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3 Realms of Business: Your Organization’s Survival Kit

[Big Ideas Series] As innovation leadership becomes the indicator of a business's survival, aspects of the workplace must evolve to drive new ways of thinking.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Big Ideas series, a column highlighting the innovative thinking and thought leadership at IIeX events around the world. Lauri Goodman Lampson will be speaking at IIeX North America (June 11-13 in Atlanta). If you liked this article, you’ll LOVE IIeX North America. Click here to learn more.

Everybody should be rethinking everything about the way things are done. Truthfully, this isn’t a message that’s unique to modern times. The ‘eat or be eaten’ mentality was quite literal for human survival centuries ago. Today, ‘innovate or become extinct,’ still applies, especially as an organization. The onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution serves as a timely reminder that the evolution of commercial business has never stopped churning.

Organizations that want to survive have always had to evolve their thinking of what work looks like and how it gets done. Efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity have long been drivers that define success in the workplace. Work, workers and workplace are being redefined daily thanks in large part to the rise of technology. The time to rethink how organizations and people do work is now. It starts with understanding the 3 Realms of Business and how each will contribute to your organization’s survival.

The 3 Realms of Business are always present within an organization, but the size of each, the team structure, or the energy and resources you devote to each realm may vary at any stage of the organization’s life cycle. The way that companies prioritize and enable each of the realms is what differentiates them from their industry peers and competitors. As we dive deeper into each realm and the role it plays for operational success, it may become clearer why companies are shifting focus from ‘how things have always been done’ (productivity) to ‘what will set us apart’ (performance). To introduce you to the 3 Realms of Business, and hopefully not oversimplify their value, let’s consider a familiar application: the metaphor of the human body. This is generally easy to visualize but also illustrates the uniqueness of each organization.

The Central Nervous System controls the activities of the body. In the same way, the Core Business Asset (CBA) is the central command for what your business does. The Core Business Asset realm works like the brain behind the processes, services, value system, etc. that you represent as a business. It’s the mission control which sets the direction for action; the fundamental platform that makes you operate. You can typically define your core business by asking yourself, “what makes us run?” The people and teams that make up the core business lay the foundation for success, and as a result, organizations have been making investments in the workplace to keep these groups enabled. Whether it is private offices or open workstations, the basis for design typically boils down to what will allow people to work reliably and consistently. The approach for building up the core business typically focuses on structured workflow and accommodating the individual. Tending to the “I do work” mindset of the core business has been the norm for decades. However business is changing, as is the rhythm of work, and companies must widen their sights from individual to innovation.

The brain creates the plan and the musculoskeletal system propels the body forward on the course of action. The muscles and tendons that move the arms and legs are similar to the way the second realm of business provides support to the organization. Business Support is the realm of teams and resources that keep your business efficient and effective. They are the behind-the-scenes connectors like IT, HR, and Real Estate & Facilities that service the other realms so that the company can stay in motion. They take direction from the Core Business and create safe, effective arenas for work to happen. These key players keep the business agile when there is market pressure, changes in policy, or any other sort of momentum that could run the core business off course. These workers need flexibility in order to get their own tasks done. With a “We share work” mindset, leaders must give their business support places to focus on individual work but allow increased choice and opportunity for collaboration. Stirring up the more traditional views of people, process, and place is an integral part of the journey from individuals to Innovation.

The third Realm of Business is the Market Makers. These individuals are the sensory organs in our metaphor, serving as the eyes and ears for what is coming next. Their mission is to find out what is changing and bring it back into the organization in order to adapt and stay ahead of the curve. Better senses mean better chances for survival. The same is true for organizations that want to stay relevant. R&D and innovation teams are prime examples of how companies are allocating time and energy to the Market Makers to disrupt the old ways of thinking. Operating under the “change is good” mentality is not easy, nor is it comfortable, generally requiring more upfront cost and greater risks. Collaboration and knowledge sharing are components of collective energy that need to be harnessed in order to drive innovation from the inside out. When organizations position leaders to kick-start an innovative culture, the Market Makers thrive. Ideas and products can be tested faster, solved quicker and propel better performance.

With all three realms, the successes, failures and learnings get brought back in to generate a stronger core business and more agile business support. From individuals to innovation and productivity to performance, this is how the rhythm of work is changing.

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Lauri Goodman Lampson

Lauri Goodman Lampson

President & CEO, PDR