Ecocycle – quick reference card

This is a quick reference for the ecocycle pattern, with a bias showing the difference between the maturity to the other 3. What matters is :

  • the understanding of the different mindsets associated with the 4 quadrants, and
  • the awareness of the potential traps when switching quadrants along the cycle.

The ecocycle is formed by the two loops

The growth loop, or front loop

This is where we like to be, because things develop, and seems to get better and bigger

The renewal loop, or back loop

When things have reached their maturity, and do not grow any more, another cycle gets prepared via the renewal part. It is time to move to another thing.

Together they form the Ecocycle.



For one tree :

  • the geminating seed
  • the young plant
  • the mature tree (spawn seeds)
  • the burnt tree

For a forest :

  • the geminating seeds ( in the ground, fertilized by the previously release nutriments)
  • the sparse trees and plants
  • the mature trees (very dense canopies prevent younger trees to grow)
  • the burnt forests. (forest fire that release the nutriments)

For an economic endeavor:

  • Networker (inception / renewal)
  • Entrepreneur (Birth – Growth )
  • Manager Maturity, up to Conservation
  • Heretic (Creative destruction )

The four quadrants

Here are the difference names of the four quadrants, as found in the literature :

Renewal – Exploration – Creativity – Network – Alpha Maturity – Conservation – K
Birth – Development – Entrepreneur – r Destruction – Release- Vision – Chaotic- Omega

The transition between these quadrants / phase are “guarded”” by “traps”, named in literature as :

Scarcity – Poverty Rigidity
Parasitic Chronic disaster

Mindset in the Quadrants

A mindset of an organisation can be defined by its:

  • Purpose
  • Leadership Style & Group Culture
  • Members
  • Structure & Process
  • Activities & Products

This is the mindset in the maturity quadrant:

PURPOSE To conserve a pattern of working together on proven ideas that are efficient
LEADERSHIP STYLE & GROUP CULTURE Management, risk‐ sensitive and productivity oriented.
MEMBERS Few highly specialised, regularly participating members.
STRUCTURE & PROCESS Hierarchical structure, standardization, institutionalized roles and procedures.
ACTIVITIES & PRODUCTS Preparing, monitoring and adjusting detailed workplans. Performance measurement.

These are the three other mindset . Appreciate the difference.

Release Exploration Developpement
PURPOSE To dismantle pattern of working together on non longer productive ideas to clear the way for new vision, relationships and directions to emerge To expand the number of innovative ideas for achieving the transformation in a way that improves the conditions for their successful development. To develop a pattern of working together that turns promising ideas into effective strategies .
LEADERSHIP STYLE & GROUP CULTURE Charismatic, visionary and values‐based. Creative, inclusive and mission‐driven. Entrepreneurial, adaptive and outcome driven.
MEMBERS Smaller number of core members, relational. Large, diverse, often unusual mix of participants, with stable core group. Smaller number & variety of members focused on particular areas of work.
STRUCTURE & PROCESS Informal, loosely connected, flat, eclectic and sporadic connections. Informal, time limited, overlapping, loose task groups and teams. Multiple layers of participation Tasks, roles and relationships become explicit. Patterns emerge for process and structure.
ACTIVITIES & PRODUCTS Reflective learning. Scanning of trends. Relationship building with Stakeholders. Visioning. Community conversations. Idea generation. Best practice research. Experiments. Simulations. Planning. Developmental Evaluation. Pilot projects & prototypes. Adaptive planning. Begins with formative evaluation, ends with summative evaluation.

The four traps

There are identified traps that prevent switching from one quadrant to the next:

Traps Description Typical Challenges
RIGIDITY The group is unable or unwilling to change or dismantle an approach that no longer fits the evolving context in which they operate. Psyche of immediate return. Fear of uncertainty. Self‐Interest. Lack of clear exit rules. Concern about perception of failure. Pressure to continue by entrenched constituency (e.g. ‘too big to fail’).
CHRONIC DISASTER The participants find themselves ‘spinning’ and unable to get traction on a compelelling new vision and set of values for achieving the transformation . Inability to let go of the past. Weak trust amongst members.Difficulty in agreeing on shared vision and values. Volatile environment.”
SCARCITY – POVERTY The group struggles to ‘birth’ something likely to lead to outcomes and garners the support of the larger community. The ideas are not compelling. Underdeveloped decision‐making process & criteria. Members disagree on which options to pursue. Members have insuficient credibility. energy spread too thin across many directions
PARASITIC The group seem unable to sustain or grow their work because it is ‘parasitic’ on the host(s) that gave it birth. Over reliance on key – often founding – members of the group. Dependence on start‐up pool of ressources. works well only at a certain scale or in a unique context



Tags: #ecocycle, #transformation

Main Reference:

  • the original paper
    [#hurst_life_1994]: Hurst, David K., and Brenda J. Zimmerman. 1994. “From Life Cycle to Ecocycle: A New Perspective on the Growth, Maturity, Destruction, and Renewal of Complex Systems.” Journal of Management Inquiry 3 (4):339–54.

[#hurst_crisis_1995]: Hurst, David K. 1995. Crisis & Renewal: Meeting the Challenge of Organizational Change. The Management of Innovation and Change Series. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.

Other References

  • [#phases_of_collaboration.pdf]: “Phases_of_collaboration.Pdf.” n.d. Accessed March 19, 2018.

  • the derived Liberating structure

[#lipmanowicz_liberating_]: Lipmanowicz, Keith McCandless, Henri. n.d. “Liberating Structures – 31. Ecocycle Planning.” Accessed May 9, 2018.

[#hurst_new_2012]: Hurst, David. 2012. The New Ecology of Leadership: Business Mastery in a Chaotic World. New York: Columbia University Press.


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