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Flash Teams: Future Organizational Structures

Digital capabilities and the Internet have ushered in a new age of organizational development. From teleworking, virtual teams, through to outsourcing and crowdsourcing, the implications of how work is carried out, are profound. These new ways of working, enabled by advances in machine learning and AI, will have profound implications well beyond just organizational design, giving rise to new types of organizations, characterized by flexible arrangements and entirely fluid boundaries.

Two academics at Stanford University, Michael Bernstein and Melissa Valentine, talk about flash teams which they define as crowds structured like organizations to achieve complex and open-ended goals. They ultimately envisage the rise of virtual companies for the purpose of carrying out specific projects, hiring staff online and configuring projects with the help of AI. They envisage “fluidly assembled and re-assembled organizations from globally networked labor markets.”

The capability to execute work more efficiently and effectively, through flash teams, is already happening. Valentine and Bernstein developed a computer system (called Foundry) that can organize multiple teams of experts, working in virtual teams, to carry out complex tasks. They can hand off work between each other as the project progresses and whilst all participants can see the timeline of the whole project, each team can interact with the others, and executes tasks under its span of control.

This is an exciting new phase in work arrangements, nothing short of re-inventing the way we work. This entails huge opportunities as well as challenges.

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