Exponential Organizations have revolutionized organisations and will change the landscape for many more in the next 10 years. They ignore the limits of slow and linear growth and traditional linear management and use big data, communities, and new algorithms to outperform their competitors. 

An Exponential Organization (ExO) is one whose impact is disproportionately large, generally 10 times larger than other companies, through the adoption of new technologies and remaining lean and flexible and use agile methodologies in how they work. 

In practical terms, here is an example to help us understand. 

Traditional hotels grew and expanded by building more hotels, Airbnb disrupted them. Airbnb owns no properties and as we know developed a technology that allows them to have endless rooms and capacity. They rent rooms & houses by leveraging technology and community. 

Personally, in HRLocker, I am learning this and now trying to adopt some of the principles of an Exponential Organisation into our culture. 

Here are some key principles of Exponential Organisations and how I am working on them: 


ExO’s validate ideas for products and features quickly and cheaply giving us speed in innovation, you may remember the phrase “fail quickly, fail cheap”. 


ExO’s have self-organized, multidisciplinary teams that have decentralized authority (I am struggling with this one). 

When you have been bootstrapped from the off and head-quartered in Lahinch on the west coast of Ireland it is hard to meet the next piece of ExO criteria which is to focus on attracting the best talent and letting them shine rather than on creating mechanisms to control them.  

How I have tried to meet this criterion was to move to a remote first model as it gave us a great advantage that people who worked for us could work from anywhere. We adopted an ethos of #workisnolongeraplace but ironically Covid has begun to remove that advantage. 

I think we can milk our strength in this area for a while longer as other companies learn how to do it properly.  

For some social proof that we were doing this before Covid 19, please see my talk at Disrupt HR in 2018 discussing why HR Professionals should adopt remote working. https://disrupthr.co/vimeo-video/work-is-no-longer-a-place-adam-coleman-disrupthr-talks/  

They don’t call me Nostradamus Coleman for nothing (They don’t call me that I am only joking J) 

Social Technologies 

Information and social technologies are widely available on the internet. ExO’s use this data and other tools to increase their data-processing capacity, create communities, and make decisions faster based on people’s preferences. We have just added this to one of our objectives in September 2021 (Happy to share if people want to know what we are doing). 

What tends to be the result of adopting Exponential Organisational approach to developing and managing your business? 

Exponential Organisations can scale their companies with variable and non-fixed costs, different from linear enterprises and yes, we are doing this, and it is firmly baked into our business strategy. 

Disruption is caused by ExO’s, and it several ways: 

  • A market becomes data dependent, I believe that Data is the new oil that will fuel business growth. 
  • Costs fall, and access is democratized, the adoption of cloud services have done that and as HRLocker is a cloud HRIS SAAS offering for knowledge workers, we are on it!  
  • Professionals and enthusiasts come together to create an open source movement; our approach here is to help HR Consultants by Partnering with them and help them build retainer businesses or repeat billing businesses. 
  • New combinations of technologies arise; we tick this box as we are currently developing proof on concepts on AI, machine learning and block chain, we hope to succeed fast or fail fast and fail cheap J 
  • Providing better and more cost-effective services that are easy to take on when and where you need them. 
  • A new disruption has, and is occurring with bitcoin, 3D printing, robotics, AI, blockchain and in my own domain; HR, remote working and adopting people strategies that put adult development at the centre of business strategies.  

This leads to a saying I love: People build businesses so why don’t you develop your people and become a deliberately developmental organisation (DDO). 

You don’t need to begin as an Exponential Organisation. 

It is possible to transform into an ExO and that is what we are attempting to do.  It’s beginning to work; I think. Organizations like Github and GoPro are examples of companies that have made this transition using the principles listed by Salim Ismail. 

In large companies that have already established models and cultures, it is more challenging, that is why since 2016 we have been working on our open transparent human developmental culture based on a set of principles that we have defined with our people, and it is working so I know that it is possible.  

Apple and IBM are examples of larger companies that have made the transition so why can’t you, are you up for the challenge? 

How to approach becoming an Exponential Organisation (Theoretically) 

To transform, you need to invest in transforming company leadership through education, training, investment in employee diversity, and adult development. 

You need to adopt modern management practices like OKR’s, (Objectives and Key Results settings and reviews, we do this though our feature “Real Time Reviews” RTR) hire professionals with different profiles and allow your employees to challenge every aspect of your company’s strategy, allow and accept and consider  outside the box thinking but make sure that your employees have a good believability score or can back up their out of the box ideas with passion, data, and are willing to put in the hard slog effort, and are prepared to no idea is stupid philosophy. 

Where to go from here?

Over the coming weeks and months, I will delve a lot deeper into the topic of becoming an Exponential Organisation and share our journey to that place as it evolves.  

For a great reference point read Exponential Organisations book, it is a great read, and I am happy to talk with people or Companies that are there or are on a similar journey to us. I hope you follow and remember no idea is stupid.