Tagged: biomorphic

Fifty nine (ii)

“We’re biological creatures at one level, and social creatures at another level, a higher level. People have an innate affinity for the layer that’s higher up in the stack if you like because that’s where we live, that’s where identity and relationships and empathy breathe. We’re biological creatures, for sure, but we live, think and behave social. We feel it. We’re social creatures and we’re striving for social business.

“So, just as it is for humans, we’ve begun to think of business as biological at one level and social at another. And I understand precisely what you mean – if I heard the expression ‘biological business’ I’d screw my face up too. Sounds more like a pharmaceutical outfit than anything to do with creating great products that celebrate great food and great cooking, or any other type of business come to that. So to answer your question, that’s why we don’t use the term.”

I could see the course of my argument taking shape, but I needed reinforcements. Then I remembered John’s missive quoting Bill Gates. I started a search for it and then continued to make our case.

“This is the really important bit. No business can really get to be social in a meaningful and valuable way simply by indulging in social media or by slapping apps onto social devices or by subscribing to a social enterprise network. The social human is literally powered by the biological human. The true social business is powered by similar capabilities, capabilities that are clearly lacking in the typical organization today, no matter how much they recite a social mantra.

“We’re mimicking nature by redesigning our business around influence flows, a capability that will drive responsiveness, productivity and profitability. You’d say we’re making Attenzi more intelligent, fitter and healthier, and these are biological words that have been invoked metaphorically in business terms for decades. Why? Because they make sense.”

My search had been fruitful.

“But don’t take my word for it. Ask Bill Gates.”

William lowered his coffee and visibly offered me his full attention.

“This is what he had to say back in 1999. ‘How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose. … The winners will be the ones who develop a world-class digital nervous system’”, I stressed the metaphor, “‘so that information can easily flow through their companies for maximum and constant learning.’

“And he goes on: ‘A digital nervous system comprises the digital processes that closely link every aspect of a company’s thoughts and actions. … To think, act, react, and adapt.’”

William was nodding now. I went with the momentum.

“And here we are now on the cusp of 2013 and things have moved on, as you’d expect. Back then Gates referred to email as a critical component of the digital nervous system. We don’t lend it the same emphasis because we have more choices these days. He referred to the digital nervous system of the company whereas our nervous system extends out into the world. He advised building an ideal picture of the information you need from technology. We also want technology to help us build that picture, indeed to help us identify new insights, new opportunities and new threats with unprecedented speed and perspicacity, unprompted.”

Now I felt prepared to parry.

Forty three (i)

Saket made some comments about organizations becoming increasingly biomorphic; i.e. resembling living organisms. These contributions didn’t make the final report because the comments were fleeting and came just as everyone was becoming more interested in the afternoon break, but I thought you’d like them. They’ve definitely fuelled the dinner conversation between Dom and me.

One biomorphic metaphor treats everyone as if they were a synapse in the brain. Important messages are passed across the synapse and less important ones don’t make it. The same goes for sharing information around the organization. Whereas traditional business relies on some bureaucracy to determine what constitutes organizational knowledge, this function is delegated to the individual who now determines whether something is worth sharing / passing on or not, explicitly or tacitly.

Apparently, this has serious ramifications for the organization’s hierarchy in so much as there won’t be one. Or more precisely, the organization will have the right structure at the right time; today’s will suit today’s environment, tomorrow’s will suit tomorrow’s.

Attenzi isn’t ready for this.

I think Saket sensed as much and suggested it was indeed time for coffee. And no one argued. But John, Yvonne, Saket and I continued the thread during the break.

“Saket, that last bit was a bit out there!” John said.

“’Out there’ as in down the road, or ‘out there’ as in way off the money?” Saket asked with characteristic precision.

“Well, I mean, compared to our understanding today of our use of our information network.”

“Yes, that’s a good point,” Saket replied. “So when we map the information network we find it is, inevitably, far from what anyone might ever describe as perfect – information is in the wrong place and wrong format at the wrong time – and we’re left short of knowing exactly what to do about it. ‘Let’s communicate more!’ we all shout, as if this old truism is somehow going to solve the problem without further cutting into the time we’re actually supposed to be doing stuff.”

We nodded in agreement.

“Would anyone like more meetings? More email?”

We shook our heads in agreement.