How I got myself into a network organisation

A few years ago I was at a library in Barcelona lazily browsing the shelves when I came across this book called ‘Collaborative Consumption’ and authored by Albert Cañigueral, an old school friend. I had a vague idea that Albert was a telecommunications engineer who had lived in Taiwan and some other bits and pieces. I did not buy the book but something got imprinted in my brain. Collaborative consumption.

By spring 2016 I was fed up with my job. It was a good one, I thought, with responsibility over projects and people, a good salary and travelling to exotic cities. You’ve heard this story before, there had to be more to life than that. Here is where the collaborative consumption idea came to the fore, and I convinced Albert to meet me for a beer.

Albert is a connector at OuiShare. What a great name that is, connector. It really tells you what his role is. And OuiShare is also a very good name for a global network of people. I won’t try to go into detail on what OuiShare is, but rather, on how it works for me. For a good two hours Albert literally poured a stream of information about the sharing economy, governance, communities, emergence and stigmergy. I know, funny words that now make more sense than back then. I was impressed by how OuiShare worked but I did not ask too many questions, not wanting to rightly look like an ignorant. This is the photo of that day. He even pulled up his laptop!

That was a sort of beginning. I started consuming what they were producing, an article here, an event there. I learned a few more things and I continued with my daily job, still wondering what the next chapter of my life could look like.

Awesome Trait #1 — Trust

One day I was involved in a competition (I worked with architects, sustainability and engineering being my thing) for an extension of MALI, Lima’s art museum. It being a competition we could not really afford a trip to Peru, so we had to get our information by other means.

I sent Albert an email telling him about my project and asked him if there was some OuiShare people in Lima. It turns out there are. A couple of hours later he introduced me to Yabed Contreras, another OuiShare connector, who is based in Lima. Albert’s email had only two lines and one said ‘I trust you both’. I had heard about the role of trust and reputation in networks and platforms. Guess what, within 24 hours I had had an email exchange with Yabed and he had introduced me to a local artist who had been working on and off with the museum and knew it quite well. I had never experienced anything quite like that and quite that fast in my fifteen years in the corporate world.

Awesome Trait #2 — Emergence

Not long after the Lima competition I felt it was time to give something in return. Since my thing is knowledge management, I sat down with Albert and told him about my methodology and what I had learned over the years. He sort of liked it and introduced me to some of the guys working on the biggest project at the time, the OuiShare Fest Barcelona 2016. And that was that, soon enough I was holding workshops and talking about knowledge and getting as involved as I could. I was working for OuiShare by pure emergence.

Actions arise from a vast network of talented individuals. No one asks for permission. There is no chain of command. There is not a centralised decision making process (or worse, a centralised decision maker). It all happens by proposing and seducing, if the idea has value it will gather traction and it will become a project.

Here is another example. There is a format called Rethink & Remix — a training event for companies — that has happened twice in the past two years, as a satellite event of the Fest in Barcelona. In this event OuiShare brings experts from its network around a specific topic and transfers all that knowledge to the attendees.

I thought it would be a good idea to make Rethink & Remix events between Fests, so as to keep in touch with partners and companies in our ecosystem. First I mentioned it to Albert, who told me to speak to Ana, another Spanish connector who is interested in new governance models. Ana thought it was a good idea too, and the word started spreading. Very soon we had a bunch of people involved and willing to participate. This is how it became a project.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no established hierarchy in OuiShare, but there are many types of nodes in the network. Some people have been in OuiShare for quite some time and have influence to spread the word and they can galvanize a lot of interest around projects. If you want to know more about this, check out this article about hierarchy in a network organisation.

Awesome Trait #3 — No arseholes

Now I don’t remember who said it, but I like this phrase: ‘If you come across and arsehole in the morning, that’s bad luck. If you keep coming across arseholes all day long, YOU are the arsehole.’

I don’t fool myself, there must be some arseholes in OuiShare, I just haven’t come across them yet. My impression so far is that behaviour in a network organisation is influenced by factors similar to the factors influencing the behaviour of Lyft drivers. I can’t help but notice that, in average, Lyft drivers are more polite and attentive than your average taxi driver, for reasons we all know very well. In fact, I am myself more polite on an Lyft or Juno ride (I’m a big fan of platform coops and I am avoiding using names I don’t like). I think the same applies to a network organisation.

In my short experience in OuiShare, everybody is very helpful and nicely behaved. We all work with each other because we wish to do so — because people around you are interesting, because people know things you want to learn, because projects are meaningful and have an impact. I imagine that if I was mean, ruthless and dismissive of opinions I don’t share (which I have done in the past), it would not be long before all those ideas, project opportunities and interesting conversations would simply stop happening around me.

Combine this awesome trait with a worthy mission and a squeaky-clean set of values, and go figure the kind of ‘company culture’ we have.

This is just the beginning

It’s only been six months since I started contributing, and it all looks very nice and rosy, as you can read. Nevertheless, I look forward to discovering the weaknesses and I shall write about those too!

If you are curious about OuiShare, don’t hesitate and get in touch with your local community, or anyone really. Or come to the next Fest!

The Human Networks Festival— Barcelona, October 4th and 5th 2018. In the face of growing complexity and global challenges, humans are innovating in the way we come together to work on the answers. Join us in Barcelona at the Human Networks Festival to learn, contribute and connect.

If you are interested in organisational transformation and the power of networked structures, come check out our Rethink & Remix website. There you can discover the different areas we work on and find out about future events near you.