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The Entrepreneurial Free Agent and Dejobbed Small Business R&D Lab
Rants and Raves #11
Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century:
A Report from MIT
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Table of Contents

  1. Gift ideas from around the dojo...
    • Just Do It! - A Dojo 'Brand You' Holiday Gift Set...
    • Groovin' on Bucky - How about you?
    • From Russia with Love - Give the gift of shareware
    • RIBs Joint - Holiday treats that won't stretch your waistline

  2. A Report on the MIT 'Inventing 21C Organizations' Conference
    • Just the Facts - How it went. Who said what.
    • Implications for sohodojo: Validating Our Focus
    • Implications for sohodojo: Clarifying Our Focus
    • Adventurous Next Steps into the 21st Century

  3. What do YOU think? Three quick questions to go...
    • What you were thinking last week
    • What do you think? This week's Big Three...

Around the dojo...

We're all a little crazy this time of the year. So many gifts to find, so little time. At Sohodojo, we've gathered some shopping ideas that can help you check names off that 'hard-to-buy-for' list.

Then, fresh from MIT's Inventing the Organizations for the 21st Century event, we'll take you into the holiday season with our conference coverage and analyse its implications for the Sohodojo community.

WOW! Just Do It! - A Dojo 'Brand You' Holiday Gift Set...

Just when you thought you had everything you need, Sohodojo offers the Nanocorp Starter Kit in time for holiday shopping. Order one for YOU or your favorite business rebel today. Don't be the last New Kid on your Block to reinvent yourself in the 21st century.

Groovin' on Bucky - How about you?

Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth bookcover

Buckminster Fuller is on our Readers' Club radar with his timely classic, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. One of the best posts on the Readers' Forum so far comes from our Really Cool Friend, Mike Moshell. His beautiful allegorical reflection has 'Spaceship Earth' written all over it.

Mike is Director of the CREAT Digital Media Program of the College of Arts & Sciences and Chief Scientist of the Visual Systems Laboratory of the Institute for Simulation and Training, both at the University of Central Florida. He has a great gift for weaving powerful ideas into beautiful stories.

Read Mike's piece. It's mind food that will really amaze you.

Then, follow this link to read Marshall McCluhan's one-pager on Your Job, a prophetic insight first published in 1967. Bucky would click with Marshall on this one!

When was the last time YOU read the Operating Manual? Is there someone on your gift list who reads to be inspired? Click here to send them a copy as a holiday gift. Then invite them to share their inspirations at the Sohodojo Readers' Club in your gift card at the Reader's Club Forum.

From Russia with Love - Give the gift of shareware

One of our Way Cool shareware finds this year comes from 19-year-old Konstantin Romanovsky, a young software entrepreneur and his psychologist partner, Dmitry Lifincev, based in Kaliningrad Russia.

Computerized Sociometry is a deceptively simple 'groupware' tool that you should consider adding to your entrepreneurial, project management and/or collaborating free agent toolset. For more information, go here. Check out the free trial version and see what insights into your working group dynamics you have been missing. This one is a winner!

RIBS Joint - Holiday treats that won't stretch your waistline

Come on by our RIBS Joint and do some holiday shopping. You'll find lots of links to unusual and high quality reading experiences that you won't find on any other small business community website!

If you or someone you love is a small business revolutionary or a business rebel at heart, take a look at the Really Important Books and Stuff at the RIBS Joint. Every purchase you make helps the dojo through our Amazon affiliate relationship.

A Report on MIT's Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century Conference

Bottom line up front -- It was great. We got a shot of adrenaline that will easily carry us into the New Millennium.

Just the Facts - How it went. Who said what.

The attendee list was a Who's Who of 'Mega-Corporations with a handful of the Rest of Us -- about 250 in all. On the agenda, the dozen plus researchers studying the Internet-fed shift in business organization since Tom Malone founded the Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century Initiative in 1994. Live presentations, a satellite feed from Paris and video-taped position statements built to a finale panel discussion reinforcing the debut of the Initiative's Manifesto.

The unmistakable theme of the day? Business as we know it, organizations as they've been structured, work as it's been organized are each evolving into something totally new. Flat, small, lean and nimble, the organizations of the 21st Century will provide new means for personal creativity in business. Supported by powerful and cheap communication through the Internet, even the smallest business will be able to compete with large corporations, and do that on a global scale. It's already happening all around us, everywhere. The MIT researchers are documenting these revolutionary changes.

Thomas Malone, key driver of the 21C Initiative (See The nanocorp at the Dawn of the E-Lance Economy), drew conclusions of the past five years of his researchers' investigations:

  1. Highly decentralized systems will be much more important in the future: From small enterprises of 1 to 10 people to huge corporations with thousands under their roofs, electronically connected free-lance individuals joined together in temporary teams will perform many of the tasks now accomplished through centralized management hierarchies.

  2. Activities are the key building blocks for inventing new organizations: Processes, not products are already becoming the new business drivers. The future lies in understanding those processes -- how they work, how they vary, how they interrelate. Initiative researchers are developing an "eBusiness Process Handbook," an on-line repository of both generic and innovative business models, concepts and technologies to help companies define and manage their own processes and to invent new processes and strategies.

  3. Thinking about values may be the most important thing of all: There is no doubt that organizations as we know them are changing very rapidly. But change without evaluation may take us as a species to a place where we really don't want to go. How we work, how we interrelate as people, how we do business with each other, how we care for dwindling resources are tremendously important questions that need to be addressed now.

This last conclusion was soundly echoed by Peter 'Fifth Discipline' Senge, on satellite feed from France. In no uncertain terms he lamented the view of humans as 'resources' -- waiting in reserve, waiting to be used. We must pay attention now to our use and abuse of dwindling natural resources, to the loss of our joy in work. We can't continue violating the 'no waste' laws of nature. We can't continue violating natural laws of the human spirit. We must look where change is trying to happen and support it. We must bring people and tools and methods together to stop our manic focus on profit at the expense of the future - of our planet, of human kind. Senge was genuinely passionate about this message to the attentive corporate attendees. Let's hope they listened and believed.

Erick Brynjolfsson focused on the Internet as the most radical instrument for organization change. His Matrix of Change tool helps organizations identify their current business practices and evaluate how they need to change to fit the new Internet-based eBusiness economy.

Michael S. Scott Morton's Interesting Organizations Database, is uncovering some compelling examples of established firms that are finding ways to re-invent themselves in the Internet-based economy. Technology alone is not sufficient for success. Economies of scale and scope open new possibilities. Changes in the nature of work require new skill mixes. Successful organizations are dynamic, changing structures -- electronically enabled, open to new possibilities and willing to change.

A video collage capturing eight faculty views of future organizations was a mix of messages based on each researchers' current focus. The thumbnails below give a taste of the debates they no doubt enjoy whenever they gather for symposia.

Deborah Ancona: The role of Time in organizations is vitally important. Organizations will need to achieve a synchrony, a meshing, of cycles of behavior -- the rhythms in all areas of the organization must be understood, especially by organization leaders, to tune performance to opportunity.

Chrysanthos Dellarocas: Software agents will be the competitive advantage to small corporations. "Chips Inc.", in 2005, could be a one-person company with licensing rights to chip designs working through a network of software market agents to manage manufacturing and distribution.

Bengt Holmstrom: The dynamic nature of the Internet and electronic communication will make it increasingly difficult to maintain ownership of intellectual property (IP). There will be more variety and types of organizations and an increased use of hybrids. One case in point is an organization today that is actually made up of 1,300 individual companies.

Thomas Kochan: Organizations will face a backlash from shareholders demanding economies of scale. Smaller is not necessarily better.

Stuart Madnick: Only large organizations will be able to assemble and integrate the huge information systems needed to manage global operations.

John Rockart: With powerful electronics and better data management, geometric increases in the cost and difficulty of communication are no longer an issue. Size will no longer be an inhibitor to organization growth. In 2010, we'll find bigger, and bigger, and bigger organizations.

John Van Maanen: There will be "no frills" organization by crafts and skills, rather than jobs in the future. People will be globally linked by websites. There will be pressure to become networked and to shrink and expand the workforce at will. Trust and loyalty are issues; "trust is great vaseline." When conflict arises, coordination and self-regulation will resolve it.

JoAnne Yates: Electronic communication is not a passive resource within organizations. Rather, the technologies of communication fundamentally shape the forms of organization and management systems which structure work.

Finally, A Manifesto for the Organizations of the 21st Century was presented by four of the Manifesto Working Group faculty -- Thomas Malone [chair], Lotte Bailyn, John Sterman, and Wanda Orlikowski. Here's a taste of this provocative document:

    "The world of business and of organizations is now entering a period of significant changes -- changes that many people believe will be as significant as those in the Industrial Revolution. We believe that this time of transition presents a historical window of opportunity -- a time in which the choices we make will have a dramatic effect on the world in which we, our children, and our grandchildren will live.

    . . . We wish to make a call to reflection about what we as individuals and societies really want, a call to imagination about radical new possibilities, and a call to action in making the choices that face us as wisely as possible."

The Manifesto's content topics include:

What isn't working?

  • Toward environmentally sustainable organizations
  • Toward socially sustainable organizations
  • Toward personally sustainable organizations

What do we really want?

Imagining new possibilities

  • "Guilds" for independent contractors
  • Public measures of social value created by companies
  • Integrating work and family concerns, not balancing them

What can we do?

Follow this link for the full text of this manifesto. (This is a 'pdf' document in Adobe Acrobat Reader format.)

Implications for Sohodojo: Validating Our Focus

As a self-funded, home-based entrepreneurial business, we get cabin fever. It's easy to get so focused on your 'mission' that you forget that the rest of the World dances to the tune of a different drummer. So attending the MIT 21C conference was a 'twice as nice' event for us.

The conference got us up and away from our home office to experience some of the Real World rather than the virtual one we spend so much time in. It was a much-needed extended 'date' for us. We hit bookstores, museums, walked holes in our shoes... even hit a couple of brewpubs. It truly was a great way to use up the last of our frequent flyer miles accumulated during our Road Warrior days of working for The Man.

But on a much more profound level for us, the conference was a reaffirmation and clarification of our personal and business objectives.

Here we were in the hallowed halls of one of the premiere research and teaching institutions of the World and yet, we didn't feel like strangers. We all share the same excitement about the revolutionary possibilities to fundamentally change the nature of the workplace and the means by which we organize to accomplish business objectives.

We could talk about the nanocorp business model, our interest in home-based concurrent entrepreneurship, our interest in role-based executable business modeling technologies and our belief that the Home should be the Enterprise Zone of the 21st Century... and we were not dismissed as crackpot idealists nor marginalized as cast-off corporate drop-outs. We were, quite literally, representing a living laboratory of the domain of interest to these world-class researchers. It was exhilarating. It renewed our fire.

Implications for Sohodojo: Clarifying Our Focus

Evaluating the ideas we had heard, over beers at the Cambridge Brewing Company, we clearly understood our unique opportunity to play a catalytic role in the emerging e-lance network economy.

We've talked before about the business model of Sohodojo. We've described it as an 'eHub' with 'n2n-n2C-n2B' dimensions. We see the need for marketplaces which facilitate nanocorp-to-nanocorp transactions as well as the more conventional nanocorp-to-Consumer and nanocorp-to-Business transactions. We believe that, as the population of entrepreneurial free agents expands, these three interrelated marketplaces will be defined and serviced in what can be called Brand Us (the aggregation of Brand You, Me and Company, the Company of One, etc.).

However, we also realize that Sohodojo is but one of many businesses maneuvering into this market space. Some of these players, like iNuku, Monster TalentMarket and BizBuyer are racing in with significant financial resources and personnel to stake their piece of the action. We would have to be wildly optimistic to think that we could compete and win against such conventional businesses with their vast resources.

But none of these players have something special that Sohodojo has in spades... something we are committed to as our 'secret weapon.' Sohodojo is a community of nanocorpers, for nanocorpers... we ARE our customers. As a nanocorp, we are committed to non-accretive growth. We will grow our business through Malone and Laubacher's elastic webs of e-lancing collaboration. No employees, no fancy offices, no giant advertising budget. We will know and service our customers' needs best because we are genuinely our customer ourselves.

This commitment to being a nanocorp has profound implications to our business plan. First, we will position ourselves as 'preferred partners' in strategic collaborations with conventional businesses which seek to service the 'n2C' and 'n2B' dimensions of our proposed Sohodojo business model.

We already have a growing relationship with the folks at We have been approached about strategic collaborations by and we are getting active in the iNiku community. As 'boundary level change agents' we will collaborate with these conventional players to ensure that these businesses see things from the nanocorp perspective. We will outsource some of the capital and labor intensive aspects of our comprehensive business model for Sohodojo.

We'll put our greatest efforts into realizing the 'n2n' dimension of our business model. To facilitate nanocorp-to-nanocorp collaboration, we'll evolve 'NOB' -- The Nanocorp Opportunity Board --where nanocorpers can gather to weave the elastic networks which encourage business growth without the burden of employees.

And to dramatically enhance nanocorpers' abilities to elastically collaborate, we will maintain our most passionate focus to serve as a self-organizing, self-managing, community-based R&D Lab committed to the definition, exploration and diffusion of new e-lancing business models and the software technologies which enable them.

Adventurous Next Steps into the 21st Century

As we march boldly into the 21st Century we are determined to define and facilitate adoption of qualitatively new entrepreneurial free agent business models and technology. We will identify and solicit the participation of an 'A-Team' of researchers and developers to collaborate on this exciting R&D agenda. We will work with fellow nanocorpers to test these models and apply new and innovative technologies.

Sohodojo will be an exciting place where practitioners, researchers and developers can come together through a shared interest in reinventing the workplace and forms of business organization.

We are moving assertively on our R&D agenda. The MIT conference was an excellent venue for initiating communication with a core community of collaborators interested in our business model and technology development agendas.

We have found a lawyer -- a tax lawyer no less! -- who shares our passion and enthusiasm for the exciting opportunities that the Internet is opening up to home-based, free agent and small business. Jim Schneider chased us down after reading about Sohodojo in Fred Andrews' New York Times column reporting on the MIT 21C conference. (The NYT site is a free subscription-based site, so if this is your first time visiting, you will have to fill in a 'member' form before being redirected to this page.)

Jim is a San Diego-based tax attorney who single-handedly owns and operates a website and newsletter covering legal issues and tax implications of home-based, free agent and small business. Visit to learn more about Jim, check out his helpful tax and legal resources and sign up for his excellent newsletter. And keep an ear to the ground for news of our evolving collaboration with Jim, the first nanocorp-friendly lawyer.

We are excited about the New Year/Millennium which is only days away. Our Millennium resolution is to redouble our efforts to stimulate your thinking about where and how you fit into the revolutionary changes affecting the world of work. We hope your resolution will be to help us evolve and extend the Sohodojo community. Together, there are no limits to what we can accomplish through collaboration and mutual support.

What do YOU think? Three quick questions to go...

OK! Here's your chance to give us a piece of your mind!

With each issue of Rants and Raves, we include a mini-survey of three timely and topical questions that you can sound off about. The results of each mini-poll are reported in the following issue's newsletter.

What you were thinking last issue... about Microsoft!

Well these questions really got your adrenalin pumping. Nearly everyone had interesting, sometimes passionate commentary to add to their exit poll. We enjoyed each of your comments.

But, what did you say as a group? Not any surprises. Rants and Raves readers reflect what we hear in the general population:

Is Microsoft a monopoly?
    87% Yes
    13% No

Does it matter?
    63% Yes
    25% No
    12% Unsure

Are you a consumer hurt by Microsoft?
    50% Yes
    25% No
    12% Undecided
    13% Unsure

What do we think? Well, you know we are contrarian by nature, so: No, No and No. If you want some additional perspective on what we think about Bill Gates and Microsoft, check out this posting to our Cheers and Jeers forum.

This week's Quick Three... What do you think?

Our polling process is simple, but effective. Simply follow these steps and give us a piece of your mind:

  1. Select all text starting at '------Start copy here------' through '------End copy here------' and do a COPY to put the questions on your editor's clipboard.
  2. Paste your questions from the clipboard into your pollster reply message.
  3. Put an 'X' on the line in front of the BEST answer for each of this week's questions and send them back to us.

We respect your privacy. Totally. Nobody gets access to ANY information you provide us for any reason. Period. Your participation in our community dialog is crucial to helping improve Sohodojo.

------Start copy here------

In the holiday, pre-Millennial spirit of things:

A. What special gift will you give yourself this holiday?
_____ Hardware
_____ Software
_____ Cool clothes
_____ Tickets to a special event
_____ Travel to exotic places
_____ Are you kidding? Who has any money left?
_____ other: ___________________________

How are you planning to spend New Year's Eve?
_____ At work waiting for Y2K problems to hit
_____ At home with the family, quietly celebrating
_____ Going to, or giving a private party
_____ In some pricey location, doing it up special
_____ Locked in my bunker with Grateful Dead CDs
_____ other: ___________________________

What's your most favorite part of the holiday hubbub?
_____ holiday parties and 'putting on the ritz'
_____ special cookies, cakes or candies
_____ seeing people I haven't see all year
_____ the lights, the lights and all the decorations
_____ cooking, baking, making special holiday gifts
_____ other: ___________________________

D: If I could tell Jim and Timlynn a thing or two, it would be:

------End copy here------

( Click and paste, respond and send.)

As always, thanks for reading this issue of Sohodojo's Rants and Raves newsletter,
    --Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky--
    Hosts, Sohodojo

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