Human DNA testing exploded in 2017, more than doubling. Today, around one in twenty-five adult Americans have access to their personal genetic data. A survey by Counsyl, a health technology company based in San Francisco, indicates that 53 percent of U.S. consumers want to know what is in their DNA. What drives the need to know?

According to the founder and CEO of Counsyl, Ramji Srinivasan, it is because early awareness of risk can make a big difference in (health) outcomes. There is an interest in being proactive about something so essential. Srinivasan says, DNA is essentially a predictor of what is possible. It increases the odds of a potential outcome.

What exactly is DNA?

What exactly is DNA? The DNA molecule is a double helix: that is, two long, thin strands twisted around each other like a spiral staircase. An organism’s DNA affects how it looks, how it behaves, and its physiology. The primary role of DNA in the cell is the long-term storage of information. Researchers have found that epigenetic marks on DNA—chemical marks other than the DNA sequence—do indeed change over a person’s lifetime, and that the degree of change is similar among family members. So, a change in an organism’s DNA can cause changes in all aspects of its life.

Organizations have DNA, too

Like humans, organizations have distinct DNA; the genetic imprint that determines outcomes. Fortunately for our growth goals, your business DNA can be altered over its lifetime to drive improved growth results. That DNA consists of how people approach problems, how work is defined, how decisions are made, and how communication takes place. One of the challenges for leaders is understanding their DNA, as it is invisible and lies below the surface of the organization. It expresses itself in how things are done, but it is not limited to culture. It’s a composite of how the organization thinks and works, expressed through behaviors and processes. For example, companies that are highly rote and scripted, mired in tradition, struggle more with growth than those that are more strategic in their thinking and participatory in their behaviors.

GrowthDNA is a framework

GrowthDNA is a framework designed to help leaders identify the variables in their organizations, the DNA, that contribute or detract from the growth of the company. Just like when getting your personal DNA tested, once you are able to identify your current DNA structure, you can begin to manage and even modify it, strengthening latent DNA and leveraging DNA strands that are strengths. Proactively managing your business DNA greatly increases odds for a healthier business outcome and performance sustainability.

GrowthDNA testing leads to understanding

As with human DNA, to manage outcomes you must first understand your unique genetic code. We have created a GrowthDNA scorecard assessment that enables leaders to identify their current DNA conformation. The test provides a score for each of the four strands of GrowthDNA as well as an overall score. You can find it at www.dnascorecard.com.

In GrowthDNA testing to date, our results show that most companies that take the assessment are scoring in an average range; they have some areas of DNA strength and other areas in need of improvement. High-performance companies, however, score higher. They average 26 percent higher overall. Finally, clients who have worked to improve their DNA, score 15 percent higher yet.
GrowthDNA Strands

Understanding your GrowthDNA

There are four essential strands, or DNA components, of GrowthDNA. Each of these strands is distinct but they are also interconnected. All four GrowthDNA strands must be boosted to achieve sustainable and significant growth results.

ConfidenceDNA. Without confidence, bold moves are unlikely to happen. Companies without confidence don’t push themselves out of their comfort zone. They don’t challenge existing boundaries and don’t believe they can overcome barriers. In order to generate confidence an organization must have outside-in, focused market intelligence. They regularly track macro trends such as technological advances, value shifts in their customer base, as well as customer problems that need to be solved. They are aware of what competitors are doing, not so they can emulate them but so they know how to differentiate from them. It is this data that unveils opportunities for growth that are often ignored or overlooked by organizations that manage the business based on operational and financial results. Further, using data to drive decisions helps create cross-functional alignment as facts puts leaders across the organization on the same page and minimizes the emotional and experiential forces that can create bias and conflict. ConfidenceDNA comes from using market data to challenge the status quo, deciding what capabilities to build on, where business weaknesses relative to market needs are, and what new opportunities exist.

ClarityDNA. Clarity is one of those things that sounds easy but is really hard. You have a clear vision so why isn’t the company implementing it? Often, the vision may be clear but the journey for how to get there is not. An effective strategy requires clarity on not just where the organization is going but also how it will get there. Every stakeholder, from boards to front-line employees, must understand what the strategy is, how it will be implemented, and how their role supports success. Clarity about where the company is going and how it will get there doesn’t happen in a day. It takes careful study of the data collected to evaluate the opportunities, and to determine the best fit for the future course of the organization. Once the company’s future potential is defined, in order to achieve clarity, leaders must make a choice about how to achieve it—or how they will win in the market they choose to serve. Essentially, an organization has to decide not only what it will do, but what it won’t do. That strategic focus is essential to not only achieving results but accelerating them. ClarityDNA comes from crafting a specific, well-defined strategy that is clear to all responsible for its success.

CommitmentDNA. Plans don’t create value, activities do. The entire organization, every person, needs to be committed to doing their part to implement the vision. They become invested when they understand how their role/actions will make a difference. Unfortunately, in most organizations, the development of a strategy doesn’t change the work of the organization. People continue to do what they always have done. To generate company-wide commitment takes leadership effort to translate the strategy into actionable priorities that are driving resource allocation. Everyone in the organization needs to understand these priorities and how their department and/or role supports them. The key tool leaders have to accomplish that is communication. However, I have yet to meet an employee who thinks communication in their organization is sufficient. Most want more frequent and more detailed communication. Inherent in that communication is the need to inspire and motivate the employee base and others critical to the effective implementation of the priorities. That is an ongoing, everyday responsibility of leadership. CommitmentDNA begins at the top and is the number one goal of leadership.

CultureDNA. Now that the organization understands where it is going and what it will take to get there, the goal is to build growth-mindedness into the day-to-day operations of the company. Growth becomes part of the lifeblood of the company and it is everyone’s job to think about it, contribute to it, and support it. New processes, new behaviors, and new practices are required to create and sustain a growth-minded organization. Growth-minded organizations are more engaging, and participatory, leveraging the collective brain trust of all contributors. Employees are not just empowered but challenged and held accountable for results over activities. Without this essential piece, organizations get a temporary boost from a strategic plan but may fall back into hereditary habits. Your organization may have a well-defined, value-driven culture, or one of default, born of the collective personalities of its leaders. Regardless, as the GrowthDNA scorecard reveals, what many leaders believe is a good culture—value-driven and happy employees—doesn’t necessarily translate to business success. Growth-mindedness doesn’t replace a value-driven culture but rather embeds the genetic sequencing for it in the form of growth behaviors and practices into existing values. It is CultureDNA that enables organizations to sustain growth year after year.

GrowthDNA Framework

The chart following depicts the GrowthDNA framework. The four strands form the circle which represents an ongoing cycle of improvement. The business capability that boosts the performance of each strand is in the outer circle along with the benefits to be derived from successful modification of how that capability is applied. For example, effective market intelligence yields market insights for growth, defines specific growth opportunities, and the data creates leadership alignment around a common view of the market and the future potential of the organization. The four GrowthDNA strands are in the inner circle and define the genetic code needed to maximize growth and achieve sustainable business performance. The higher the level of DNA for each strand, the higher the business performance.

Curious about your organization’s GrowthDNA? Take the free GrowthDNA Scorecard Assessment at www.dnascorecard.com and find out what your current DNA is saying about your ability to grow.