Swarm Organization

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Description

Rick Falkvinge:

"A swarm organization is a decentralized, collaborative effort of volunteers that looks like a hierarchical, traditional organization from the outside. It is built by a small core of people that construct a scaffolding of go-to people, enabling a large number of volunteers to cooperate on a common goal in quantities of people not possible before the net was available." (http://falkvinge.net/2013/02/14/swarmwise-the-tactical-manual-to-changing-the-world-chapter-one/)


Characteristics

Rick Falkvinge:

THE SWARM IS OPEN …

"A key aspect of the swarm is that it is open to all people who want to share in the workload. Actually, it is more than open – everybody in the whole world is encouraged to pick work items off a public list, without asking anybody’s permission, and just start doing them. There is no recruitment process. Anybody who wants to contribute to the goal, in their own way and according to their own capacity, is welcome to do so. This contrasts sharply with hiring processes at traditional organizations, where people have to pass some kind of test in order to start working for the organization.

The advantage of this approach is that resources of the swarm aren’t spent keeping people out of it, but are spent getting people in to it. Granted, some work will be a duplication of effort since many people will be working on the same thing when nobody gets to tell other people what to do – but the result will be several solutions that are tried in parallel, and the swarm quickly learns which solutions work and which don’t. The workflow becomes an iterative, evolutionary process of trial and error, of constantly adapting and improving, without anybody’s supervision to make it happen.

Being open and inviting is a key defining feature of a swarm.


… AND TRANSPARENT

The swarm isn’t just open, it is also transparent as a defining feature. There are almost no secrets at all. This can be a mind-boggling concept, coming from a traditional organization.

Everything is transparent by default. Financial records are transparent for all to see. Discussions about strategies and tactics are transparent for all to see (and open for all to participate in). Conflicts are transparent for all to see. This is because all discussions happen in places where everyone can see them. This provides for trust and confidence. Since everybody can see all the information and all the discussions in the entire organization, it provides a very powerful sense of inclusion.

It also provides an extremely effective rumor control. It is an inoculation against distrust, since distrust depends on information starvation and people drawing their own conclusions from incomplete data.

Transparency is also effective at preventing scandalization: there have been several instances in the Swedish Pirate Party where media caught wind of a conflict, sensationalized it in a typical tabloid fashion, at which point a normal organization would have capsized – but since everybody reading the stories were able to go to the source and read the actual and original exchange of words, there were no rumors and there was no “he said, she said”. Conflicts do not escalate beyond control when this transparency is in place.

Of course, this doesn’t mean every discussion over coffee or a drink must be recorded. That would create an untenable workload, and couldn’t be enforced anyway. But it does mean that work isn’t applied to keep some people away from information that is available to other people – so when discussions are held online, they remain recorded and they remain readable.

In the few cases where secrets are kept, they are to protect the privacy of people in the swarm, and anybody can easily find exactly what information is kept secret – and more importantly, why it is kept secret, and who has the knowledge of it.

An example of a legitimate secret in a swarm could be the identities of donors, in order to protect the donors and prevent conflicts of interest as people would consciously or subconsciously try to please the larger donors rather than work toward the overall goal of the swarm. The person administering the bank account and/or credit card records would know this, but would be tasked with keeping it to themselves.

Last but not least, being fully transparent alleviates the problem in traditional chain-of-command structures where somebody in the middle may distort information passed up or down, either consciously or subconsciously, in the scenario where every link in the chain is an information bottleneck. By making all the information available to everybody, nobody will have the ability to distort it to parts of the organization. Conversely, nobody speaks for other people in a swarm, as everybody has their own voice. This prevents factionalization, as there aren’t any traditional middle managers who can set their own goals that conflict with those of the overall swarm." (http://falkvinge.net/2013/02/14/swarmwise-the-tactical-manual-to-changing-the-world-chapter-one/)


Discussion

Rick Falkvinge:

"Working with a swarm requires you to do a lot of things completely in opposite from what you learn at an archetypal business school. You need to release the control of your brand and its messages. You need to delegate authority to the point where anybody can make almost any decision for the entire organization. You need to accept and embrace that people in the organization will do exactly as they please, and the only way to lead is to inspire them to want to go where you want the organization as a whole to go.

It is only as you release that control, the kind of control that organizations and managers have held close to heart for centuries, that you can reap the benefits of the swarm: the same cost-efficiency advantage and execution-speed advantage against the competition that the Swedish Pirate Party enjoyed. This book will teach you those methods, from the initial forming of the swarm to its growth and ongoing maintenance and delivery. It will not teach you the underlying theory of psychology and sociology – merely share experiences and methods that have proven to work in practice.

...

Perhaps most significantly, focus in the swarm is always on what everybody can do, and never what people cannot or must do.

This sets it completely apart from a traditional corporation or democratic institution, which focuses sharply on what people must do and what bounds and limits they are confined to. This difference is part of why a swarm can be so effective: everybody can find something they like to do, all the time, off a suggested palette that furthers the swarm’s goals – and there is nobody there to tell them how things must or may not be done.

Rather, people inspire one another. There are no report lines among activists. As everybody communicates with everybody else all the time, successful projects quickly create ripples to other parts of the swarm. Less successful ones causes the swarm to learn and move on, with no fingers pointed.

If you want leadership in a swarm, you stand up and say “I’m going to do X, because I think it will accomplish Y. Anybody who wants to join me in doing X is more than welcome.” Anybody in the swarm can stand up and say this, and everybody is encouraged to. This quickly creates an informal but tremendously strong leadership structure where people seek out roles that maximize their impact in furthering the swarm’s goals — all happening organically without any central planning and organization charts.

At the bottom line, what sets a swarm apart from traditional organizations is its blinding speed of operation, its next-to-nothing operating costs, and its large number of very devoted volunteers. Traditional corporations and democratic institutions appear to work at glacial speeds from the inside of a swarm. That’s also why a swarm can change the world: it runs in circles around traditional organizations, in terms of quality and quantity of work, as well as in resource efficiency." (http://falkvinge.net/2013/02/14/swarmwise-the-tactical-manual-to-changing-the-world-chapter-one/)


Source

The above is from chapter one of:

"It is an instruction manual for recruiting and leading tens of thousands of activists on a mission to change the world for the better, without having access to money, resources, or fame. The book is based on Falkvinge’s experiences in leading the Swedish Pirate Party into the European Parliament, starting from nothing, and covers all aspects of leading a swarm of activists into mainstream success." (http://falkvinge.net/2013/02/14/swarmwise-the-tactical-manual-to-changing-the-world-chapter-one/)