Sunday, October 5, 2008

Defining the freerange enterprise

I've been struggling to come up with a term to describe the modern, more agile organization. After much thought (like two whole days) I decided on the term freerange, and yes I was absolutely thinking about free range animal production systems. When I searched on "free range" I found that it had also been recently applied to child-rearing; free-range kids. I started liking it more when I realized it was being used to define a philosophy of child rearing that shared many similarities to the concept I was trying to describe. The two ideas were compatible. So I'm sticking with freerange until someone comes up with something better. I'm easily persuaded.

So what defines the freerange enterprise? I would contend that it is mostly defined by culture, an organization's very DNA. I found this graphic on Slideshare (modified slightly) and It sums up the critical components. The stack begins with having access to the right technological tools, but simply installing them is insufficient.

These are some of the cultural elements found in the freerange enterprise:

  • Radical transparency - working in the open
  • Blurring of work and personal
  • Burst style of working - anywhere and anytime you find a network (virtual)
  • Contributions measured by the value added-- period
  • Personal responsibility and trust
  • Flattness in the organizational hierarchy -- the industrial practices of old are obsolete
  • Leveraging of edge competencies - the seeds of innovation are at the edge
  • Co-creation - essential for hyperproductive value creation
  • Purpose driven - it's not a job it's a passion

It's these things which lead me to describe freeranging as a way of being as opposed to a way of doing. I will discuss the tools more completely in subsequent posts, but within the context of the cultural elements they support. I'm thinking out loud a bit, and hope you will help me to bring some clarity to the idea. Help me with what I'm missing...


test said...

Kevin ~

This helps. I obviously agree with all the principles, but want to kick the term around a bit and think about the pyramid some. I agree that it is more about "being" vs. "doing". Kind of like getting out of the trap of thinking of offices as destinations vs. just one type of enabler. Or the office as a dissenabler if we let it structure our mindset. I'll share the link around with our Virtual team for more feedback. Glad you're getting things started.

Jerry Thomas

Floyd Davenport said...


This is a very good start. Sounds like the first chapter in a book :)

I like the conversation... it helps me build understanding by working through a definition of something difficult to explain.

I'm not sure how many people are in this "culture". I think a lot of us are on the edge. Which is maybe where we need to be... progressive change.

I have come to like the term accountability instead of responsibility. I feel it's more personal, more about me and inherently includes trust and integrity.

I'm not sure about the pyramid either... trying to think of a different graphic, unless you really feel strongly about the building blocks... and then I might re-think the order.

Looking forward to more posts.


Kevin Gamble said...

Good comments Floyd and Jerry. TY!

I'm fine with accountability vs responsibility. Works for me.

I'm not wedded to the graphic at all. I could be for completely rewriting the stack. I actually prefer Thomas Vander Wal's graphic for that concept but it's more complex. The only point I was trying to make by including it was that technology alone won't get us there, and that the culture has to be right. I'd love to think of some way of depicting that which isn't linear-- cause I don't really believe it is.

God help us all if I write a book on this topic. If *we* wrote a book it might be okay.


Floyd Davenport said...


I was thinking about the Pyramid diagram... I couldn't think of a good alternative. I did see an interesting use of a spider chart which could be used to show levels of characteristics.

Anonymous said...

drat - wasn't signed in to worpress so got wiped

Love it - tweeted earlier today on organic workers and freerange enterprises

DairyScienceMark said...

The 'freerange enterprise' can allow some people to work at a pace, and using a personalized approach, that provides maximum output for them. That may not be 10 hour days, six days a week in an office. A recent article says:

"Creativity researchers have discovered that there is a cycle. It is very difficult to have a good idea when you're working all out. It typically happens when you take time away," says Sawyer, author of "Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration.""

Haven't read Keith Sawyer's work in published form or at his website at WUSTL, but I think I'll check it out.

Of course, 'bean-counter' administrative-types are often threatened by workers who aren't in the office so that the supervisor can 'see' them.


Eli Sagor said...

Thanks for the post Kevin. I've been thinking a lot about this burst / freerange stuff since reading it.

Funny story. I read this post with interest a few weeks ago, and also the web worker daily post on burst working. I loved it, mentioned it to several folks, and really riffed on the idea of blending personal and professional identities, etc.

Then Jon Gordon told me, about 5 minutes before starting his keynote at our Extension fall conference this week, that he was going to show a video I'd recorded while biking across town a few days earlier,">my first vlog.

In front of our whole Extension organization? NOT WHAT I HAD IN MIND. Mild panic.

Ended up moot, the video wouldn't play, but in the meantime my bluff was seriously called, and now I *know* where I fit on this stuff. I like it!

Keepin' it real,