A Business Is Not What You Think It Is

Do you ever wonder how it is that work can be both fulfilling, and at the same instant be a source of stress, frustration and disappointment? Have you ever assumed an increase in responsibilities, thinking that you’re moving forward, only to find out that those responsibilities brought more difficulty than prestige and progression? What if I told you that it was your own fault, and you have been setting yourself up for that kind of experience for quite some time? Would you still talk to me? Well, it may be true.

Many challenges and difficulties arise in our lives through the misapplication of language. A superficial understanding of some concept or another gets cross-labeled with another concept, and through the constant use of that label the two become synonymous in our minds, when in fact they may be opposites. Without continued examination of the concepts, our conceptual understanding does not increase, and remains rudimentary, perhaps even wrong. Our actions then, based on erroneous understanding, eventually lead to unpleasant results.

IN ENGLISH: We call a skunk a squirrel, and the more we do so, the more it becomes so in our minds.  The challenge arises when the skunk treats us aromatically different than the squirrels we associated them with.  If we don’t continue to examine and learn about the things around us, we find ourselves dazed and confused, often stressed, and we don’t understand what’s really occurring and how we should pro-act.

One of the most common of these examples, is the interchangeable use of the terms “business” and “organization”. They are two different things, really. We often refer to our organizations where we make money as a “business” and not an organization.  Business is not a structure, but rather something that you conduct, undertake or engage in. An Organization is the social structure through which people come together to engage in business activities. People, not “businesses”, transact business.

So what’s the big deal?

When you lump the two terms together, you are not only mislabeling, but eventually misleading (yourself, if not others), albeit unintentionally.  When we repeatedly refer to organizations as “businesses”, it shapes within our minds an understanding of the organization based on the series of transactional business activities. Over time, in our desire to succeed, or at least cope, the activities of business become our basis for understanding the organization. We study business, we talk business, we measure and track business, and then we wonder why we have so many struggles at work.

Those struggles are usually not the result of “business”, but relationships with others. We are not in a “business”; we are in an organization. Use business knowledge for transacting business. Use organization knowledge for successfully leading, operating and navigating in organizations with others.

If you want to understand better what’s happening around you, maybe even see the unseen behind what goes on, then start learning to understand the organization. The human, social interaction of the organization is the single, greatest constant influence in business results.


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