For the last two years, our colleagues from different countries have come to Barcelona for our DesignThinkers Group annual global meeting. It is a great feeling to get together with very talented people that share your values, ideas and dreams and who are also are willing to share their experiences during the year to bring to life new collaborations and projects.
Big energy moves the gathering. Future projects, business proposals and great ideas pop up all the time with some of them becoming part of our yearly plan. All this happens framed in an interesting set of values only Network Companies currently activate.
But before we go too far, we should define what a Network Company is. NC’s grow from the collaboration between startups and entrepreneurs who enjoy working together, keep their individuality but commit to a community of peers to walk a similar path. We could say it is a next step for collaborators that go really well together and share strong values.
It would be fair to say NC’s are born from active networks (as it is their vital structure) but not grown into a network from a single initiative.
These are some of the values we explored for Network Companies revisiting the Think like a StartUp Game, one of our favorite tools:
- No Center or Hierarchy: One of the big evolutions of NC’s is about leadership. Members of NC’s don´t need a single leader or VIP group. They seem to be able to wisely rotate leadership according to the circumstances and trust all members for their experience and knowledge and not for their “power” positions. Hierarchy does not make any sense in a live network that is capable of adapting organically to different challenges and situations, it would make it rigid, slow and at the same time, vulnerable. Having no center or hierarchy is the key for NC’s to evolve and become sustainable in every sense.
- Autonomy and Entrepreneurship: One of the most powerful values to share in any organization is the capability of self-determination towards interdependence. Interdependence relates to the possibility of growing and taking risks together with one or more entrepreneurial partners. In this case, Autonomy helps make internal agreements possible, knowing that each unit decisions may have positive or negative consequences on the other partner(s).
- Mutual support and unlimited expertise: Networks have the amazing power of connecting people who have very valuable expertise. In NC’s, that expertise is offered to all the network in the form of support to projects, big contracts and major commitments. As the network grows, this wide catalog of capabilities helps cover most (if not all) clients needs and requests from within the NC.
- Collective Brand Expansion through Global Team Presence: Either if the territory is regional, national or global, this is a very useful form of brand positioning through the effort of multiple teams and enthusiasts at a very low cost. The investment in brand positioning is distributed in many small contributions from the participants of the network. The Brand awareness is a Storytelling told by many and based on their own experiences and perceptions. An initial guidance and design is required, but once the viral the effect is activated, the presence of the brand is perceived as a big multinational company. When the brand becomes a collective property, it generates a strong sense of belonging and commitment.
- Constant Methodological Innovation and Permanent Knowledge Growth: Knowledge management is a huge opportunity and poses challenges for NC’s. Having no center allows NC’s to research and improve methods from very different points of view or using many types of different resources. When this knowledge runs across the network, each unit´s expertise and environment transforms it, improving it and enriching the contents and methods. Innovation methods per se require research and implementation to improve and refine, so NC’s offer a perfect structure that allows circulation and constant learning when applying and perfecting methods simultaneously by different members of the network. When this information is documented and spread inside the network, new methods and tools appear as result of projects and discussion. Innovating methods and tools appears to be spontaneous and natural in this environment. The opportunities for growth and change are also related to the fact that most members of NC’s are entrepreneurs and Startups where change happens more rapidly than in larger corporations.
- Multiple Business Models: Generation and growth of business opportunities may come from any member of the network and can be replicated or even scaled by any other member. In contrast to Franchising systems, the mutual support in Business Model creation and escalation benefits the whole network and not just the creator of the model. These models can evolve and improve freely inside the network and adaptation of the model to new markets and customer segments happens under the control of the members with the support of their local stakeholders. Business development and internal hirings are decided on a collective basis where two or multiple members agree on an specific business model for each project or set of services. Multiple Sub-network Collaboration Schemes: Sub-networks help organic systems evolve in terms of adaptability and implementation. Like subcultures do, sub-networks encourage the specific interaction of members around common interests and business opportunities in different moments. Sub-networks open the possibility of specific lines of business, long term projects with government institutions and corporations, internal financial support and hiring, talent exchange and stronger response to complex endeavors.
Being an Inclusive Organic Ecosystem, NC’s tend to be open for enthusiast’s participation in the form of clients, online fans, event attendees, information replicators, and other forms of engagement. This factor rapidly creates a sense of community and reinforces the feeling of creating a Movement. All these emotional connections with individual participants help building resilience and cohesion, especially in the first stages of the company.
Many different values are shared and exchanged in this kind of ecosystems, where personal interaction and professional connection are the most exciting parts of day-by-day work.
Which do you think are the challenges NCs find on their journeys ?