By Salla Kuuluvainen
I participated in the Social Tools Conference organized by Pixelache Helsinki, an artist collective. I have been taking part in Pixelache events for a quite a while since I feel that they are a great source for finding out about ”weak signals” conserning the future and trends.
Decentralization as Trend
This time the topic of their event was decentralized organizations, which is a topic that has been discussed and debated a lot in more forward thinking management business circles. Teal organizations and Frederic Laloux’ book Reinventing organizations has sparked a lot of interest – even in Finland there is an active Teal organizations community.
There has been lots of more or less successful companies taking the organization more towards decentralization and selforganization, as a successful example could be mentioned Buurtzorg from The Netherlands and as a less successful Zappos, which suffered from an attempt at selfmanagement.
Learnings from Founders of Loomio and the Hum
At Social Tools Confrence I attended a workshop by Nati Lombardo and Richard D. Bartlett, the founders of Loomio and the Hum, which help organizations and groups becoming wanting to become less hierarchical, Loomio by offering software for organizing and the Hum through consultancy and workshops.
At the workshop I thought especially about how design thinking could be applied towards social organizing. The Hum team had created a system of 12 principles that should be applied when designing for decentralization, but the principles were not formulated as tools or a timebound process, instead more as a framework.
The principles included things like decisionmaking, creating trust, planning for communications and discussing power relations in the organization. I could easily see how some of those principles could be combined with a a Design Thinking tools to provide a timebound process for designing a decentralized organization: e.g. for creating psychological safety in a team, some tools that are used in Design Thinking process in the empathy phase could be used, like creating empathy maps of team members.
What Do You Need to Take Into Account?
Generally I learned at the workshop that when designing an organization there are lots of things that need to be taken into account – it’s not only about structures, but also about culture and those things that are often either taken for granted or not spoken about, e.g who is doing care work at the office, like organizing birthday gifts for collagues or seeing to general well-being. An organization is never a given, but an entity that can be purposefully designed, like a service or product, and decentralization is a way of designing organizations in a new, very contemporary way.
I thought the workshop was simply great, one of the best ones that I had attended in while, and can heartily recommend Nat and Richard for anybody who is wants to learn in an engaging way about decentralization in practice.