We have to start dealing with the 'genetics' of our businesses if we want to achieve optimal performance at work, says Colin Beveridge.
The IT business has always been keen on bodily functions, using terms such as “our infrastructure is the corporate nervous system” and “information is the lifeblood of the organisation” to describe its vital functions.
Such analogies may well be justified and I don’t decry their usage, where necessary to reinforce the importance of effective technology to a successful organisation. But the corporeal metaphors made me start thinking a bit further, beyond the obvious similes, towards the logical conclusion of physical allusions: corporate DNA.
After all, if we readily accept that a business can have a nervous system, then it surely goes without saying that the business must also have its own DNA, based on genetic elements, those fundamental building blocks of behaviour and organisation that make the business unique and immediately distinguishable from other possibly similar, but perhaps subtly different businesses.
When you think about it, this concept is quite fundamental to the existence of every undertaking, and I’m very surprised that we don’t read more about it, especially in the IT world, where we are quite happy to aggregate and disaggregate business activities into higher-level systems and processes.
I don’t understand why we limit ourselves, though, to these superficial echelons of systems engineering and process engineering, instead of getting down to the real nitty-gritty of genetic engineering.
That is where the real action is if we really want to make a difference to our business. We have to learn to deal with the corporate body at the genetic level, if we really want to influence the behavioural traits and characteristics of the way we work.
We need to go progressively beyond even a sub-atomic understanding of our business processes and components, identifying the basic attributes that we can modify, nurture or decommission, until we achieve our optimum performance and potential.
We need to map and model our business in a whole new way. Not just what we do, but why and how we do it too, especially the ways in which we imperceptibly react and adjust to a changing commercial context.
Survival of the fittest is a well-established genetic principle, at least since the time of Charles Darwin. Perhaps it’s high time then that we applied these rules to our business lives and make sure that we actively strive to transmit the best possible corporate genetic profile.
All of this sounds like an exciting opportunity for the future. But it will require a quantum leap in the way that most of us understand and regard our organisations, because we will be dealing with individual and collective behaviours and traits, rather than simple process or physical deliverables.
And we will, of course, need much better analytical tools, techniques and measures to help us with our genetic tinkering. Which sounds like a nice little earner for the IT business - is anybody up for it?
What do you think?
Which genetic traits would you start with to build a better business? Tell us in an e-mail >> ComputerWeekly.com reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.
Colin Beveridge is an independent consultant and leading commentator on technology management issues. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
This was first published in March 2004