WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
- In the future work, and jobs, will be more fluid than they are today, driven by the rise of globalisation, hyper-connectivity and the “Gig economy” but noone has so far managed to create a Flash Organisation that works, one day though that will change…
The other day I wrote about a group of individuals at Stanford University who’ve been trying to build a platform that will support the creation and, more importantly, the management of a new type of organisation, a “Flash Organisation.” For those of you who didn’t read it I’ll do a quick re-cap: Today we’re arguably familiar, with just three types of organisation, if we exclude Holocracies, two of which are new – these are Hierarchical organisations, like the one you’re probably working for now, Crowdsourced Organisations, like Numerai, and fully autonomous organisations, like Aiydia, that are also known as Distributed Autonomous Organisations (DAO). However, as the Gig Economy gives people the flexibility to pick and choose gigs at will, to date noone has managed to crack the creation of a Flash Organisation – a company that comes together in an instant, completes and executes a series of objectives and then disbands.
I like the idea of Flash Organisations because I think they give individuals from all walks of life and backgrounds, from every corner of the world, the power to work in the way they want, on projects they love, but without a way to control the quality of the work and the behaviour of the teams Flash Organisations are also a very fast way to drive a CEO senile. For my part I’m going to see if I can turn my own company, the 311 Institute, into a first of a kind guinea pig, and I expect the journey to be littered with failures and lots of “ARGH!!” moments, so I’ll keep you all updated on how I’m getting along , and BTW if you’d like to volunteer then shout out and let’s see if we can change business forever.
But how do you create one, and more importantly control it – I think blockchain should have an answer, after all a decentralised technology and a decentralised organisation, as much as that statement sounds ironic, could be a marriage made in heaven, so I reached out to the great guys and gals on LinkedIn to ask how it might be done and Ken Bodnar from Canada came back with what he called a back of a napkin suggestion so here it is, let Ken and I know what you think, and thanks Ken!
Blockchains And Flash Organizations
Flash organizations are crowds structured like organizations to achieve complex and open-ended goals. According to Wikipedia, a blockchain is a distributed database that is used to maintain a continuously growing list of records, called blocks. Each block contains a timestamp and a link to a previous block. A blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks. By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data. Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and a collusion of the network majority. Functionally, a blockchain can serve as “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. The ledger itself can also be programmed to trigger transactions, or execute software modules(smart contracts) automatically. Blockchains also hold, store and transact digital data called tokens that can be representational of money, work units, loyalty points, votes, tallies or any numerical representation of value.
Blockchain smart contract organizes crowd workers into computationally-represented structures inspired by those used in organizations — roles, teams, and hierarchies — which support emergent and adaptive coordination toward open-ended goals. Blockchain smart contracts introduces two technical contributions: 1) encoding the crowd’s division of labor into de-individualized roles, much as movie crews or disaster response teams use roles to support coordination between on-demand workers who have not worked together before; and 2) reconfiguring these structures through a model inspired by version control, enabling continuous adaptation of the work and the division of labor. This could be used for complex things including education, product design, software development, and game production as well as a variety of applications. The way this works is that blockchain smart contracts creates digitally networked organizations that flexibly assemble and reassemble themselves from a globally distributed online workforce to accomplish pre-defined desired tasks. This happens with ad hoc organizations composed of online crowd workers previously registered and validated in the blockchain. Organizations typically assume asset specificity, the ability for organization members to develop effective collaboration patterns by working together over time. Flash organizations, with workers rapidly assembled on-demand from platforms do not offer asset specificity. The blockchain smart contract encodes the division of labor into a de-individualized role hierarchy, enabling workers to coordinate using their knowledge of the roles rather than their knowledge of each other.
The second problem that smart contract solve, is that organizational structures need to be continuously reconfigured so that the organization can adapt as work progresses, for example by changing roles or adding teams. Coordinating many workers’ reconfigurations in parallel, however, can be challenging. Smart contracts enables reconfiguration through a model inspired by version control: workers replicate (branch) the current organizational structure and then propose changes (pull requests) for those up the hierarchy chain to review, including the addition of new tasks or roles, changes to task requirements, and revisions of t he organizational hierarchy itself.
Blockchain controls the flash organization through cryptocurrency tokens. Project tokens are used to tally work done. They are used to evaluate project progress. They are used as an exchange medium to pay workers. They are used to define level of effort and task definition value, both in work units, cash, assets and resources. The best suited blockchain for a flash organization is a private blockchain containerized in the cloud. The envisioned use case is that a person or persons wishing to create a flash organization, download an instantiation of the private blockchain deployment container (like Docker or Kubernetes) and fire it up in the cloud. Then the parameters are entered through a wizard, and an organization is set up and the tokens allocated. The platform will have collaboration widgets enabling the almost instant establishment of a virtual, digital flash organization.
About Ken: Creative thinker, technology disrupter, and creator of applications of emergent technologies. Fascinated with the intersection of Big Data, Analytics, Machine Learning, Blockchain and the Internet of Things. Winner of Formula 1 IoT Connectivity Challenge. Tinkerer of mostly software and some hardware solutions. Programs mobile, enterprise, platforms, cloud and bots. Proponent of AI, fintech, algorithms and unique revenue streams based on Big Data. Developer of data solutions for Connected Car, Autonomous Vehicles, Highly Autonomous Vehicles, Vehicle Analytics and lust-to-dust management of vehicular data. More Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional Sources: Melissa A. Valentine, Daniela Retelny, Alexandra To, Negar Rahmati, Tulsee Doshi, Michael S. Bernstein