Centrally planned economies failed. Free market economies thrived. In the latter, supply better met demand. In the former, shortages were constant. The free market isn’t perfect. But few people advocate a top-down, centrally planned economy. It’s less responsive, dynamic, and effective at meeting people’s needs.
Yet most companies today look like top-down, centrally planned economies. People at the top set goals and allocate resources to achieve them. They hire for specific skills, and establish and police the culture. People at the bottom execute the orders. If the market suddenly changes, those at the top can be slow to adapt. Those employed can find their skills unneeded. This is particularly problematic with the current pace of technological change.
Is there a better way? Perhaps if companies were more decentralized, like free market economies. Imagine if companies had no managers or workers, and maybe no leadership. Imagine if instead they simply had goals and resources. Someone (perhaps workers themselves) could then establish tasks to achieve the goals, and rewards. Then workers with the skills to complete the tasks could do so, and earn the rewards.
Granted, this would pose significant challenges to our current social order. It’s like the gig economy on steroids. We would need to update many social institutions to support citizens in such a world. (My vote is for a universal basic income.) But having worked in large companies and seen their inefficiency, I welcome it. I’m confident decentralized companies will outcompete traditional companies. Historical precedent: Wikipedia versus Britannica.
With this said, I’m excited to see a project called Colony launch in beta. It’s a platform to “create, operate, and monetize Digital Companies that succeed through self-organization.” In short: an operating system for decentralized companies. I’ve requested early access and plan to kick the tires and report on what I learn.