Allometric Growth: Bringing Biology to Business
When I first came across the term Allometric Growth, it was in context with how life-forms grow during their natural lifespan. The term allometric growth refers to the unequal growth rate in different portions of the body of an organism that gives rise to the final shape.
Those who have pets may immediately realize that not all organs of their pets grow uniformly. You may notice that the ears of a puppy Beagle that appear so small in relation to the rest of the body starts growing rapidly after a particular age. In humans we see that the head, limbs, and body grow at different rates, resulting in a human adult with proportions completely different from those of the new-born baby.
This concept of Allometric Growth is a requirement for the organism to sustain itself and make its organs perform the functions they are ready for use at the right time.
I was wondering how biology could apply to business and realized that we can see the need for allometric growth in organizations too. A business has several requirements such as people, money, sales, marketing, and relationships. Each of these translate into an internal team that does not have to grow proportionally with time but needs to follow an allometric pattern such that the right team is developed at the right pace ready for use.
Let’s look at money. We do need start-up capital, but the quantum of money required does not increase proportionally over time. You need initial money, but with cash flows you can manage to sustain with internal accruals. It is when your business matures and moves into expansion that is when you need more money. So, developing finance as a function in the organization could be an allometric growth depending on need.
In the case of talent, you see a similar requirement till the organization matures. Depending on the kind of business you are in, there is an allometric growth between money and talent as they both do not have to grow at the same time. Investing in people development may have to be boosted when some parts of your business need to mature faster. Hiring more people or increasing the depth of your people is also a choice of allometric growth depending on the need. A HRD department must grow allometrically from an initial external consultant to a full-fledged internal HRD team.
As a CEO one must understand this allometric nature of growth and pace the growth of the teams at the appropriate times. Sales is naturally the first function to grow and must keep a constant acceleration. You must however not neglect marketing activity. Many organizations fail to invest in marketing and keep a focus on sales during their infant stage, whereas if you understand the allometric nature of marketing you would start investing from day one.
The activity of the marketing team may be low in the initial years, but a good base will help to springboard when you really start to expand.
I hope this article evokes thoughts on applying phenomena from life sciences to business. Would like to hear your comments and views too.
Mohammed Sutarwala, Managing Director, emQube