Can We Put the Future of Work into Code?

How we might use a DAO to promote better ways of work.

Great people, a great idea, and funding aren’t enough.

As Michael Dell once put it, great ideas are a commodity, but the execution of them is not.

But this is where so many organizations fall short — confusing presence with productivity, and motion with progress, content to spend all day responding to emails, and logging in to Zoom calls at the expense of getting any real work done.

Cue leadership development webinars aimed at fixing this problem.

Problem is, all of the leadership development webinars in the world amount to nothing if the systems and cultures people find themselves in when they return to their desks don’t support what they've learned.

But what if we could simply put into code better ways of work?

The DAO

Well, there’s a new type of organization brewing that empowers leaders and teams to do exactly that — the decentralized autonomous organization (DAO).

A DAO is a blockchain-based organization represented by rules encoded in a smart contract, that are transparent about decisions and money-flows, and are controlled by the organization’s members (typically anybody who holds the DAO’s crypto token — something that can be purchased or earned).

A DAO empowers its members to securely pool funds, govern decisions, allocate capital to value creation opportunities, and transparently distribute funds to contributors and suppliers.

Some popular DAOs include the social community Friends With Benefits, the metaverse Decentraland, and the crypto-media site Global Coin Research.

Better Ways of Work

In a world where most organizations are still pegged to archaic, costly, and bureaucratic ways of doing things, encoding smart, better, faster ways of work into an organization can offer it a huge competitive advantage, especially over the long term.

For example, below I have highlighted a series of cultural and systemic behaviors at organizations, with aspirational behaviors on the left.


  • Conviction over consensus (except for Type 1 decisions, see below)
  • Asynchronous communication over real-time communication
  • Processes to support innovation and growth, not to preserve the status quo and kill innovation
  • Prioritizing the 80/20 — what are 20% of tasks and initiatives that will deliver 80% of the benefit?
  • Use of automation and outsourcing to keep our cost base low, focusing on high-value activities, and keep us competitive
  • Meetings used only when necessary, not as a default communication norm
  • Eliminate tasks and initiatives that aren’t adding value
  • Make data-informed Type 1 decisions, combined with the professional judgment of naturally emerging leaders and the community
  • Experimentation and taking many small bets quickly over ‘perfection’ and taking few large bets slowly
  • Climbing the right mountain, instead of climbing the mountain everyone else is climbing

The advent of the decentralized autonomous organization provides organizations with a unique and novel opportunity to put into code some of what management thinkers as well as organizational psychologists and business leaders more broadly, preach.

Example

For example, one of the defining characteristics of innovative organizations is their ability to delineate between Type 1 (expensive, irreversible) and Type 2 decisions (inexpensive, reversible).

Organizations such as Amazon and Netflix empower people to make Type 2 decisions quickly, and only engage in consensus-seeking for big, hairy, and audacious Type 1 decisions.

This can be put into code.

If a decision is defined as Type 1:

  • it could require a proposal to be approved by the DAO’s members.
  • time constraints on voting could be put into code in order to support speed, and minimum participation from people with diverse skill-sets to support a diversity of thought and better decision outcome.
  • incentives could be used to promote voting (such as distribution of tokens that are linked to the value of the DAO)

If a decision fits the definition of a Type 2 decision, it could be left to the discretion of core contributors without community consensus.

This is fundamental to the speed of decision-making and adaptability — something that is critical to competition, growth, and survival in a fast-moving business and technological environment.

While the types of and extent of Type 1 and Type 2 decisions might vary, some foundational examples for a hypothetical media publication might extend to the following.

Type 1:

  • Whether to fund a new podcast proposal
  • Whether to perform a capital raise

Type 2:

  • The UI design of a website feature
  • Whether to approve a new article

It is imperative that a balance is struck between speed and governance in order to increase a DAO’s chances for success.

This is just an introductory example as to how we might put the best of leadership thinking into code and optimize how organizations get things done.

This is exactly what we’re attempting to do with TimesDAO — a DAO focused on supporting investigative, fact-based, and nuanced journalism.

Can you think of any other processes that we could put into code to optimize how things get done? Let me know in the comments!

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