What Should I Call It?

I need some help deciding what term to use when I write about organizations. So I’m issuing a request for feedback.

Before you weigh in, here are some considerations.

First, the entities I write about are not just for-profit companies. Many of my observations hold just as true for non-profit organizations. Non-profit organizations are corporations, technically speaking, but my guess is that most people tend not to think of non-profit entities when they come across the words corporation, company or firm. Not sure if that’s true. So that’s a question.

Second, my assumption is that the term “organization” sounds somewhat academic and disconnected from people’s day-to-day reality. I’m not an academic (even if some of my stuff does get somewhat abstract at times…yep, I’m aware of that). “Organization” is more accurate, but is it too disconnected from how most people think?

It’s fair to ask who my audience is. It’s not academia. It’s people leading and working in real organizations. My stuff does have a big focus on technology, so that’s probably a factor too.

The contenders are:

1) Organizations

2) Companies

3) Firms

4) Corporations

5) Enterprises

OK. So there you have it. This the first time I’ve tried to use my blog to solicit feedback. Let’s see how it goes.


  1. I’m for sticking with organizations. Organizational development, organizational effectiveness… These are fields that many a business and non-profit leader look to for guidance. As you suspect… Non-profits don’t identify with companies or corporations (corporation being a kind of company)… With firms people think legal or consultancies… and enterprise tends to associate with enterprise-class meaning larger organizations.

  2. Put me squarely in the “organizations” camp as well.

    For more casual usage I sometimes say groups, but then I have never thought of the word organizations as sounding academic. Then again I have been working in this sector for a while, so I’ve no idea how “normal” people view it.

  3. Of that list “organization” works best for me — it cuts across all the types of companies you discussed.

    A couple further thoughts — you don’t have to stick to a single term anyway. For example, you might use “tribe” (in the Seth Godin sense) for some orgs and “enterprise” may work better for others. But yeah, forced to pick one, I’d pick “organization.”

  4. I think you need to look at thru the readers eyes. So based on who they are and why they are reading it (why did they hire you article in the first place) you should be able to answer the question. I do not know your audience but are the most like to say:

    my organization
    my Company
    my firm
    my team

    Define your target (by name), call to them, Ask them about the biggest problem at work and start counting; then find your word.

    hope this is helpful.


  5. Each of the terms has perceived boxes around them that you’ll always be pushing against to some extent. Organization seems to have the largest box around it and does, generally, work for .coms, .orgs and even .govs to some extent.

    Like most people, I tend to use company when talking about a .com and organization when talking about .orgs. But in my mind, company always means profits whereas organization does not always mean no-profits.

    So, I would stick with Organizations. But I would also reinforce, once in a while, that you are speaking of both for profit and not-for-profit entities.

    • Thanks Drew. That’s helpful. I was just talking with CJ about this today and it seems like “company” might be more useful for marketing purposes (as in a book title, or the title of a post, etc. – and whatever promotion goes around that) and that “organization” can be used in the content to get across the idea of the bigger bucket.