I started Happy Melly, with several of my friends, because I wanted to break completely with traditional organizational structures. I hoped to create a business as an experimental playground that could inspire many people. We tried many things and I learned more than ever:
- Persuading independent companies to work under one name doesn’t work.
- Paying all team members the same can work but it doesn’t scale.
- Allowing all workers to reward each other with bonuses works quite well.
- Voluntary financial contributions for a central service doesn’t work.
- Getting a group of freelancers to work as a team works like a charm.
Note: your mileage may vary but these were my experiences in my context.
What I also learned is that, without constraints, it’s easy to change too much. When everything you do is an experiment, there is nothing that looks familiar to others. During my keynotes, I can easily inspire people with the “crazy” processes and structures that have become “normal” for our Happy Melly team members. But no organization will adopt our ideas because our business is just too weird.
Happy Melly is like a circus act at a lawyer’s convention. Fascinating, but not to be copied (for most)!
I’ve decided to be a little less “weird” with my new company Agility Scales. I don’t want to be so experimental and unconventional that investors and customers will hesitate to work with us. Too much of anything is no good for you.
We will have a familiar organizational structure, with a Board of Directors and an executive team, although the selection process could still be innovative. We will sign common employment contracts with our people, but the agreements will be as modern as we dare to make them. And the company will be financed in a traditional way, but we use the newest approaches and technologies for the funding campaigns.
Agility Scales will look normal and familiar while still innovating on the details.
If Happy Melly is the experimental nothing-is-too-weird adventurer, Agility Scales is her more conventional, more down-to-earth, but still forward-thinking younger sibling.
Adventures are best when people want to experience them with you. This requires businesses in different contexts to operate at different rates of change. When you change too much, you may lose everyone who matters.