Decentralizing Organizations to Create “People Platforms”
By Elie Saaoud
What does the future hold for the traditional business model in the face of the growing number of self-employed workers? Are we facing a break in the hierarchical and closed organizational structure? On November 15, 2017, Mosaic invited Alexandre Bigot-Verdier, a connector at OuiShare, to discuss a very topical subject: collaborative platforms, which allow professionals, experts and technicians to get in touch with customers without necessarily having to go through the company’s hierarchy and comply with its bureaucracy, its standards, its culture, its 9 to 5 and all its other constraints. Are we entering the era of “freelance”? What benefits do these platforms bring to their members, to customers, and to society? What are their limits? We examined these questions during the conference. Here is the report:
First, what is OuiShare?
OuiShare is a platform for self-employed workers; an ecosystem, an emerging organization and, most importantly, an incubator of people. More concretely, it is a global network of projects, initiatives and individuals working in every conceivable facet of the collaborative economy. It is a place for reflection and action. It aims to foster a community focused on collaboration, openness, trust and the co-creation of values. Festivals, conferences, initiative incubation, online media, academic research and masterclasses are just a few of their activities.
Throughout the development of this platform, its members learned a lot from their mistakes. Alexandre Bigot-Verdier shared what he’s learned with us.
Lesson 1: The Importance of Interaction
Two types of interactions can be distinguished in digitally based organizations: virtual interactions and real interactions.
Virtual interactions are fundamental to the network aspect of an organization, but face-to-face interactions are crucial to its success. Although OuiShare started out on social networks, it became clear that the discussions on the web should lead to real contact in physical places. That’s why OuiShare encourages members of its local communities around the world to meet regularly to discuss, make decisions or simply share information. Indeed, face-to-face interactions are important because they build trust through informal discussions. OuiShare organizes biannual meetings bringing together a large part of the global network. Although organizing these events is expensive, they are a part of the democratic vision of the organization and allow participants to reflect together on the global strategy while creating memories, connections and trust.
The structure of OuiShare is built on these interactions. There is no vertical hierarchical structure or official status that is present in traditional enterprises. Everyone can become a leader by getting more involved. However, that does not mean that power games are non-existent! It is normal for some projects to have more influence on the overall decision-making power. Ultimately, we see that the perfect horizontality so coveted by many organizations is difficult, if not impossible to achieve.
Lesson 2: Horizontal Culture: How and What Tools?
Horizontality is not managed in the same way as verticality. Indeed, a horizontal organization is defined by its transparency, governance and funding policies.
First, transparency is necessary for the sound management of groups of people. Given that information is synonymous with power, horizontality can easily be lost if a handful of people have all the critical information. To remedy this, OuiShare has set up a web portal where all members can find information on all existing projects. At the same time, it allows anyone to replicate successful projects and amplify the OuiShare movement.
Secondly, horizontality equals fair participation. A horizontal organization must use decision-making methods that take into account all its members. Indeed, many technologies are available to facilitate participatory decision-making. At OuiShare, the Loomio platform makes it possible to include all the necessary members in a decision-making process connected to a specific project. In addition, it also allows you to record all the decisions made during the development of a project or taken within the global organization and to review those decisions if necessary.
Thirdly, a horizontal structure means a more equitable allocation of resources to projects. How do you decide how much money is allocated to one project over another without causing conflict? OuiShare members use CoBudget for budget management. This application allows any member to propose a project to be financed, to legitimize the project and thus receive a budget. It also gives decision-making authority over global budgets to certain members who stand out more through their involvement. Thus, they can influence the allocation of funding for projects in their communities.
Lesson 3: How Does This Structure Catalyze Creativity and Innovation?
OuiShare is a very telling example of an organization that has created an environment conducive to innovation. Indeed, a platform of people with an adapted culture helps create new ideas. Alexandre Bigot-Verdier raises the importance of anchoring experimentation in the culture of the network. As one of its core values, OuiShare encourages members to challenge, to be fearless about failure and to focus on learning. Learning is another crucial element to innovation. To have ideas, you have to have knowledge! That’s why OuiShare has integrated the development of its members into its vision. Indeed, the goal is to create a place where individuals can exchange knowledge and learn new skills to prepare them for future experiences.
In conclusion, the decentralization of organizations has many advantages, but it does not come without effort. A new structure necessarily means a new alignment of strategy, management style, processes and culture. Will this paradigm shift replace the traditional business? Only the future can tell us, but one thing is certain: the movement of collaborative platforms led by OuiShare isn’t slowing down!