Open Company

Here’s a crazy idea: It would be interesting to build a kind of “open” company.

Most companies are closed in the sense that you have limited contact with them and little insight in to their internals. It would be interesting to create something where there was some high degree of openness both within and without, a flat structure and deep feedback loops.

Valve doesn’t have managers (flat structure) and people just work on whatever they want to, with peer pressures as a check. Amazon has a lot of the same customer and feedback goals but more traditional management. A blend of these would be interesting.

The problem is capital. Valve has a big office in Bellevue and people. Amazon have bigger offices in Seattle and lots more people.

But what if we flip that? 37signals has some large number of remote employees and that appears to work just as well. Why not make all your employees remote? No more office-related costs.

People are, generally, expensive. Well, they are in Bellevue, WA. What if we don’t mind if you work in Timbuktu? What if they don’t work full-time? Suddenly employee costs drop off a cliff. For not much cash, you could hire 5 or 10 people on upwork to get started.

It’s never been cheaper to go do this. We could make the company handbook v 1.0 just be Valve’s handbook.

Amazon started with books, Valve with Half-Life. What if you start with nothing at all but people interested in the experiment, and employees own ideas of what to work on?

Could you make the company an entertainment in itself? People love following along kickstarter projects and watching Dragons Den / Shark Tank. People are already therefore paying dollars and time to be part of the experience in creating something.

An Open Company could put you right there with the people making things happen. You can follow along and influence who gets hired and what people work on. It would be like The Sims, only more entertaining because it’s real. You could help choose the company logo, be an “associate CEO”, vote on product wireframes… or not be involved at all and just watch (in your “OpenCompany” t-shirt).

Worst case, it would be an entertaining art project. Best case, it would be fun and create something of value.

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