oleg konovalov: organizations, like organisms, have to focus energy on getting the right resources (not just any resources)

in episode 37 (the complexity of living organizations) of the humancurrent, the guest, dr olog konovalov shared some insights that are so in line with how i think that i might have to listen to the episode again.

his main thing is that he uses (as many others) natural systems as an analogy for organizations. specifically, he is developing something called the organisational anatomy and in it, he uses the human body (or just natural systems in general) as an analogy for organizations. it’s a really good (tough for language reasons) listen, so i definitely encourage you to do the listen if you can.

one thing that stuck out, though, was a particular point about resources. essentially, he said that organisms need the right resources to be healthy. the human body needs a mix of resources in order to stay healthy, right? and when the balance of resources is off, health suffers. too much something, not enough of other things, it all impacts the health of the body. and if you spend a bunch of energy gathering the wrong resources, you don’t have any energy to then go get the ones you actually need.

and so it is with organizations. orgs have to focus energy on getting the right resources or else they’re unhealthy, too. he notices that sometimes organizations really focus on getting resources from the wrong places. and sometimes that causes major problem for the organization in terms of its structure and effectiveness.

an example i can think of is being a fee-for-service org when you’re selling something that people don’t want to buy and should really have a private donor model.

all of this made me think of this discussion in good to great where jim collins discusses how many businesses are built with their economic engine wrong. they do what’s common in their sector (maybe trying to get big grants) without recognizing that it’s hindering them. in his hedgehog model, he gets real detailed about an org being clear about what its value proposition and who appreciates that value. once you know that, you can decide what is the revenue model that makes the most sense given who you do well and who wants it.

man, if i could only share this insight with people i know in some of these orgs that feel to me like they’re always struggling… some of that is probably just the nonprofit industrial complex, but some of it isn’t, especially when i think about popular (like “the people”) funding models…


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