Each company has a unique information footprint, so unique that the term “informational DNA” can be coined. And it just so happens that this “DNA” is tied directly to the motivation of a company’s workers.
It is well-known in HR circles that no matter how much effort is put in to raise worker motivation, the potential benefits of that effort will be reduced or even nullified if it doesn't resonate with people. It is also a well-known fact that worker motivation has a direct impact on a company's bottom line. For instance, a business that has a virtual monopoly in its market can still self-destruct if apathy reigns among its workers. And a firm that happens to be fighting for its life in the marketplace could still end up thriving if its employees were to become highly engaged. Now increasing worker motivation is easier said than done. But it is a not-so-well-known fact that worker motivation itself is also tied directly to the company's information footprint, or what we can call its "informational DNA" - thus, the crucial need for a company to "understand itself" in this respect.
To delve further into this concept, we can look at the analogy of genomics, the science of analyzing biological DNA. Here, analysis is performed on the highly repetitive pattern of four bases (abbreviated as C, G, A, and T) that exist in a continually changing order of sequence in DNA strands. And the entire pattern of all the DNA strands for a biological entity is what makes up its biological genome. Now this same structural principle can be applied to a company's “informational genome," the entire pattern of its informational DNA. What then would be the corporate counterpart to such a simple set of bases (C, G, A, and T) as found in biological DNA? For instance, would there exist, say, four basic types of information artifacts that could be shuffled around in different patterns in order to model virtually every aspect of the information flow in a typical business? Curiously, there are. In very general terms, data containers (C), data movers (M), data processors (P), and data dispensers (D) cover virtually all the scenarios needed for making up the informational DNA "strands" in a company's informational genome, whether in digital or analog format. Let's take an example.
The latest versions of five paper-based contracts (data container in analog format) signed and date by an authorized HR worker in our example company (data dispenser in analog format) are pulled from a paper folder labeled “TO BE SIGNED BY EMPLOYEE” (data container in analog format) residing in a file cabinet (data container in analog format) by another HR worker (data mover in analog format) at a company’s head office (data container in analog format) and digitized in a scanner (data processor in digital format) that digitizes the data to an electronic file (data container in digital format) which is sent via e-mail (data container in digital format) via the Internet (data mover in digital format) to a new I.T. worker’s e-mail address (data container in digital format) at a branch office (data container in analog format) where the electronic files (data container in digital format) are viewed by that I.T. worker (data processor in analog format) on a PC screen (data dispenser in digital format) via an e-mail application (data processor in digital format) and then sent to an office printer (data dispenser in analog format) through the local office network (data mover in digital format) where the printer’s software (data processor in digital format) prints a hard copy (data container in analog format) for each contract so that the same I.T. worker (data dispenser in analog format) can physically sign all the contracts (data container in analog format) and fax them back right away via the branch office fax machine (data processor in digital format) via the telecommunications network of the company’s carrier (data mover in digital format) to the fax machine (data processor in digital format) at the company’s head office (data container in analog format) where they are printed out by that fax machine (data dispenser in digital format) and then stapled to the original paper-based contracts by an HR worker (data processor in analog format) who then files them away (data mover in analog format) in a paper folder (data container in analog format) that is labeled by the employee’s name and residing in the same file cabinet (data container in analog format).
The above very long-winded process emphasizes just how complex a company’s information flow can be. If we tried to model all that, even using our simple four-base system (C, M, P, and D), it would still look tediously long:
And that’s just one process! If one were to think of mapping the entire information flow of a company that way, it would be considered a nightmare at first glance. And what advantage would there even be in taking such an approach? Wouldn’t it be much simpler to just write somewhere, “HR contract is e-mailed to employee to be signed and faxed back for filing”? And more importantly to ask, even if such a gargantuan mapping endeavor could be done, how would it be used to improve worker motivation? Let us see.
We can call the above example process the company’s HR contract signing "gene." Imagine now that at our example firm, apathy has been reigning among the workers. But due to the company now having come under new management, great efforts are being made so that the information flow of the business is not impeded. The new management, using what we can call "business genomics," carefully analyzes the informational DNA strands to see where they can help. Among other things, they notice that the HR contract signing process is not functioning as it should. The high apathy in the company has prevented the HR contract signing "gene" from being "switched on." There were always delays at almost every step, with action being taken only when pressed to do so due to low motivation.
Using an analogy from another related discipline, this time in the field of epigenetics (the study of how genes get switched on or off), we will see how a company's information footprint or informational DNA has a direct impact on motivation. In epigenetics, scientists study the actual proteins that turn genes on or off. Likewise in our example, the new management, using what we can call "business epigenetics," has looked at the factors that have influenced the contract review steps and has discovered that the root problem was in the volume of work, thus inducing apathy. Instead of processing all five unsigned contracts in one setting, it was being done piecemeal while multitasking on other things. New employees were thus getting the different HR contracts haphazardly and subsequently experiencing paperwork fatigue. So the actual process, if mapped out using our four bases of informational DNA would look something like this (the sequence now becomes five times longer):
So to simplify matters, it is decided that a new employee would not get any paperwork now unless the latest versions of all five contracts were available as a complete set. And time would be allowed for them to completely review the documentation. The HR contract signing "gene" is thus "switched on" more effectively, making the process less tedious. And the impact on motivation? Less frustration, more engagement.
As stated above, less frustration in processes used can greatly contribute to more engagement by workers. Streamlining the information flow of a company by the mapping of a company’s “informational DNA” is a unique tool that has endless uses because such flow is changing all the time. And just as in a biological setting where DNA does not exist in isolation, so likewise with information (e.g. the principle of data without context being meaningless). So such mapping provides a context to that information flow which in turn provides a relational foundation for adding sideline data as needed.
It can be strongly argued that such management analysis (as described in the example above) has long been used in the world of commerce since paper was invented, so how could putting a different slant on the subject improve matters? A good question indeed, but one must keep in mind that these new tools at our disposal (business genomics and business epigenetics) would document in a unique way the processes and procedures that occur in the information flow of a company. The informational DNA sequences are a unique way of describing a company's information footprint, at least the known part, to whatever degree of detail that management could desire. So whenever any change would be made or any problem would occur, updating such information in this special way could lead to some intriguing potential since data models can be very powerful when put to use. Even computer simulation could perhaps be carried out as is done in the biological sciences.
Take two simple but different approaches thought up by HR to improve worker motivation, and then using business genomics, have each approach modeled into informational DNA strands containing the four bases (C, M, P, and D), then test the approach in the field, and then analyze the results using business epigenetics. Then have the modeled DNA strands fed into a computer along with the results to establish a baseline of what worked. Then model in the same way two more simple HR proposals (to improve worker motivation), then using a computer, look for patterns among the four proposals, keeping in mind what worked in the first two proposals. From that, try predictive analysis to determine (if possible), the probability of success for the two new HR proposals, and then try them in the field. As the results come in, see how accurate the predictive analysis was and fine-tune the models accordingly in order to bridge the gap between theory and reality. If a pattern does emerge, you may find it most intriguing.