Whether job hunting, climbing the corporate ladder, innovating, or trying to accumulate vast amounts of wealth, information will be your enemy if you do not learn how to manage it. If it is true that information doubles every 18 months, then you will need to double your reading speed, your comprehension, your memorization, your analysis every 18 months as well. That is impossible. Trying to double everything about you every 18 months for the rest of your career and your life is a formula for a nervous breakdown. Here’s the most sensible way to cope with that logarithmic increase in information.

Assemble your OWN eco-system.

Such a personalized eco-system will help you stay current. It will increase your capacity to stay with change or stay ahead of change. It will increase your ability to screen, select, digest, analyze, and manage massive amounts of information so you can make optimal decisions regardless of the speed of information or the speed of change in the world around you. Your judgement will improve. You will make more correct moves. You will learn to take action more fitting of the evolving elements around you.

What is an eco-system? It is a collection of elements or organisms, a system or network, that is interconnected with its surrounds, its environment. It is able to interact within the components of the system and with the components of its environment in cooperative ways to ensure the survival and success of the organism. Think of it as a cooperative group working with the same motivation for the same goals and objectives.

Bacteria may be an example of the simplest of organisms, the simplest of eco-systems. Place bacteria in a petri dish and tease it with a food source placed at quite a distance from the first few organisms of bacteria you introduce. The eco-system takes over and the bacteria multiply with the purpose and in the direction, like fingers reaching for, that food source. How does it “know” where it is? How does it smell or sense the presence of a food source? How does it work together, cooperatively, with its associates to seek, find and feed on that food source? I don’t know. Scientists don’t know. And, yet the bacterial eco-system thrives despite the challenge and the constraints because it works as a non-judgemental cooperative with the same goals: survival.

Look to the computer industry for another eco-system. Silicon Valley. Computer companies sharing computer labor in an accessible geographical area.

Another different eco-system once emerged and evolved around the automotive industry. Check out the original Detroit. Much different than the current bankrupt Detroit. Detroit, once the heart of America, where, once, an automotive eco-system of the automotive industry thrived and helped to keep America competitive. It was the eco-system that made Detroit and America great.

Apple computer company also has a great eco-system. Theirs is not geographically concentrated. Theirs is global and illustrates how eco-systems can be anywhere nowadays thanks to the web. Think of the thousands of apps developers, (application developers), who make Apple mobile devices such a hit with all age groups and make Apple mobile so dominant in the global marketplace.

Our mentor, though, may come from an imaginary world that captivated millions of kids and still does. Ever hear of the MUPPETS? I hope so. Brilliant.

Let’s use the Muppets creator, Jim Henson, as our mentor for learning how to build a personal, customized eco-system.  Jim Henson took his own passion for creativity, his own vision, and sought others who shared his dreams to help him refine this thinking and his desired implementation. The result was an informal group that helped to magnify his interests, learning, impact and so on.

Henson had three important layers to his customized eco-system. I will label the constructs of  his eco-system: the inner sanctum, environmental gate keepers, and creators.

The inner sanctum was a group of people who were his most trusted friends and associates with whom he could share the most intimate problems or details of his innovations, thoughts, challenges and vision. They would provide honest feedback. He’d involve them in developing theories, concepts and hypothesis about how to take his thoughts, ideas, interests, to the next stage. These people would suggest alternatives, become involved in, or intercede in, emotionally-charged debates. The entire purpose of the inner sanctum was to help advance Jim Henson’s thinking on the subject in question. The inner sanctum was not there to provide complete answers. Rather, to ensure all the questions were being asked and being prepared for the next phase…the answer-seeking phase. The answers were to come from the next layer.

The second layer, the environmental gate keepers, consisted of trusted people he relied upon for testing, for exact answers to each of the questions developed by the inner sanctum. These people had to be able to share the vision yet be able to claw their way to the specifics, the practicalities, necessary to ensure successful implementation of the vision.

The final layer consisted of the creators, the actual doers, those people who were important to making the vision happen in real life, real time. In Henson’s situation, these creators were the Muppet actors, screen writers, directors, producers, musicians, and other important stakeholders to the financing and implementation processes and idea that emerged from the inner sanctum and the environmental gate keepers.

Your eco-system may not need to be quite as sophisticated as Jim Henson’s was. But you do need to build yourself an eco-system and engage it regularly. You might also want to give back, to contribute your help and wisdom,  by participating in and being a member of other eco-systems.

As an aside, I sense this concept of personalized eco-systems to be similar to what Napolean Hill proscribed in his many works on how to become successful. In a future nugget I will I will bring forth information on Napolean Hill’s “Mastermind” concept since I believe that may be helpful to my readers who may not be familiar with that concept. Meanwhile, you may want to get to work on creating your own personal, customized eco-system.

You may need it sooner than you think with the way the economy is starting to tremble, like shaky knees when bearing a great weight.

[Reference: The Death of Competition: Leadership & Strategy In The Age of Business Ecosystems by James F. Moore. Harper Business, New York. 1996. pp. 268-270.]