Assemble Your Crew!

Why Trust-less Flash Teams on a Blockchain Could be the Future of Work

“You’re gonna need a crew as NUTS as you are! So…who’ve you got in mind?” — Ocean’s 11 © 2001 Warner Bros.

Suppose you need to assemble a team of people, each with a highly specialized set of skills and knowledge. You may have some general idea of who they might be, but you cannot guarantee they know, much less trust, each other. They will need some coordination and assurance that they will get paid. What is the best way to assemble your crew?

Businesses regularly find themselves in a similar situation. Consider a company, for example, that builds houses from scratch and sells them. They will need to contract engineers, electricians, plumbers, a realtor, and so on. What’s more, these complete strangers will need to coordinate and collaborate if the project is to ultimately succeed. In a traditional self-managed team, project managers direct the communication, teamwork, and workflow between team members. They assign responsibilities, expand or reduce the team’s size as needed, and supervise the handoff of work from one team member to another.

Complete strangers will need to coordinate their work if the project is to ultimately succeed.

Organizational behavior research suggests that traditional methods of organizing people are incredibly inefficient. Communication can become repetitive and unclear. It can be vague where one person’s work ends and another’s begins. Team members can be uncertain about the broader mission of a task and their individual role within it.

Researchers at Stanford have shown that flash teams can be a more efficient way to organize people. Flash teams are groups of people with special skills and knowledge that are assembled, organized, and rewarded through a centralized platform. More concretely, flash teams are efficient for the following reasons:

  1. They automate tasks to reduce costs and time to completion.
  2. They feature chat boxes, workflow visualizations, and clearly designated tasks for each member.
  3. They can automatically recalculate estimated start and completion times as members submit work.
  4. They can automatically manage the number of people on a project, allowing teams to expand and shrink with great ease.

Flash teams can be used for any kind of work that requires different people to contribute different skills and knowledge to parts of a project that can be more or less isolated. Some examples include designing a webpage, producing a movie or animation, and running entertainment events. Still, this style of crowdsourcing work has yet to achieve a scale.

Flash teams today rely on a centralized system to ensure trust between their members and the fair distribution of rewards. One can imagine centralized flash teams that fail to attribute value to its contributors. They might unfairly allocate work and rewards, for instance, or profit by skimming too much off the top.

Blockchain technology may be a path forward to scale flash teams trustlessly. On properly designed a blockchain, each work transaction is recorded on an immutable ledger. There is no central authority that can exert malicious influence. Even the participants themselves can’t abuse the system, since doing so requires contributing significant amounts of work. A blockchain can securely contain all user and token information in a decentralized way. People can engage in productive behavior without trusting one another before the fact. Everyone verifies the work performed and the distributed rewards, so it is incredibly hard to cheat the system without ramifications.

nCent affords the security, transparency, and scalability inherent to any blockchain, and it offers even more advantages for flash teams specifically. In particular, it can most effectively find and recruit the members of a flash team. Finding the right team members is much like a “needle in a haystack” problem, similar to the Red Balloon Challenge. These problems can solved by incentive programs, including recursive incentives, which lie at the heart of nCent.

Flash teams represent an idea that is much larger than outsourcing. The two main ways to organize human work at scale are firms and markets. By building the correct incentive markets to enable and scale trustless flashteams, we are moving towards a future where we can deconstruct the firm model. By allowing market forces to enter into the ossified and inefficient domains of firms in the form of flash teams and other incentive market, we are building a future of work that better unlocks our common potential.

To help us envision and build what the future of work looks like, to learn more or to discuss further about our work at nCent Labs, feel free to email me anytime:

More by KK Jain (@kk_ncnt)

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