How to build an organization that grows 10x faster than its competitors

The Secret of Exponential Organizations - EXOs

BOMA Brain Trust member Salim Ismail has focused his attention on the development of a framework to explain Exponential Organizations: those firms who can grow faster and better than their competitors. ExOs are firms able to sustain for longer, better growth rates while creating more impact than their competitors and with fewer people than traditional firms.

These businesses are often mistakenly referred to as "start-ups": and while they often share the agility and the tech-focus, some ExOs have multi-billion dollar businesses, with thousands of employees around the world. ExOs move fast, with agility, and are focused on growth.

ExO Framework

What sets these organizations apart? According to Ismail, who developed the model to analyze these companies, there are eleven dimensions, clustered in three categories, making these organizations stand out from their peer competitors.

The three macro areas are 1) Massive Transformative Purpose, 2) Scale, and 3) Ideas.

1) Massive Transformative Purpose

MTP is what Simon Sinek calls the "Why." It is about those notions of impact, and purpose - beyond the corporate mission and strategic move - which are part of the culture of the company. The Massive Transformative Purpose is the beacon of the organization, and not only: it is the ExO's competitive edge because it is ultimately responsible for creating the community, the tribe and it is the texture of the company's culture.


2.) Scale

The dimension represents the right brain of the organization, the part which is most creative, able to deal with higher degrees with uncertainties and growth. SCALE is an acronym for:

- Staff on Demand

- Community & Crowd

- Algorithms

- Leveraged Assets

- Engagement

2.1) Staff on Demand

In the era of the gig-economy, ExOs leverage remote, outsourced workers to get the job done. Whether it is to check if a retailer is complying with a brand trade agreement or scanning for new trends or consumer rituals half way the world, ExOs make the most of their staff while not being ashamed of outsourcing tasks when it makes sense. One of the more critical derivative effects of external staffing lays in its ability to promote agility and external learning.

2.2) Community & Crowd

ExOs build communities and tap on the wisdom of the crowd to generate ideas, develop designs, execute marketing and sales activities. C&C are important because they establish an initial bond with the ExO and their customers/stakeholders, with longer-term increased loyalty. Moreover, it allows for quick experimentation and rapid learning.

2.3) Algorithms

ExOs master big data, data science, and AI. Algorithms make possible better and faster decision making, reduce inefficiencies, and therefore, they are a crucial enabler of the process of scaling-up any company.

2.4) Leveraged Assets

While the notion of "make or buy" is embedded in business minds for at least a half a century, the idea of leveraged assets for ExO is way more extreme than what is presented in traditional business books. ExOs like Uber and Airbnb own what's absolutely critical, and outsource everything else, like drivers, cars, and properties.

Leveraged Assets increases agility, and is a catalyst for scalability.

2.5) Engagement

Engagement is a necessary condition for converting a crowd into a community. It is about using the two-way communication provided by social media and listening to your company's followers. And for most successful ExOs, followers are both employees, suppliers, customers, and influencers

3.) IDEAS

This sub-model represents the left brain of the organization, focused on order and control, by striving for stability. IDEAS is also an acronym for:

3.1) Interfaces

This element refers to the automated process with which an ExO interfaces with its customers. It's the bridge between the external growth opportunities and the internal operational elements. Interfaces are a condition sine qua non for scalability.

3.2) Dashboards

If a company is to snowball, the business needs to have a clear real-time picture of all critical areas of the operation. Dashboard - at all levels of the organization - are necessary conditions to rapid, fact-based decision making. They also see early signs of a problem by providing more time for fixing issues.

3.3) Experimentation

We are most definitely in the area of agile operations. When strategy becomes emergent, and "trial and error" is the key mantra to grow, experimentation is critical. Especially when you can continuously experiment with controlled risks. This component is vital because it allows for ExOs to reach the market faster while improving the speed of learning.

3.4) Autonomy

ExOs rely on autonomy to move faster, be agile, and address issues before they become calamities. When employees, at all level, are accountable, they also become more innovative, more focused on reaching an impact.

3.5) Social Technologies

ExOs place a lot of effort in enabling real-time communication between employees, by fostering conversations and collaborations. In this ways, employees can easily find a colleague with the right expertise, or with a similar previous experience. It also reduces the need for 'status' meetings, while making sure that more time is left for experimentation.

In conclusion

Building an ExO is not an easy journey, as it impacts the organizational processes, culture, talent and resources. But it is definitely worth the effort, in the era of rapid change and digitalization, where transformation is key for long-term survival.

Boma In Poland

Together with certified ExO coaches, we can help your company become an Exponential Organization, by identifying the right vectors and elements to begin this transformational journey.