Replacing Corporations and Cooperatives by Discovery Networks?

“A Discovery Network (DN) is an organic, open, network-type organization that can include commercial, academic, governmental and independent entities, collaborating together and coordinating their efforts to enrich society with new material goods and services, and extracting some value from doing so. The DN is mainly a knowledge and a logistical organization, it processes information and knowledge, plans, and coordinates. It is organized around the DN core, who’s ultimate goal is to create and to maintain a generative environment, where synergistic relations between its members are nourished, leading to new ideas and their applications.”

A proposal by Tiberius Brastaviceanu of the Multitude Project:

(example here)

“A DN is an organizations that YOU build, starting with to the blueprint and guides given here. Like a corporation, the main function of the a DN is to provide solutions to problems, which also includes bringing new products to the market. But there are very profound differences between the two. The DN is an alternative to a corporation. Is is built on entirely different values, it is governed by entirely different principles, and it is the most adapted to the new reality, incorporating very well the new technology. The corporation is an outdated form of organization, a medieval concept. It proved to be the most economically efficient in modern times, among other forms of organizations with the same purpose, notably the cooperative, a concept made popular by the socialist/communist ideology. But the economical viability of corporations in the pre-Internet world came at the expense of local communities, the civil society and the environment. Nowadays, in the Internet era, in parallel with a tremendous loss in popularity among the younger generations, the corporation also seams to be totally out of pace with the new reality. This is precisely why we need to consider other alternatives to innovation, production and distribution.

A corporation is a hierarchical organization, with a centralized decision making process. The same is true in practice for the cooperative, which tends to be more democratic. The DN is a network-type organization, with a distributed decision making mechanism. The corporation is closed, the DN is open, with diffuse boundaries. The corporation likes to secure know-how, justified by a logic of competition. The DN thrives on sharing and uses open standards in a logic of collaboration. The DN is far from being a cooperative, the rewards are distributed only based on valued individual input.

The relational structure of the DN is a graph. Every entity part of it is connected to the DN core, which acts as a minimal government. Individuals, or small organizations with good product ideas get together to form the DN core. The DN starts as a project, the DN core is created first. The creators don’t possess all the means necessary to materialize their ideas. They begin a matchmaking work; they become community builders, bringing together other entities that possess the resources necessary for the completion of the project. To illustrate our ideas lets take as an example a new laser application in the medical domain that our newly formed DN core imagined. They need to bring together MD’s to validate their ideas and to guide the design process, a company that can supply a laser source customized for this particular application, a manufacturer to put everything together, a software company, a marketing company, an accounting partner, some lawyers, perhaps some university professor with key knowledge in the field, with access to expensive instruments needed for the proof of concept experiments, and with a few students eager to work on the project, and, why not, a consumer advocate group to contribute in matters of safety, ethical issues, etc. These entities become partners in this venture. At this point, a DN general assembly is formed, which is an organization that includes the DN-core and key representatives of each entity adhering to the network. A Dirigo is named to manage the DN-core and to preside over the DN general assembly. If the project is complex, sub-networks can be formed. There is a DN sub-assembly for each sub-network. The entire project is decomposed in different tasks, which are then dispatched to every member. Various resources are put in common. The risk is also shared. Participants manage their own share of the work. The rewords are distributed in proportions through a value exchange structure that takes into consideration different motivations: profits, market share, image and recognition, authorship, etc. (this is important!)

The DN is an organic structure, and although relationships are cemented legally, what holds everything together is common interest and the belief in the success of the joint venture. It is also a highly dynamic structure, allowing fast regeneration and growth, because the DN does not pay for all the capital brought in for the venture. It remains permeable, allowing entities that can increase the value of the product to participate. It is certainly more creative than any classical organization because of its openness, inclusiveness, and its diversity. Sharing resources means a reduction of redundancy, which means saving costs. All these features translate into economical advantages. Network effects emerge, and members benefit from what I call “collateral advantages”.

A Discovery Network is more effective than a classical vertical and centralized organization because it is only limited by coordination. It doesn’t need to acquire the resources needed to put a product on the market, it can take advantage of the redundancy and under-capacity already existing within our economy.

A Discovery Network is an independent entity and anyone can set one up. But DNs also possess the property to interface with each others and to polymerize into super-networks. So the DN will create its own ecosystem and no one will be able to control it, because the super-network inherits the properties of the DNs that compose it, it will be a value-based structure, as opposed to a power-based structure.

When it comes to perceived complexity and novelty, the DN comes very naturally. In the end it’s just a bunch of entities (individuals and independent organizations) bound by a collaboration agreement. It is very simple, in the sense that every member continues to do exactly what they were doing before joining a DN. Everyone takes care of its own task assigned within the DN, including the financing aspect of it. There is nothing really new here. Individuals and independent entities are already part of collaboration networks, and being par of a DN doesn’t interfere at all with their internal processes. The DN exerts absolutely no pressure on the inner structures of these member organizations. It is ONLY asked from them to carry out a given task, which is within their field of specialization, and to coordinate their output with other members part of the DN. That’s IT. The DN doesn’t care how the task is carried out, where the money to finance it came from, etc.

Another important aspect of the DN is its interaction with the general financial and economical system in place. The DN is perfectly compatible with the old, pre-Internet economy, members can be classical organizations operating within the old system. Simultaneously, a DN is perfectly suited for the new emerging economy, the member can be another network, it can make use of alternative sources of financing like crowdfunding of peer-to-peer lending, it can employ alternative marketing and distribution tactics, like making use of social media for example, etc.. This is a very important feature! As we transition from the old economy to the new one, the DN must be able to operate and pull in resources from both economies! This is capital! The DN operates ONLY between member entities, considering them as black boxes. The only thing relevant is what comes out of them. The DN connects and coordinates output from different black boxes in order to create added value. The fact that the DN doesn’t penetrate inside its members is a key feature. You can’t repeat this enough… This is what makes the DN the perfect organization in a transition period.”

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