Form affects experience.

This is the first part of a three part series on developing a new language for business.

Form affects how people experience, perceive, and interact with an organization. It is the first step in understanding an organization's place in an ecosystem.

The Oxford English Dictionary describes form as the following:

  • The visible shape or configuration of something.
  • Arrangement of parts.
  • The body or shape of a person or thing.
  • Arrangement and style in literary or musical composition.
  • It is a particular way in which a thing exists or appears; a manifestation.

In architecture, form is shape and structure. It is the opposite of space. Form is positive and space is negative. Architects and designers are continually working to balance these elements.

What is the form of a business? It can take many shapes, but it depends on what you want to see.

Beyond an organizational chart or company structure, the form could be the physical space that the buildings, people, and resources occupy or the information network that supports operations. It could also consist of the customers and suppliers and others who are vital to the life of the business. Each piece of the organization has their own perception of what they do as a member of the whole. 

A curious thing has happened in business over the last decade in particular. The parts have become self-aware and connections have been built between individuals, branches, divisions, or even companies that previously had nothing to do with one another. Barriers have dissolved and new relationships or entities have formed. Silos have been dismantled and business platforms have materialized in their place.

Relationships between groups of people that would otherwise not associate were created because they realized that they had something in common with others. This change coincided with the advent of social media and technology.

Tribes and confederations of people started forming around ideas. People had a hard time making these connections previously because of the way they viewed their environment: in two-dimensions, where you are only aware of height and width. One perceives only the surface of things and deeper relationships between people, places, and ideas are not visible.

In a three-dimensional world, one is aware of height, width, and also depth. Awareness of depth is critical because one is now able to see to see beyond the surface. People working in creative fields have been aware of the networked world in which we live for generations. It took social media and technology to make others aware of the reality that everything is connected.

What does this have to do with form? 

If you know your organization's structure, the arrangement of its parts, and the extent of your reach, then you will start to understand a business's role within its ecosystem. The next step is developing an awareness of the space in and around your business.