The world is currently shifting towards decentralized organization. This can be seen with emerging technologies like the internet, Bitcoin, and smart contracts. Just recently Bitcoin.com got together with Dennis Wittrock of encode.org, a group dedicated to bolstering the idea of decentralized, autonomous, and “purpose-driven” organization.
Technology and Self-Organization
Wittrock’s colleague, Tom Thomison will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming D10e conference in Romania. Below is a glimpse into encode.org’s mission of teaching self-organization by embracing society’s paradigm shift.
Bitcoin.com (BC): Can you tell our readers what encode.org is?
Dennis Wittrock (DW): The purpose of encode.org is “Going Beyond Employment. Liberating Purposeful Work.” We’re a tech and consulting company which helps progressive organizations by providing the legal constructs and agreements needed for self-organization. We take the idea of decentralizing power and equity seriously and created a new model, which we call the “For-Purpose Enterprise.” We took the learnings of pioneering models of self-organization like Holacracy and plugged them into a legally-grounded context, combined with new dynamic equity models and new social agreements.
Currently, we are providing consulting services to help other companies bootstrap or transition to becoming a For-Purpose Enterprise too. In the long run, we are working on building a platform that helps these new types of enterprises find these new types of autonomous, purpose-driven workers and vice versa.
The idea is that people can affiliate with organizations and purposes they care for and manage their work agreements with these organizations in the form of smart contracts on the blockchain. In a nutshell, this enables you to work, earn, and live – for purpose.
BC: How does technology fit into self-organization?
DW: In multiple ways: it enables and facilitates decentralization, which is one of the cornerstones of self-organization. Video-conferences, cloud-based storage services as well as communication tools like Slack have become important tools to express organizational purpose while staying aligned even if we work physically remote, like encode.org does, with team members spread out across America and Europe.
Viewed more broadly, the continuous advancement of digital technology has created a context of accelerating change and disruption, a VUCA world, or whatever term you prefer, in which self-organization, distributed decision-making, and agility have become features that will be increasingly positively selected by evolutionary forces that impact the business world. Self-organization is a major competitive advantage in this new world that technology helped to create around us, it is an ‘evolutionary fitness-factor,’ one could say.
BC: How does your organization feel about the innovative Bitcoin network?
DW: We’re very positive about Bitcoin and alternative currencies and all the possibilities that the blockchain technology opens, especially with regard to smart legal contracts. We envision a platform that helps individuals and purpose-driven companies to manage all their mutual legal and work agreements digitally in a transparent way, triggering automated payments upon fulfillment of certain conditions, be it in Bitcoin or other forms of payment. Bitcoin and the blockchain are both certainly a key piece of our future business model.
BC: How many people are working with your team?
DW: We are currently ten partners in our association who spend a varying degree of time on encode.org. Some dedicate 100% of their time, some only 20%, and anything in between. We enable our partners to handle their commitments in a dynamic and flexible way and adjust compensation dynamically according to focus time allotment on a monthly basis.
BC: Can you tell our readers how a holacracy works?
DW: Holacracy takes the purpose of the organization and breaks it down into a hierarchy of work—replacing the well-known hierarchy of people in classical organizations. The work is clustered in circles, which have roles, both of which have accountabilities. Accountabilities are at the same time authorities that are granted to role-fillers. In a holacratic organization, nobody can tell you what to do. There is no boss and no manager who makes choices for you. Instead, you interpret the purpose and accountabilities of your roles to your own best judgment and initiate the actions and projects that you think work best to express it. You steer your own workflow.
In Governance meetings, all circle members are invited to make proposals about how to update the organizational structure based upon the tensions they experience through working in their roles. It is a tension-driven evolutionary algorithm that encodes continual adaptation into the organizational DNA by shaping and reshaping via trial and error. Once an organization adopts the model, it has to be ratified by the current power holder who cedes their authority into the process and gives up the right to be “above the law.” It is a real power shift that not everybody is ready for.
BC: Can tools like Bitcoin, public blockchains and distributed autonomous organizations help further this movement?
DW: The answer is yes – in two ways. Firstly, by infusing the mainstream with the principle of decentralization that underlies this technology. If our currency, our accounting, our assets and other aspects of our life are more and more decentralized, why should our organizations be an exception?
It paves the way for models like Holacracy that truly distribute (not just delegate) decision-making authority across the organization. Secondly, those tools will very likely become the infrastructure on which many of these emerging organizations will build their products and services.
BC: What does Teal and ‘reinventing organizations’ mean?
DW: Holacracy is just one example of a bigger evolutionary trend which seems to be guided by three notable principles encapsulated in the new “Teal Organization” movement, catalyzed by Frederic Laloux, author of “Reinventing Organizations.” Laloux has reverse-engineered these emergent trends from his research findings and clarified them as self-organization, evolutionary purpose, and wholeness. Over many decades other companies like Buurtzorg, Morning Star, Valve, Gore or FAVI also forged their own individual ways of doing the work and expressing these principles.
The colour “Teal” refers to the latest stage in a model of organizational complexity that Laloux laid out in his book. He gives a colour and a metaphor for each successive stage of organization. From red “wolf-packs,” to amber “military,” to orange “machines,” to green “families” we are now witnessing the emergence of teal “organisms”. Check out this illustrated 10-minute video for a good introduction into this kind of work.
BC: What is the overall mission behind encode.org?
DW: Our current purpose reads, “Going Beyond Employment. Liberating Purposeful Work”. Our mission is to build a platform for Purpose Agents to connect to For-Purpose Enterprises. We are creating the templates and solutions to make working, living, and earning for a purpose reality.
Thank you, Dennis, for speaking with us about these innovative topics.
What do you think about encode.org and the subject of decentralized organization? Let us know in the comments below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, encode.org, and Dennis Wittrock
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