Liquid organizations – an interview with Cocoon Projects

- Agile and Lean Principles

by Vasco Duarte

During this Hangout on Air, we spoke with Jacopo Romei and Stelio Verzera from Cocoon Projects about their unique views on management and business organization.

What does Cocoon Projects do?

Based in Rome, the mission of Cocoon Projects is to support, foster, and elevate innovation by generating real value. The key activities have been in social media marketing and communication but we can also support other innovative projects. We want to help organizations change both their internal systems and their relationships to the external market.

What are “liquid” organizations?

Liquid organizations, like Cocoon Projects, do not have rigid structures. We are not based on rules and control, but rather on the principles and values that generate rules.

Like water, our physical properties naturally adapt to wherever we go.

Of course, the company does have boundaries. But we give freedom inside those boundaries instead of being prescriptive. We don’t want to be trapped by policies that we pretend fit every situation. We define the minimum needed to keep the company together, with as little structure as possible.

We are based on lean principles and we have a very strict way of defining what is waste and what is value. We found that a lot of our daily rituals in company life are waste. For example, we no longer have a recruitment process based on interviews. Anyone that wants to work with us can join by working on our open governance tasks. And so, from Day 1, people can start to create value, earn a reputation and gain credits, or even money, for delivering tasks.

What are the challenges for liquid organizations?

The world is not ready for what we are doing, and it’s not easy for people to understand. Plus, we still have to compete in the same market as everyone else.

Additionally, some people who join have a hard time with not having someone tell them what to do. And we find that people are afraid to be first movers.

But, despite these challenges, we have been operating successfully for over two years, and we can actually show people that our model works.

What are the benefits for liquid organizations?

In traditional organizations, there is a problem with the distance between the decision makers and the doers. So we work to find ways of keeping the governance of the company very close to the action of the company.
We set up our work groups so that each group features one decision maker, any professional needed for delivering value for the customer, and the customer.

Each project is a fractal of the whole company.

When we remove the bottlenecks in decision making, we increase the capacity of processing information and the evolution of developing skills. I challenge any marketing manager to be aware of everything that happens in the marketing world weekly and cope with that. However, an intelligent group could cope with that. The real problem in business is not related to capacity, but rather with the dynamics of keeping people within reach.

Photo: Aaron Burden (Unsplash)

2 thoughts on "Liquid organizations – an interview with Cocoon Projects"

  • LucianAdrian says:

    Questions that I like to see the answers to ..
    This is a model, and as I learned from #ALE13…
    How does this model scale ?
    What is the largest organization of this type, in terms of headcount so far ?
    If each node (member) of the organization has so much control, how does
    this cope with increasing the number of members, as this will lead to
    more links (dependencies) associated with each element of the
    organization ?

  • Jacopo Romei says:

    @LucianAdrian:disqus this is not a model, this is our company. I don’t know how big is the largest organization of this type. We are using this model for ourselves because we learned from our past as entrepreneurs and wanted to be ready to scale up and out.
    Your questions are hard to answer here, but I am willing to help you understand. Maybe an hangout soon?
    We are not trying to build a model upfront and the trying to sell it to the world.
    We are telling our story to tell everybody we all are free to write our own.

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