"Exponential Organizations" by Salim Ismail

Review by Borodutch

It seems that I've read one too many books on how to build a business in the "correct" way. They all seem to analyze retrospectively what worked for the winners (without actually looking at the losers who are eerily similar to them) and try to create a step-by-step guide on what one needs to do to succeed. Unfortunately, this rarely works when applied to businesses currently starting or growing — as perfectly illustrated by the list of "the next big things" the author suggests. 3D printing much? How's the Internet of Things? Neural feedback? Virtual worlds?

But what does Salim suggest that makes an "Exponential Organization" (ExO)?

  • Your growth must be exponential, not linear.
  • To achieve this growth, the company needs to be agile and adaptive.
  • ExOs take risks.
  • ExOs do SCALE: staff on demand, community and crowd, algorithms, leveraged assets, and engagement (yeah, right).
  • ExO execs use IDEAS: interfaces, dashboards, experiments, autonomy, and social technologies.
  • The Chief Executive Officer must pivot into Chief Exponential Officer (lmao).
  • The company needs a Massive Transformation Purpose (MTP).

Yes, this is all quite obvious if you look at the disruptors that won the race and did disrupt the markets. But here's the thing: every person starting a business plans to disrupt stuff (especially if venture-funded). Many companies follow a similar blueprint. Only rarely do the stars align, and a company becomes the disruptor that grows exponentially.

"Exponential Organizations" is junk food reading for managers who can no longer grow their companies. They are looking for a silver bullet to solve their issues — and the author is here for the rescue. Unfortunately, such managerial pivots rarely work. Again, business is mostly luck — and 5% effort. The thing is, few do the 5%, and instead, they waste time on blueprints like "Exponential Organizations."

Cut the bullshit. Just do work. You have no chance without this 5% of effort, even if you follow "Exponential Organizations" by the letter.