Having worked for the past 7 years in platform-ecosystem strategies as a product advisor to Fortune 500s, SMBs, startups, networks, think tanks, NGOs, and developmental organizations like the UNDP I realized over time that most of these organizations find themselves trapped in a massive paradox while trying to execute their ecosystem strategies.
In fact, the desire of incumbents to leverage their relational ecosystems to build better products and organizations clashes big time with the cultural dependencies typical of industrial institutions. The cultural debt I’m talking about has been mostly compounded within three centuries of the industrial firm legacy imbued with more than 500 years of patent law.
The imperative used to be: the more you own the more you control, the more you control the more value you can extract.
Due to a series of tectonic shifts that start happening exponentially 40 years ago the imperative that is ruling these days is quite the opposite: in an irreversibly networked age, financial capital and technology might certainly represent an advantage but definitely not a moat.
The community is the moat
Human capital and its relationships are what we call ecosystems. In 2014 Simon Wardley popularized the notion of ‘ecosystems as future sensing engine’.
So if the community is the moat how can incumbents hope to leverage ecosystems if they’re closed in their ivory tower of NDAs, IPs, and dysfunctional APIs?
Cryptonetworks and DAOs figured out how to intrinsically scale the acquisition of capital and technology by attracting communities around a shared mission first, and only then building a product engine.
To be blunt, we must say that at the same time your shitty product won’t magically get better just by spinning a DAO. You need prosocial human beings that are able to thrive in an open ecosystem of relationships to work with efficacy. You need to design for promiscuity.
Design for promiscuity
I want to leave aside interesting analogies between the institution of marriage and the advent of the corporation since it’s not the scope of this brief note (but that would be definitely interesting). What I want to do tho is to highlight what the field of organization design and more specifically DAOs can learn from the Sex Positive community.
The Sex+ community is a broad, transversal network of people that are undergoing a massive learning journey to heal transgenerational trauma around intimate relationships. It’s remarkable the work that these people are doing on themselves if consider that virtually no one has done such work at scale and as a global community.
The S+ community core ethos invites radically honest, curious, and outspoken exploration of each other’s boundaries and desires with the aim to create a safe space for all parties involved.
There’s one tool I want to invite you to use when you approach a new potential partnership. This can apply to person-to-person relationships or to organization-to-organization.
This tool is being popularized across the ISTA community and other adjent communities and it invites the two (or more) prospect partners to ask each other a series of important questions in order to create a safe space in which little or no regrets can happen if the prospect partners would relate intimately.
One-at-a-time each prospect partner will share their answer to the following questions:
R - Relationship: What kind of relationships are you currently in? What agreements are you navigating within those other relationships that will affect this one?
B - Boundaries: What boundaries do you have as an individual and also in accordance with the other relationships that you're in?
D - Desires: What desires do you have to relate intimately with me?
S - Sex/STIs: What’s your history of STIs and traumas that I might need to know to relate safely with you?
M - Meaning: What does it mean to you to engage in certain types of interaction together? e.g. what would does it mean to you to: sleep in the same bed, to kiss, to have sex, to spend a day together?
There a a few variants of this exercise but interestingly my friend Anir suggested to add:
A - Aftercare: What do you need or desire afterward if we would relate intimately?
and my friend Chris suggested adding:
U - Uncoupling: If we decide relating intimately no longer serves us, what would you need in support, how—if at all—would you like to remain close?
This last one probably is relevant to discuss right after an initial first step is done.
Some people think that this might compromise the magic of the moment, but setting the foundation of and open and honest communication is key to amazing sex and intimacy.
RBDSM(AU) for Organizations
Now, how does all of this translates to the exploration of promiscuous organizational partnerships? What’s a good way to start a complex DAO-to-DAO poly marriage?
Here’s an attempt:
R - Relationship: What kind of projects are you currently in? What relationships exist in these projects? What implicit or explicit agreements do you have or are you navigating within those projects and relationships? Would any of these affect our potential partnership?
B - Boundaries: What boundaries do you have in exploring this partnership considering your current agreements and commitment in other projects and relationships?
D - Desires: What desires do you have to explore a partnership with me?
S - Sex/STIs: What’s your history of previous experiences in entrepreneurial endeavors, organizations and communities that caused you traumas and that might be important for me to know in order to relate caringly and safely with you?
M - Meaning: What does it mean to you to engage in certain types of interaction together? e.g. what would does it mean to you to: open a shared Telegram group together? write a grant application together? writing an article together? spending two weeks in a retreat to spin off a DAO together?
A - Aftercare: What do you need or desire afterward we spend intense co-creation time together?
U - Uncoupling: If we decide that collaborating closely no longer serves us, what would you need in support, how—if at all—would you like to remain close, respected and acknowledged?
Cover image by Raphael Perez Israeli Artist is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/