By Ryan Healy – According to adults the world works in a centralized, hierarchical structure and that’s the way it will always be. They say young people will eventually adapt and accept things for how they are, despite the fact that decentralized websites and organizations have defined our childhood and early adult years.
I don’t buy it. We grew up with open source websites like Napster and Kazaa. Now we use Wikipedia and Craigslist daily. All of these sites have one thing in common; users control them. I don’t need permission to post an apartment for rent on Craigslist and I can make up any word I want and create a definition in Wikipedia.
Now there is undeniable proof that Gen-Y is bringing decentralized organizations mainstream…
After turning down $1 billion, 23 year-old Mark Zuckerberg took the user controlled Facebook to a whole new level by allowing everyone to create applications without pre-approval. If you really think about it, Facebook allows anyone to work for them without the hassle of reporting up the ladder, attending pointless meetings or even leaving their living rooms. With a good idea, a little programming knowledge and a small amount of money, anyone can make money through Facebook while simultaneously increasing the company’s bottom line.
Facebook’s revolutionary new concept is just a glimpse into the all inclusive, non-hierarchical, “out of the box” future that generation-Y will continue to invent and embrace. My friend and web designer, Devin Reams reaffirmed this thought when he told me about his experience at Startup Weekend.
The event began on a Friday, when 70 people showed up above a bike shop in Boulder, CO to vote on their favorite previously submitted business ideas. They decided to create a business that allowed people to take quick polls of their friends’ opinions.
“We broke into groups based on ‘expertise’: business development, PR/marketing, user experience, design, front end development, back end development, and legal. The groups allowed for quick action,” says Devin. “We had seven-minute update meetings every hour and the each hour flew by. On Sunday night we had a business model, website, and marketing campaigns ready to go for a product launch.”
The company was successfully started but no product had launched to the public. “This was frustrating,” says Devin, “since the world was every move on live video from Ustream. But, the project has continued beyond the weekend and a launch is expected next week. We’ve been playing with it internally and it’s amazing what a decentralized group can accomplish.”
After this amazing weekend, the group ended up with a “fast polling” website called Vosnap. The site allows you to send out a quick poll to friends via email or text messaging. For example, if a bunch of friends want to meet up for lunch, but all work in different places, they can send out a poll and meet at the restaurant that receives the most votes. Sounds pretty cool to me!
Sure, Andrew Hyde is technically the “CEO,” but he doesn’t have to approve everything, and the majority can vote him out at any time. This is strangely similar to Wikipedia’s structure of open source use based on a community of trust, rather than checks and balances. Can you imagine a typical company trying to agree on a product, design a website, create marketing campaigns, and draft contracts and legal arrangements in three days? It would take me three weeks to jump through the bureaucratic hoops just to pitch an idea to the person in charge. On a weekend; forget about it.
When you put a group of talented, motivated young people together for three days without bosses, titles or egos, things seem to magically run very smoothly. Watching Facebook evolve and hearing stories like Devin’s excite me. They are proof that young people are not only motivated and capable of working together, but they show that we don’t have to adapt to the status quo of the corporate world to succeed. Hopefully big business starts taking a few lessons from these progressive young leaders.
Ryan Healy’s blog is Employee Evolution.