What’s An Enzyme?

What’s an Enzyme?

The word ‘enzyme’ conjures up scientific images, but has also come to have a figurative meaning which borrows from its scientific heritage. Literally an ‘enzyme’ is ‘a protein substance produced in living cells that influences a chemical reaction within a plant or animal without being changed itself’ (World Book Dictionary). ‘Enzymes’ speed up reactions, they act as catalysts. As with many scientific words, the word enzyme hails from the Greek. ‘Enzoumos’ means ‘leavened’ and was used to describe the role of yeast in the bread making process – an important image to keep in mind.


The word enzyme has crossed the boundaries from the purely scientific world to have a more common usage which the Macquarie Dictionary describes as ‘a person or thing that acts as an agent in stimulating or causing change’. Before we finish tracing the meaning of the word, let us look at the meaning of ‘leaven’ which comes from the Latin word ‘levare’ meaning ‘to lift’. The Oxford Dictionary describes its figurative meaning as a ‘pervasive transforming influence’ as a noun and ‘to permeate and transform’ as a verb.

We know that enzymes:

  • Transform pathways and organisms
  • Speed up reactions
  • Are not consumed by, nor do they consume the organism
  • Remain unchanged and then separate from the products of the reaction


Our understanding of the origins of the word also tells us that enzymes:

  • Stimulate or cause change
  • Permeate and transform
  • Have a pervasive, transforming influence, and
  • Lift the organisation


Enzyme International:

  • Works with and within the organisation
  • Acts as a catalyst to lift the organisation to new heights
  • Leverages the skills, knowledge and expertise of the people within the organisation as the drivers for change and transformation
  • Enables sustained and sustainable change to take place
  • Delivers sustainable bottom line results, fast
  • Is committed to shared success and capacity transfer
  • Uses leading edge technologies based on discovery, understanding, passion, action and results.