Do you think of your enterprise as an organization with org charts with systems and boxes? Or is your org more of a nimble, living organism that’s constantly evolving? This is a question that Seth Godin — entrepreneur, marketer extraordinaire, best-selling author, and teacher— likes to pose when you think about team structures.
You see, industrialists don’t like organisms because they need to be tweaked and aren’t uniform, he says. If you’re a 1965 copy machine company, you build an organization because you’re creating a specific thing and you need an organized system.
“But if you are living in a world that’s shifting, if you’re living in a world where delight and innovation are highly prized, you need an organism, not an organization,” Seth says.
Seth, who has written bestselling books on business and marketing, including Linchpin, Purple Cow, and The Dip, was a guest on the Design Better Podcast. Throughout the conversation, he discusses how writing is often the best starting point for almost any type of creative work and he shared ideas for how to stand out, and make a difference, at a time when there are more designers than ever.
While discussing the difference between organizations vs. organisms, Seth explains the reason org charts have boxes on them is that if someone leaves the organization, you can find someone who is approximately the same size box and slot them in. But organisms on the other hand are more difficult — it’s not easy to put a kidney from a squirrel into a pig.
“And that means you have to hire differently,” Seth says. “You have to reward people differently. You have to structure differently.”
In the end, organisms are more resistant.
by Eli Woolery
Eli is the Director of Design Education at InVision. His design career spans both physical and digital products, and he is a lecturer in the Product Design program at Stanford University. You can find Eli on Medium or on Twitter.