Thinking Like an Exponential Organisation for Sustained Growth

THE goal of any business is to make money. But to get to that point of profitability, you would need to overcome the challenges of firstly, starting it and secondly, growing it. When it comes to growth, there comes a point where you might hit a plateau, from which things could either go up or downhill. What does it take to push the business onward and upwards from that point?

Think like an Exponential Organisation (ExO for short). What is an ExO? According to entrepreneur Salim Ismail, who coined the term in his book by the same name, an ExO “is one whose impact (or output) is disproportionally large — at least 10x larger — compared to its peers because of the use of new (organisational) techniques that leverage exponential technologies”. While various aspects of this organisational form have been around for decades, it is only in the last few years that they have really started to matter.

Salim’s 2014 book — Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it) — outlines 11 common attributes that all ExOs have, which reflect the internal mechanisms and external factors they leverage on to achieve exponential growth. The chief of these traits is the Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP) — the higher, aspirational purpose of the organisation — which aims to generate a cultural movement, and acts as the foundation for the other traits. Although there are 11 traits, the author observed that companies would be able to find success with a great MTP and by applying three to four other attributes.

Coming from a start-up background, the ExO principles resonate with us. From day one, our company ethos has been to champion integrity as a core value, which determines every aspect of how we do business. At Dattel, our MTP is to be a trusted consumer data partner with the intention of revolutionising the data collection industry, which lends to our aspiration of delivering ‘Data with Integrity’. And this promise comes through in the commitment we make to our customers, the way we interact with each other internally and the way we endeavour to improve the lives of people and organisations alike (practising our principle of ‘Better Data, Better Lives’).

Our commitment to deliver ‘Data with Integrity’ has driven our approach to business and our policies internally and externally. For our clients, it means being empowered to make best possible decisions for their businesses based on the most reliable data possible. In democratising data, we promise to deliver higher value data to client across three key variables, namely speed of delivery, geographical coverage and comprehensive integrity checks.

We are familiar with the maxim ‘Garbage in, garbage out’ — conversely, the opposite of this holds true too. You cannot expect to create excellent, workable solutions when the raw material you’re using is flawed. You would require good data to devise sound advice, formulate strategies and make informed decisions when advising both internal and external stakeholders to your business.

Part of revolutionising the data collection industry, is our inclination to experiment for constant improvement – similar to the Kaizen principle – plus iterative process to manage risk. And just like the Lean Startup principle of “Failing Fast and Failing Often (while eliminating waste)”, we too experienced this when we first began in Oct 2014, where we had an idea for doing things differently, but it fell flat. When our organisation first shared the revolutionary FDA career pathway to 50 or so people – there was virtually no response. We had to relaunch a new version of this concept, and today we have close to 200 full-time FDAs on board… and counting.

This army of professional FDAs is key to getting good data— without good data you’re essentially flying blind and any decision you make would be based on (often inaccurate) assumptions and dumb luck. ‘Data with Integrity’ starts with data collection. One of the glaring issues about the industry of data collection and data analysis was the very method in which data is collected and analysed.

Our Field Data Associate (FDA) programme is unique in the sense that data gatherers are hired on a full-time basis and well compensated with a decent steady monthly salary; are part of the company structure; and have a clear and progressive career path. This enables our management team to forge closer ties and open channels of communication with them. Bearing in mind our unwavering focus to collect Data with Integrity, we operate a flatter organisation and adopt a community driven approach with our workforce, where communication is simple, direct and honest. This approach helps to bring each and every single staff member into the fold, working towards our MTP.

At Dattel, we aim to empower everyone at the organisation — from our staff on the ground to our managers tasked with steering the company — to enable them to realise their maximum potential. The utilisation of technology developed in-house, assists FDAs — and, in turn, Dattel — ensures that our data is correctly collected from the beginning.

We are breaking the norms and revolutionising the industry with certain conscious decisions we’ve made from the start — such as building a solid FDA team, which is directly connected with Dattel. Our FDAs are given training and a thorough understanding of market variables. We have adopted the idea of Scalable Learning under the ExO trait of Experimentation through the collaboration of offline and online assets developed by us in-house, to ensure that the data collected is without errors.

Furthermore, attribute of using real-time, adaptable Dashboards to measure and manage organisations is demonstrated through our in-house developed technologies, such as Voice Algorithm and Maps, work in real time, are secure cloud-based systems that enable our data tracking, monitoring and collection to be efficient, cohesive and direct, all while complying with the regulations of Personal Data Protection Act 2010 (PDPA). 

We are breaking away from usual practise of market research companies which have been known to deploy survey personnel on project or assignment basis with neither much interviewing skills, nor equipped with any cutting edge tools to assist them on the ground. Our FDAs are educated about the tools and trained to use them to ensure they understand their value and usage and integration within the system of collection. All this is part of our efforts of becoming an ExO withsustained growth — by investing in people, tech and development to ensure that the data we collect and analyse is a valuable asset wherever that data is utilised.