‘An idea about a product is powerful, often more important than the product’s performance.’
At 19, I made an observation about McDonalds. I was young with time on my hands, no Internet, and simply loved Big Macs. I memorized the Big Mac rap before there was rap. I just could not understand how this little piece of whatever could have become the sensation it had become. McDonalds did not do this alone. McDonalds was just another participant in taking a cartoon version of a very popular food item, the hamburger, and transformed how people thought about it. The hamburger received a prominent place on the culinary map.
This made me wonder how this could help me create a business. My first thoughts were that McDonalds re-framed the public’s understanding of what a hamburger is by making something that resembled a burger but was obviously desirable for other reasons. McDonalds simplified the burger.
Normally, an American hamburger is a piece of ground steak served on a bun. Before fast food joints and diners along the interstate roads, a hamburger was made with ground good quality meat, seasoned and cooked to varying degrees of doneness, and served between two slices of fresh bread. It was a fantastic meal often packaged with french fries and a Coke or milkshake. The bread was often baked at the restaurant and the plate came garnished with a slice of onion, tomato, mustard, and ketchup. But the Great Depression brought about a change in the minds of people.
A smaller wafer burger was first offered in large scale by White Castle but later dwarfed by the popular nationwide McDonald’s hamburger and later the Big Mac. This burger was small but not just for kids. Whatever the reasons for the attraction regardless of diminished size, taste, quality, this downsized version has remained popular. The idea and the information behind the product is powerful, often more important than the product’s performance.
The re-framing success of the hamburger is arguably due to the way the focus is the exaggerated significance of the minimal aspects of the product. There is nothing magical about McDonalds or any other similar fastfood hamburger, fries, or milkshake. Of course, there are many other factors for the success of McDonalds and even their competitors as it relates to the burger. However, I am focused on the process of identifying minimal aspects that define a product to use for re framing and strategic marketspace interruption. I apply my own version of the Shewart / Demming PDCA improvement cycle: Simplify – Reflect – Refocus.
My interest has always been in teams, work groups, and organizations. So I considered how people themselves operate. Many people have their “go-to” people to help solve different problems, to perform work, cope, be entertained, and even brand themselves. Hopefully, you can overlook our common beliefs in friendships, romance, work, etc. In absence of structure, humans organically group as a social unit of people to meet a need or pursue collective goals. Extend the idea to people inside organizations; workers congregate socially and politically. A common point of reference is the water cooler but it can be a number of other places. I looked at people who were the “water cooler icons”, people in organizations that are magnets for others. These Intrapreneurs and Solopreneurs create networks for accomplishing tasks or provide tools for positive organizational coping.
The people who are water cooler icons, intrapreneurs and solopreneurs, represent micro-organizations. Consequently, these micro-organizations are a marketspace. These formations can use tools to explain what they do, communicate between each other, and perform work without regard to formal structures that surround them. Formal organizations create intranets and various projects designed to service “rogue” entities that are the backbone of their organizations and maintain institutional knowledge. Informal organizations marvel how volunteers raise funding, perform community work such as feeding the homeless, and help build strong communities.
While I hear a lot of offerings for small business, I have not recognized offerings that purposely address micro-businesses. I have come to the conclusion that this is an under served marketspace and an opportunity.
We have opportunities by re-framing small business into a conceptual idea of smaller leaner micro-organizations. Re-framing based on minimizing qualities of small business simplifies the marketspace of small business by segregating and scrutinizing its smaller-sized members. This section could be a niche or a significant percentage of small businesses. Regardless, we need to determine if they have unmet needs that are overlooked when they are considered among the other small business organizations. Additionally, re-focusing provides a novel perspective to a well-discussed subject of small business and therefore represents an organic hidden marketspace. In conclusion, operating in a hidden marketspace provides economic opportunities with organic barriers of entry and the possibility of being a first mover and a disruptor.
The idea behind microbusiness is already in people’s consciousness. Defining a smaller entity would be obvious except for the efforts of some who prefer to put microbusinesses in the same category as businesses with hundreds of employees and millions of dollars. Few think of organizations this size as small business.
I believe there is a great opportunity to be had by pursuing this marketspace. I will further develop these ideas in future articles by examining qualities of micro-organizations. We will discuss the “Two-Options” of micro-organizations, the Four Service Functions, Very Small Business Units (VSBUs), collectives, and more. If you understand how to apply these ideas, you can build incredible virtual organizations with True-Peer products. This idea is powerful.
In my first article dealing with small business, I shared my thoughts on why I believe there is a great opportunity providing products and services to the smallest unit of small businesses, micro-business. I want to bring the reader along my journey by providing some breadcrumbs, insights to my thought process, assuming there is logic. I smile with that thought because often our minds can make leaps in logic that is “spot on” but defies reason. Yet I offer to bring you along my Yellow Brick Road.
Our first step in improvement is to refocus as it relates to teams, work groups, and organizations. I try not to overthink whatever I choose to improve; I just believe in the process: Simplify, Reflect, Refocus. This approach is the same as the Plan – Do – Act – Check Shewart/Demming Improvement Cycle but useful in unstructured situations. Once we have a structured improvement scenario, we can fall back on tried-and-true processes.
Our first step will be to simplify. So I am going to minimize the characteristics of teams, work groups, and any organization. By inspection, we can recognize ‘individual’ as a core component. Each individual must have some sort of relationship inorder to create the larger entity so there will be a level of dependency between each individual. Finally, there are expectations of how each individual interacts between each other and with others outside the relationship. These are not earthshaking revelations but they are our first steps in simplification of small businesses.
Individuals may participate in informal structures such as friends or associates (from school, sports, etc) or formal structures such as a private club or a job. The introduction of someone into a formal organization is often performed within informal structures such as introductions, references, a heads-up call that a job opening is secret or opening.
In a structured organization, often dependencies for accomplishing a task with missing organization members is a key management concern. But, it is not necessary for there to be a direct link on the organization chart. Unrecognized dependencies are organically realized allowing unforseen circumstances result in a passage of invaluable institutional knowledge and process improvement. Let’s look at an example that affects task accomplishment.
Consider Bob and Sue, employees of a furniture store. Bob and Sue meet in the employee breakroom each afternoon for a quick bite to eat. Sue has worked at the store for a year as a bookkeeper. Bob has been at the store for only three months. Sue learns that Bob is doing well but he loses certain kinds of sales. Sue also has a friendship with Michelle, one of the loan company representatives, who has helped other salespeople close a number of sales. One day after work, Sue invites Bob and Michelle to a local happy hour. Bob learns how to work with Michelle and close his problem customers.
Structured organizations are filled with individual’s with dependencies we will refer to as Very Small Business Units (VSBU). Often these VSBUs can cross over business units and company lines, as with Bob, Sue, and Michelle. VSBUs form informally, at watering holes such as breakrooms, cafeterias, formal meetings, etc. We are not concerned on the ability to create nor negotiate within the formal structure based on a perceived level of power. We just want to recognize that levels of dependency provide ways to
Norms of behavior – organization cultural norms such as paper forms in structured, and handshakes and expressions in informal structures. For this exercise, we will ignore the latter two qualities and focus on individuals.
We see two important divergent ideas that occur with individuals in micro-organizations. Informal and formal structures. These two options appear in each of the other qualities. How does this idea of formal and informal structures come into play as we re frame the concept of Micro-Organizations to the individual? Is this even possible?
Remember that we defined micro-organizations as organically formed groups to fit a need. We can reasonably assume that this dynamic of organic formation occurs in both structured and informal organizations. This presents the first evidence that at the individual level, micro-organizations operate similarly.
This can be examined another way. There are four associated functions of Services: Management, Finance, Distribution, and Sales. We will explore each of these functions in greater detail in a future article. Consider that in structured and informal organizations, these four functions occur at a micro level. (Note: we will discuss micro as a definition but for now, this is 1-20 contacts.) This provides a way to decompose needs for all types of micro-organizations by seeing how they operate in each function. Perhaps more interesting is if we examine the transaction activities of the organization, we will see them all act as a business.,