In an open business, people will just show up and start working

One of the big changes that I am expecting as part of the emergence of fast-and-loose environments as the foundation of work in the near future is that the boundaries of businesses will become much more blurry, less opaque, and more open.

First of all, more people operating within the business will move out to the edge of the business and spend larger amounts of their work time interacting with people who are on the edges of other businesses, groups, or organizations, or people who are operating as soloists. I wrote about some of the reasons for this recently, but the short version is that operating at the edge increases your social capital because you are in a position to broker innovative ideas.

Second of all, in a fast-and-loose marketplace, people have more connections, but a larger proportion of them of based on weak ties. This increases openness for the business, simple numerically.

Finally, as individuals are more autonomous they have a greater opportunity to initiate activities that pull contacts into work activities on behalf of the business, like using freelancers, outsourcing tasks, or crowdsourcing ideas.

But I have come to think that the real revolution is when businesses become wide open, outsiders will simply show up and start working on company projects. That idea first occurred to me when I read the story of Cameron Stephens, an East Atlanta teenager who wanted a job at the local farmer’s market, so he just started to show up and help to unload trucks and set up tents. The market manager found out what was going on and offered him a job a few weeks later.

So when I heard about The Pop Up Agency today, they were an example of the sort of open business practices that I have been expecting on my radar screen. The agency is made up of six creative students who take up residency at companies or agencies for 48 hours and rapidly develop a new concept or strategy, then get back on the train or plane and head for the next pop-up gig. They do not charge for their time, which works out to about four days of work for each gig, but they do require travel and living expenses. This is just an experiment — they are on tour right now, working 15 weeks in 15 countries — but it demonstrates a general concept, nonetheless.


This maybe falls a bit between pyrotechnics and a solid proof of the open business model, but I am sure that the experience will shape the creatives’ thoughts about work when they are no longer students, and that it is having a similar impact on those they are working with in those 15 countries.

(P.S.: I was also totally unsurprised that this is the outgrowth of Hyper Island, the Stockholm-headquartered “experiential learning experiences” company. I have spent some time with the New York contingent, and they are very intelligent in what they do.)

So, expect to see more people dreaming up creative ways to just show up and start working with you.