If you haven’t heard of Enspiral, it’s a pretty remarkable case study in collective creation as a business model. The company bills itself as “an eco-system of 76 people and 12 companies” that “offers everything from web and software, through to animation, graphic design, legal, accounting, environmental planning, landscape architecture, urban design and engineering design and prototyping services.” Originally located in New Zealand, Enspiral “locations” have spring up in Auckland and Hong Kong (already 30 people under its banner) and a soon to be established node in Berlin (as former Wellingtonians set up shop in the German capital).
The company is designed around a heterarchical structure. It’s founder Joshua Vial says, “we wanted a business in which there was no distinction between who works and who owns.” As a result, members share the same information and have the same level of autonomy as a business owner would have. What’s really amazing is that the members set their own salary. The catch is that they have to prove they’re justified in receiving it.
To aid the innovation and productivity of its flat, collaborative model, Enspiral has even released an alpha version of software to help its members reach consensus and, most importantly, develop actionable conclusions. The platform is built around the concept of a motion or proposal – should Enspiral do this or that? “It forces us too to front load the decision-making with conversations to get everyone onboard, obtain perspectives from different people. The participatory process seeks to build a consensus of understanding, not necessarily agreement. A person may not necessarily agree with the final decision, but can generally run with it, says Vial.
Vial says there’s great economic and productivity power to this model:
“Every time a new person comes into Enspiral, they release untapped potential within the organisation and their own networks. It is one of the laws of networks; if you double the size of the network you haven’t doubled its value, you’ve increased it by much more than that.
This matches nicely with one of the laws of Peer-to-Peer Production: Every time a closed system opens up and interacts directly with other existing systems, it acquires all the value of those systems.
The people involved in Enspiral tend to have a higher purpose to their works, which explains why they created the Bucky Box to help the local food movement by taking admin hassles out of the equation so farmers can spend more time growing their tomatoes and less time sorting out receipts.