A quick guide to the fundamentals of corporate DNA design.

Business Genome founder Matevž Medja explains how the framework functions, and why every organisation should know its corporate genome.

Ideal organisations are made up of people who share the same values and know what they mean in their daily work. They know how to react in unpredictable situations to achieve set objectives. They’re completely in sync – from the mailroom to the boardroom, in the office or working from home, across the hall or across the planet. There are only two problems:

1.) Ideal organisations don’t exist,

2.) People rarely share the same idea of what a particular value means. 

Universal understanding of concepts is a centuries-old philosophical problem that persists to this day. It’s hard to achieve agreement on seemingly obvious, non-abstract concepts. If a group of people is tasked with a simple task to draw a tree, the result would be a variety of visualisations of a “tree concept.” Imagine how people think about personal values. Drawing honesty, honour, or love would result in a wild variety of different interpretations. If we can’t seem to reach agreement around simple, personal concepts, how are we supposed to grasp corporate values?

The Goal: make values tangible

Different meanings result in uncoordinated actions. Core values of an organisation are only worth as much as they’re applied into the daily practice of a company, and across domains such as product features, branding, employee relations, customer service, and workspace design. The last decade saw a tremendous progress in organisational core values. And yet, many teams haven’t made a conscious effort to connect them with everyday operations. We want to change this. The fundamental goal of Business Genome is transforming an organisation’s values – an abstract and inexplicit concept – into an integral part of the organisation’s knowledge and activities.


The building blocks of Business Genome framework

We’ve built our framework on a metaphor borrowed from genetics. Like genes, core values manifest themselves differently in different environments. This is why the basic building block of a business genome consists of a value, a manifestation, and a domain. This combination defines exactly how a particular organisation’s value manifests itself in a specific domain.


Values - the unchangeable core

Members of an organisation often know the values for which the organisation stands. Values give them a sense of belonging; many of these people joined the organisation because of their shared values. They are loyal, not only to the organisation and its people, but to the values themselves.

The values of an organisation usually don’t change over time or space. It is likely to become a different organisation sooner. However, the manifestations or behaviours they induce may vary in different environments and with time. That might depend on the culture of various markets, the specifics of communication channels, or regulative frameworks. The Business Genome framework allows organisations to adapt to the ever-changing world.


People rarely share the same idea of what a particular value means for their daily work.

The action happens in organisation’s domains

Decisions, relationships, services, products, artefacts, and communications affect the perception; and so, the brand. Each business operates in a multitude of domains that are spheres of activity and knowledge relevant to the organisation. Not all organisations require all of them, and certain organisations even have their specific domains in addition to general ones. There's a wide variety of domains. We roughly group them into six main groups.

Business
Related to the business model. Category, range of products, and services offered, their pricing, partners, suppliers, channels, revenues.


Relations
Related to stakeholders and the environment. Relations with employees, customers, suppliers, local community, investors, or regulators.  

Product
Related to physical and digital products or services. From feature sets to shapes and materials, ergonomics, usability, interfaces, interactions, packaging, unboxing, and onboarding.

Content
Related to the content and design across channels: internal, PR, marketing, and social. From verbal content such as language, tone of voice, descriptions, anecdotes, to visuals such as colours, typography, style of photography and illustrations, iconography, information graphics, patterns, and the like.

Spatial
Everything to do with organisation’s spaces: exteriors and interiors, urbanism, architecture, and interior design. Features, standards, light, materials, locations, offices, retail spaces, galleries, shops, fair stands, and pop-up places.

Service
Services as a support for users and customers (not to be confused with services sold as a product). Over the entire customer lifetime; before they are customers, at the time of purchase and over the time of using products. Customer support, subscriptions, return policy, customisation, concierge service, or advice.

Each business operates in a multitude of domains  - spheres of activity and knowledge relevant to the organisation.

Manifestations make values actionable

A manifestation by definition is an event, action, or object that clearly shows or embodies something abstract or theoretical. It is explicit and unambiguous. The role of manifestations is to define how broad or how precise a concept is. The purpose of the manifestation is to determine how a specific core value applies to a domain – what it actually means. Each organisation decides how vague or specific they will define manifestations.

Manifestations define how each corporate value should be understood in different contexts.

Manifestations are the past and future guiding principles of a company. Take for example Elan, a beloved ski maker with 75 years of tradition. Manifestations such as “Handmade in the Slovenian Alps,” “The experience begins long before hitting the slopes,” and “CEO’s doors are always open” uncover a culture deeply-rooted in heritage, friendship, and unanimous love for snow.

The formula value + domain is crucial for a successful manifestation. At Boba, a leader in baby carriers, the value “Human closeness,” manifests differently across domains: in Product as “Our products enable maximal contact between mother and child,” in Employee Relations as “We encourage our people to spend time together,” and in Content as “Our photos convey relationships.”


PARENTS BY NATURE — RELATIONS / EMPLOYEES

Everyone who works in customer support should have a parenting experience
Everyone who supports our users must have their own experience as a parent, as this is the only way they can understand not only the functional, but also the emotional needs of our users.

The result: genome, a unique corporate DNA

The result is a complex, but clearly structured corporate “genome” which informs all areas of the company. The genome guides and informs business decisions, feeds the company’s culture, steers product development, and defines brand communications. It’s a unique pool of specific and concise principles of operation. A genome can consist of hundreds of manifestations. It can grow enormous and complex. But, since its basic structure is precise and straightforward – value-manifestation-domain – it is perfectly manageable. Each component in the genome has clear relations to other components; therefore, we can look at the structure from different aspects, filter it by specific criteria, compose and combine it, or even compare two different genomes.

You might find the structure of the Business Genome framework complex. I believe we cannot simplify the complexity of our world itself. However, we can strive to make it understandable – to decode and recode it. This will enable us to embrace the complexity, not fight it. If businesses and brands want to be flexible, resilient, and future-proof in the fast-changing world, they need to be designed and managed less as structures and more as organisms. We have created Business Genome to help facilitate this change.

If businesses and brands want to be flexible and resilient, they need to be designed and managed less as structures and more as organisms.