Yes, I’ve been referring to the organismic company for a while now. And yes, I’ve been coming across posts and articles talking about how to make “Industrial Age” companies more organic, how to have better Job Descriptions, how to have more flexible Organization Charts and how to better tap on the vast Knowledge Bank that is present in all your employees. Of course, the best way to actually have an organismic company is to call on biomimicry, or biomimetics, if you like, and related disciplines so that our “Industrial Age” mindsets can understand better and perhaps get a first step towards actually becoming more organic.
One of the textbooks I used for my High School Biology course was “Life. Form and Function” or something like that. The title stuck in my mind because it didn’t sound like other biology textbooks. That title alone impressed upon me that life is designed to function, that every aspect of its form was meant to fulfill certain functions. I think all of us know that intrinsically, although we sometimes seem to forget or ignore the fact when it comes to things like people management, job descriptions, routes of advancement, etc. In such instances where we ought to apply operating principles derived from the way living things work, we forget those and default to the mechanistic way of doing things. Let’s see if we can help you become more organic in this post.
Why does your company exist? This is captured in your vision statement and translated into currently applicable practice by the mission statement. The “body corporate” has a sense of destiny that it is to fulfill. There are many ways to achieve that state, and the body corporate lives, moves and acts in accordance with how it will best fulfill its own destiny. Like any organism, the entire body corporate is composed of systems, organs, tissue and so on, and all of these are interconnected, remain engaged and act in unison and in support of each other. We are starting to discover more and more about just how complex living organisms really are. For instance, the same Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) strand, which is made by DNA, and which essentially makes proteins, is able to code for different proteins at different times, something which scientists have yet to figure out how. A simpler point of view notes that, if you happen to drop a brick on your unprotected toe, your whole body suffers the pain, not just the toe. If only the toe felt the pain, and your brain only said “Noted”, then the rest of the body would not notice that the toe is in pain, and might not do anything to relieve that pain. Sounds like what happens in organizations right now, doesn’t it?
Of course, we don’t see organisms in general changing their form very often. The fantastic contortionist abilities of the octopus are perhaps an example of being able to change one’s form at will, but most other creatures we are familiar with do not indulge in similar escapades. Their forms remain the same way most of the time. Likewise, the body corporate still needs a basic form. No matter how exuberant, life also needs some kind of organization, and you will discover that life forms have within themselves systems functioning with split-second precision. Upsetting that split-second precision could mean death for the organism. I refer of course to the exchange mechanisms in our lungs, where oxygen is picked up and carbon dioxide released. Interfere with those split-second exchanges and we die. In the body corporate, we could perhaps see the following as we attempt to become better via biomimetics.
a. Primary Job Descriptions, Secondary Roles.
Each person within an organization could have a primary JD, and that person would have to deliver on that JD without fail. However, as the person grows and the JD is fulfilled in an “unconscious competence” mode, then that person can and must fulfill other necessary roles within the company. I referred to that briefly in “Urgent” Strategic Projects. You Don’t Need To Be A Special Forces Type.
b. Have “Corridors” of Advancement, not “Routes”.
The word “Corridors” opens up more possibilities than the word “Routes”. It’s just one step up from “Routes” but conjures up many more options in at least three dimensions. Advancement doesn’t always have to take place within the same job “type”. Finance people don’t necessarily have to go up only Finance ladders. Neither do HR people only need get beamed up the HR tube. Start calling it “Corridors of Advancement” and see if it changes things for you!
c. Establish and maintain a culture of networking.
Most people have really no clue as to what networking really is. Networking is not about going to events, getting as many business cards as you can and spamming the unfortunate owners the next day. Networking is about living in a state of establishing and building good quality business relationships with existing and new contacts. If such a culture of networking is present, you would have fewer headaches about how to manage your “corporate information”, as your people would know how to look for, create and maintain good business relationships. Takes effort, but it is really worth it!
Start thinking organic. Start thinking organismic. Try these out for a start. Let us know how it went!