the renewal of their work in health care.

Drawing from biological systems, the ecocycle also suggests a need for a “healthy” organization or system to have parts (or aspects) of the organization in every phase of the ecocycle. Diversity in the phases of ecocycle is crucial for the sustainability of a complex adaptive system.

The lifecycle model of organizations has proven useful to understand the growth and maturity of industries and organizations. It has been called the S curve in business schools. It depicts the birth, growth and maturity of a business or industry.

However, the S curve has failed to address other aspects of living systems: their death and conception, in other words the phases of destruction and renewal. The model is silent on these aspects of a true-life cycle. The ecocycle extends the lifecycle concept to incorporate these dimensions. The evolution and sustainability of complex adaptive systems includes the natural and necessary roles of destruction and renewal. The paradox is that renewal and long-term viability requires destruction.

The ecocycle concept is used in biology and depicted as an infinity loop. In this case, the S curve of the business school life cycle model is complemented by a reverse S curve. It is the reverse S curve, shown below with the dotted line, that represents the death and conception of living systems. In our depiction of the model, we call these stages creative destruction and renewal. The importance of the infinity loop is that it shows there is not beginning or end. The stages are all connected to each other. Hence renewal and destruction are part of an ongoing process.

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