What Is an Ofmos?

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ofmos: noun, same form for singular and plural; short for offering-market cosmos

An ofmos is a virtual business world defined by an offering and one or more customers with the same acquisition and usage behavior relative to that particular offering. Covering all types of offerings and customers, it can be seen as a building block in business management by enabling a perspective where any company can be viewed as a collection of ofmos. And unlike the decades-old concepts of business segment and strategic business unit, which tend to focus solely on a company’s offerings and the operations around them, ofmos are, by definition, tightly integrated with a market segment.

In a broader sense, an ofmos is the whole created by a business unit and a market segment, where the market segment is characterized by a specific customer behavior associated with the product that defines the said business unit. So a single business unit could translate into multiple ofmos, one for each distinct market segment in which the defining offering is being sold. For a single company, then, there would be at least one ofmos defined by each of its offerings, regardless of their type.

According to this underlying rationale, the first key feature of the game are the ofmos pieces, which, as collections or sets, represent each respective company ran by each player, as a CEO. The game simplifies the reality by reducing the entire spectrum of offerings to only three categories, symbolically defined as bikes, cars, and planes. Even more abstractly, the same categories are also indicated through the use of basic geometric shapes: triangle (three joints), square (four joints), and pentagon (five joints).

The categorization is based on the complexity of the offering as well as that of the entire business operations behind it. More specifically, in this context, the offering complexity could be more precisely described as marginal complexity, which represents the entirety of resources, processes, and general effort required to produce and sell one additional unit of that particular offering. It is an important dimension that reflects the business potential of an offering, based solely on the company’s internal operations.

Also, it is a broader and more realistic measurement than just one that would be based on the offering structure alone. Nevertheless, since the complexity of most offerings does reflect the marginal complexity of the operations behind them, the game uses a looser distinction between the two, almost exclusively focusing on the offering complexity. It is a choice that gives players more flexibility and freedom of interpretation, which is a key characteristic of the game experience.

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Prominently expressed in the design of the ofmos pieces, the three categories of offerings are complemented by three symbolic representations of the size of the associated customer base: three customers for the bike offerings, two customers for the car offerings, and one customer for the plane offerings. Together, the three sets of symbols, are meant to illustrate the progression in complexity of the offerings and the operations behind them, as well as the potential reach among the customers that comes with each level of complexity.

It is a simplification of the two continuums of business complexity and size of customer base, respectively. Additionally, the sets of symbols are also intended to illustrate the inverse proportionality between the two progressions. The more complex the offerings and the business operations are, the smaller the customer base inside that ofmos is. Most importantly, however, the ofmos pieces are meant to illustrate the fact that an offering’s inherent nature does have an impact in its business potential.

The easier it is to make and sell an offering, the higher the chance that more customers will buy it. In turn, companies will tend to make and sell more of the simpler offerings to more customers. This approximation of the real world is also illustrated in the game, where each company is defined by 9 bike ofmos, 6 car ofmos, and 3 plane ofmos. Again, it is a simplistic reflection of how these symbolic types of ofmos tend to be distributed not only inside companies, but also generally in a particular economy.

Finally, as in the real world, ofmos can exist in three different states in the game. They can be (1) idle, encapsulating capabilities that have not been materialized yet. Although inactive, they are considered to be in the game. Then ofmos can be (2) operational, which means that the business worlds that they represent are active, generating streams of profit or loss. Such ofmos are also considered to be in the game. Finally, ofmos can be (3) dead or out of the game, which means that the company has exited those businesses, on its own or pushed out by the competition.

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Image 1: The mind-bending mysteries of multiple universes, BBC (http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130610-mind-bending-multiverse-mysteries).

Image 2: The set of 18 ofmos pieces assigned to one of the players, in the board game OFMOS.

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This article is an excerpt from the Ofmos - Rules and Concepts document (November 9, 2017).

Cristian Mitreanu