“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R & D dollars you have. […] It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.“
Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc.
We hear this expression a lot nowadays: exponential organization. But, what’s the meaning of it? Is a term only applicable to new companies such as startups and big technology companies like Google or Facebook? I don’t think so. But it is true that big traditional companies will need to make an extra effort to achieve it.
To understand the concept, let’s see what it takes to become one. To become an exponential organization you need, at least, to ensure that your business models and values are aligned with the following principles:
Integration of exponential and open architectures:
“An Exponential Organisation is one whose impact (or output) is disproportionally large—at least 10x larger—compared to its peers because of the use of new organisational techniques that leverage accelerating technologies.” – Salim Ismail.
Sometimes is good to remember that Google started just as a simple search engine (and now, 14 years later, its revenue has grown up to $89bn in 2016). Of course, a x10 looks complicated to achieve for a corporate player, especially for those working on a consolidated market. But remember, complicated doesn’t mean impossible.
Integrate exponential and open architectures means :
- Use of collaborative technologies.
- Take advantage of existing accelerating technologies.
- Count with multidisciplinary teams.
- Have a mission with a massive transformative purpose.
- Create scalable processes.
- Internal authority is distributed.
- They can auto-regulate themselves.
- Take advantage of the relationships with the public / external community.
I’m sharing with you some tools that could facilitate this architecture:
Disco: Celebrate your culture easy.
Total funding: $1.7M | Founded: 2014, USA.
Growbot is a Slackbot to help recognize and record your team’s wins. We all want to know we’re doing meaningful work. Growbot helps you track it being able to:
- Automate the feedback collection processes.
- Integrate it into an employee’s workday and existing tools.
- Deliver feedback in a way that ensures it’s secure, constructive and personalized.
Smartsheet: Automate your work processes. Less talk. More action.
Total funding: $120M | Founded: 2005, USA.
An enterprise work-management platform to plan, track, automate, and report on work, enabling you to move from idea to impact faster.
Everwise: A reboot of corporate training.
Total funding: $26.35M | Founded: 2012, USA.
Everwise provides a new model for talent development. Their mission is to connect professionals to the people, resources and feedback they need to thrive at every stage of their career.
Creation of a data-driven model:
These days everyone agrees on data as one of the main assets of every company. And the truth has to be said: having a CRM and some analytics doesn’t make a company data-driven, but gathering a lot of data without a clear objective neither. Usually, the problem is not related to a lack of business intelligence tools but the way we interpret and use the data. In fact, most of the companies have a lot of business intelligence resources but working unconnected, on an isolated way.
There are 3 main points that differentiate a real data-driven company from a data-driven wannabe:
- Leadership believes in data (and use it) as a key asset for the decision making processes, promoting this culture within their employees.
- After gathering data from different sources, it is consolidated into an analysis or reporting tool that makes data accessible, actionable and timely delivered to decision-makers within the organisation.
- There is a strategical approach to data with focus on iteration and analysis that allows to identify the sources which are yielding real results, discard the ones that are useless and detect new data opportunities.
Let’s take a look at some startups with products enabling a data-driven approach to companies:
Databricks: Making big data simple.
Total funding: $247M | Founded: 2013, USA.
Databricks’ mission is to accelerate innovation for its customers by unifying Data Science, Engineering and Business. Databricks provides a Unified Analytics Platform for data science teams to collaborate with data engineering and lines of business to build data products.
Palantir: Products built for a purpose
Total funding: $2,136M | Founded: 2010, USA.
Working closely with the customer, Palantir integrates and map all of the relevant source data—regardless of type or volume—into a single, coherent model reducing friction between users and their data, augmenting the intelligence of the entire enterprise.
Iguazio: Data-driven applications made simple.
Total funding: $48M | Founded: 2014, Israel.
The iguazio Unified Data Platform has fundamentally redesigned the entire data stack to support real-time analytics and event-driven applications at scale.
Become a digital organisation open to innovation:
Every business needs a fully integrated digital strategy covering the main business areas (not only for marketing) that regulates and empowers every internal and external relationship: and this includes innovation and ideation.
A digital strategy, with focus on innovation, which needs to be executed and promoted:
Executed using the right methodologies: most of the times, technological disruption is the result of processes based on the paradigm build-measure-learn, agile methodologies and similar processes. These methodologies, with focus on the user, allow creating out-of-the-box solutions in a way that traditional teams can’t.
Promoted and supported by leaders: If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you will keep getting what you’ve always gotten. When you change something, risk comes into the scene and failure appears as an option. Leaders must know it and, according to it, support employees and accept failure as an option.
There are some startups with solutions that facilitate these tasks:
Spigit: Turn employee engagement into ideas.
Total funding: $70.1M | Founded: 2006, USA.
Spigit was founded to help companies unleash the power of their employees, partners, and customers to drive innovation.
prooV’s: Proof-of-concept revolution.
Total funding: $21M | Founded: 2015, Israel.
prooV’s SaaS platform streamlines the entire PoC process making it simple, accessible, and fast for both solution providers (startups) and solution seekers (enterprises).
Idea Drop: Capture and action the best ideas from your people.
Total funding: $1.6M | Founded: 2014, UK.
Idea Drop makes the process of capturing ideas effortless. It has never been easier for your employees to share fresh insight, improvements and ideas about your business, whatever they’re doing and wherever they are.
So what do you think? Can a traditional company switch its mindset and become an “exponential organization?
-  Francisco Palau