Today, the New York Times reported a story on two professors at Stanford who created a case study of what they called a “flash organization” named True Story. True Story is a card game and mobile app in which players trade stories from their daily lives, resembled that of any company. There was a content division to churn out copy for game cards; graphic designers to devise the logo and the packaging; developers to build the mobile app and the website. There was even a play-testing division to catch potential hiccups.
The producer of True Story wasn’t really a firm: The workers were all freelancers who typically had never met and, perhaps more striking, the entire organization existed solely to create the game and then disbanded.”
Flash organizations are ephemeral setups to execute a single, complex project in ways traditionally associated with corporations, nonprofit groups or governments. Thus those who are recruited are working in a “Pop Up” Job.
Each project began with a project leader and an organization chart. To fill each role, a company like Foundry will email a group of qualified workers on Upwork, a huge freelancer site, which generated pools of candidates. Once the workers were hired, something Foundry could do automatically, they were assigned tasks and communicated through Slack, the messaging software. The organization chart could be altered as needed, generating new roles and new workers.
The conclusion of this case study and other work like it within emergency services, movie production and more is that the flash model appears to have revolutionary potential. If nothing else, millions of middle-management jobs that fell by the wayside in recent decades might one day be reincarnated as freelance project-manager positions. “The bottleneck now is project managers,” Professor at Stanford Valentine said. “It’s a really tough position to fill.”
While traditional white-collar freelancing can be isolating, being part of an organization can be emotionally satisfying. “One thing that was really surprising and exciting about what we saw was how quickly flash organizations developed solidarity and collective behavior,” Valentine said. Flash organizations may even promote upward mobility — if, say, the person brought in to crank out one-line poems can ascend to a supervisory position.
Flash Organization appear to foster flexibility as predicted several years ago by Hoffman in his book, The Start Up of You, the model could compound insecurity. Temporary firms are not likely to provide health or retirement benefits. But benefits as they look today may be going away for all workers so this carrot may not lock out temporary firms.
Something to explore and think about perhaps? I think so. Let me know what you think.