Growing 3D Businesses Naturally

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Foundational Beliefs

  • A business is a living organism that exist within an ecosystem. It is not a machine. Just as a flower is grown, not is a business grown, not made.
  • People want to work (and play) within healthy living organisms and ecosystems. They are alive and want their natural growth to be nurtured by the environment they are living in. They don't want to work as a cog in a machine. This need is fundamental and natural.
  • This is about a new process for growing 3 dimensional businesses naturally.
  • At their very core 3 dimensional businesses create economic, community and environmental value in the same action / activity. They are integrated into one....they are whole.
  • They support healthy work and play environments for the growth of the people involved in them.
  • Growing naturally means the next stage of growth unfolds naturally. It should feel easy....natural. These are small foundationally grounded steps. Each step creates 3D value.
  • This is essentially a systems-level design analysis based on a biology model (the study of life) versus a Newtonian model (the study of mechanics).

Natural Development Process

Natural Stages of Business Development
Natural Stages of Business Development (click to enlarge)

  • Background
    • These are the natural stages of business development and the associated activities and characteristics of each
    • It's purpose is to enable people seeking to develop businesses to understand where they are in the natural development process and what next work might be most helpful.
    • This matrix was developed by talking to entrepreneurs and finding out how they grew their business from an idea to an operating business.
    • We mapped it to how a cherry grove would grow from a single seed to a grove of trees (see right most column.) Not surprisingly...there was a very high correlation.
    • It's ok to go either forward or backwards ... small is beautiful...think about it as East and West...both are good. What direction provides the most learning and energy? Go in that direction!
    • It's ok to stay at one stage for as long as it's healthy (giving you energy) and you're learning.
    • Skipping stages while possible, seems to introduce significant risks and energy demands that make the business less sustainable.
    • Look across the columns and see the vast learning that is possible at each stage. Take the time to do the real work.
    • The requirement that the business be viewed from a 3D perspective can make traditional 1D businesses need to go back to an earlier stage that may seem initially appropriate.
  • Activity
    • Discover what natural stage of development you are at.
    • Circle where you are at in each column. It's natural that the circles will not all be at the same stage.
    • While looking at the circles, find the stage where the learning will create the most positive energy and a solid foundation for natural growth. Place more weight of the maturity of the business a stage that lets that grow naturally.
    • This is best done with in a group conversation with 3 - 5 people. Some who are not involved with the business at all.
  • Outcome
    • An agreement on what stage of development the business is at ... where to start the learning and growth.
    • It's important to remember that all that is required is to grow the business to the next stage of development. It should feel like it's easy to do.

Natural Cycle of Business Growth
Natural Cycle of Business Development (click to enlarge)

  • Background
    • This is the natural process that occurs at each stage of business development to grow from one stage to the next.
    • Proceed through the activities of this cycle at each stage.
    • Going deeper and more detailed as the stages get more mature.
    • This is like the photosynthesis for it converts energy into triple bottom line value.
    • It's ok to go in back if you think you forgot something often how the most important discoveries are made.
    • To complete a cycle the design group needs to answer these questions:
      • Business Seed - What is the core way that a business creates 3D value?
      • Capable Entity - What competency are critical to the success of the business and are required to grow the business to the next stage?
      • Resourced Plan - What resources and strategy required to get the next stage?
      • Production Capacity - How will the capacity be secured to execute the plan?
      • Outcome and Feedback - Execute that plan and capture and analyze feedback to provide input to the next stage to refine the business seed, competency requirements, resource plan, and production capacity.
The Business Seed


  • Overview
    • Is in balance today and is growing, changing ... it is alive.
    • It is made up of Living Parts...that play a role in the Ecosystem
  • Living Parts ... for each living part of the ecosystem we need to identify:
    • Role and Responsibilities ... what role does this living part play in the current ecosystem
    • Trends ... what are the natural forces of change in this living part?
    • Relationships... who does this living part have it's most important relationships with and what is the current energy exchange that keeps this relationship in balance?
    • Natural Gradients...what are the natural forces that could work with our business seed idea...wind at our backs
    • 3D Margin Matrix

3D Business Design Sessions

Session #1
  • Overview of what we're trying to accomplish
    • Business
    • Multi-week process
    • Community-based approach
  • Everyone introduces themselves
    • reason for gathering
    • Gifts they bring
  • Overview of the 3D Process
    • Sets the goals and dimensions of the 3D design space
    • Shows how 3D will happen
  • Business Owner tells their story
    • Why are they pursuing this?
    • Not the business case
  • Owner Observations
    • What have they learned about the ecosystem
  • Group observes strengths and stresses
    • Natural Strengths...what could work in the owner's favor ... natural gradients
    • Natural Stresses ... what will make it difficult for this new living part to survive
      • What are some of the natural variability ... leading to flexibility
  • Identify "Living Parts" of the ecosystem