Frequently Asked Questions 
Swarm Organisation

Date: Februari, 2022

Q: The Dutch Polder Model is seen as a tool to find consensus and make decisions. Do you think SWARM is the way to go here? How do we move from discussions to action? Having accountability & stop complaining?

A: Consensus is good, Swarms constantly find and use it. However, I’m not very fond of the Polder Model. Here’s why.

  1. In the future (now!) we simply won’t have time to first gather all people, get all their opinions, secure consensus and then plan and take action. ‘The Polder’ is to slow.

  2. Feedback is the ultimate test for our plans. Only action will get us this feedback. The longer we wait to act, the less we’ll know about the external perception of our plans. ‘The Polder’ excludes feedback from the environment.

  3. It’s not about making everybody comfortable, permanently and indefinitely. It’s about taking the right actions, with the available information, at the current moment. ‘The Polder’ creates solutions without problems.

Metaphor. The back-end of the swarm will never see the attack at the front. Yet the front can’t wait for the back to agree with their evasive action.

Swarms use what we would call "Rapid Cycle Decison Taking”. The part of the organisation that is confronted with a challenge, takes a decision and acts as soon as possible - with the currently available information, available people and available resources. They will broadcast their decisions and actions into the organisation, while they execute them. They’ll adjust their decision and actions as they go.

Q: How did you measure the fact "people resist change and do not adapt"?

A: First, it’s a general observation (not everybody resists change). 2nd many psychological research on the issue confirms this. 3rd It also a law of physics (a body in motion, wants to stay in motion - Isaac Newton). 4th Personal experience.

Q: Is the succes of self-organising species a product of the simplicity of the species itself? because they are simple, just like you mentioned yourself.

A: No, it’s not. Even Dolphins use swarm behaviour and can form ‘pods’ of over 5000 individuals. Dolphins are considered self aware and quite intelligent. My statement is intended to diffuse the perception that only intelligent beings (humans) can create successful organisations.

Q: Is this theory and facts you deducted related to all organisations or are there differences within different industries? Related to more high educated enviroments or not

A: I found no specific relation to industry or intellect. I did find a relation to organisation age and size. I'm quite convinced that every organisation is unique. This is why SWARM is such a good solution. It doesn't impose any any structure and lets the organisation find is own best solution.

Q: Isn't it that our ratio is stronger than our emotions/feelings/sensibility and that fish (animals) are able to adapt to things they feel/see/sense, because of their biology (strong developed senses)?

A: I believe this to be a strong factor. But it’s not the fact that we are 'to' rational. To me it's more the fact that our society puts more emphasis on this. While science has proven that the really important decisions are taken by our limbic system. i.e. they are only based on feelings.

Q: Comparing fish v.s humans and then saying that we are less flexible, less adaptive. You say it's because we're tied to hierarchical structures. I wonder, isn't it also because of the higher intelligence capacity and the fact that we do more than "eat, don't get eaten and reproduce"? And even in ancient times when we did little more than that, there was still that human streak of "I want what you have, so I go to war and kill you”.

A: In fact, humans are much more flexible and adaptive than animals. This is why we’ve become the dominant species on Earth. The issue of inflexibility arises the moment we create collectives bigger than 25 to 50 individuals. This is where the concept of ‘management & structure’ appears. Protecting what you have and wanting to have more, are not solely human traits. Animals show the same behavior - independent from intellect. However, this is one of the reasons we become less innovative. There are several sections in the book where I talk about this.

Q: In a swarm (fish, birds, etc.) there is always an equality in intelligence. There are huge differences in humans, how does that fit?

A: This is not necessarily the case. There are strong indications that there are differences in intellect in a swarm. Percentage wise these are equally large as in humans. Yet still they intuitively know staying in the the swarm is better for them. But I believe all of this is much more about what we've decided to be of importance. We have decided that intelligence has a higher value than physical performance. We agree that it is okay to pay €350/hr for a layer, but only €15/hr for someone who grows food. You can survive your whole life without a layer. You won’t survive 20 days without food. It seems we’ve come to believe that the laws of nature are worth less that the laws we’ve created.

Q: How is the pay going in a swarm company? Will the receptionist get as much as today's CEO? From salary to bonus to car etc.

A: No, there still will be differences. People accept and even expect, that are differences between capacities. But inequality will never be excessive. We talk about “inequality just right”.

Q: Organizations like Google and Spotify started small and have exhibited this kind of behavior ever since. 2 questions: how do you get a large international company like NVS to swarm, that takes longer than a small, national company. 

A: Correct. The change in organisational behaviour is often tied to size and age. This is exactly why the collective MINDSET is the most important factor to induce the change. Than again, if most see the advantage and receive the right tools and support, it can go very quickly

Q: Are companies like Google and Spotify still swarm-adaptive etc. in their current size? As a swarm company, how do you deal with the laws/rules of a country? That only seem to increase. How do you deal with share/switch roles when it comes to specialist roles as an oncology surgeon? Or a chef? Or a physicist? Do we go back to we do it all and then there is less depth? After all, we are in a 'knowing/can do more of less'. How do I place the swarm in that?

A: This is a comprehensive question, but a very important one. 1st. there is a danger that large organisations that use to be very adaptive, lose this ability (read in de book about the “hunter - farmer” paradox). 2nd we can’t break the law - but we can flexibly interpret them (ps. I believe, many will change). 3rd Role sharing is a mutual initiative. I believe that those who refuse this do so at their own peril. Only together we know more, can learn more and can do more. If one refuses, find another.

Q: In contrast to a school of fish, we have emotions, opinions, and personal interests that may impact our willingness and ability to change behaviour. How do you see the impact of these factors in this scope? 

A: Good question. This is exactly why the Swarm Solution model takes in account the properties of human organising behaviour. The swarm model is designed as a best of both worlds solution. 

Q: You were talking about successes in existing swarm organisation. Please can you give me clear examples of this on a short term?

A: As said in the meeting. I’ve been using these ideas form more that 10 years and in my role as organisation strategist had very good results. But the full Swarm idea started (officially) medio 2020. Currently we don’t have solid results in terms of revenue or profit. One thing that is clear, is that motivation and attitude are at an all-time high. So the success I see is an organisation with highly motivated people that enjoy what they do. With high motivation commercial success comes easier.

Q: How do you determine, as a company, what level of knowledge or skills are the general one in which we are all the same and like the fish, and from what level onwards we are not a swarm anymore but have to individualize?

A: How much did we all really know about how organisations and the people in it operate when we left school? Independent of that, we all knew very well what we wanted to do. Knowledge and skill can be attained, motivation is intrinsic. I guess it’s not really a big question to determine the generalist capacities. Yet in reality those are not taught in our education. We much select on motivation!

 

Q: In your presentation the fish are mirroring each other, can organizations mirror each other as well? Is there any value in that they do so? Like a community of swarm organizations?

A: Mirroring (between people and untis) is one of the prime properties that creates the holography in an organisation. If there is a benefit to do so between different swarms, we should consider it. In essence this is what Joint Ventures are. In other words: Purpose is the ultimate driving force.

Q: I think everything starts with the organisational purpose/goal. It should not be top-down but more co-created. How motivating, meaningful and viable is your purpose plays a crucial role in the level of buy-in. Then you can influence people towards that goal and make the necessary cultural change. And most leaders/organisations unfortunately fail at that very initial stage. Do you have any guidance regarding how to create the winning organisational purpose?

A: Agree. Purpose is defined as “A higher goal”. When our personal goals (purpose) aligns with the needs and wants of our environment, we create value for them and a Justified Existence for ourselves. To be successful, we should not try to guide people to a goal. We must find people that have goal (purpose) that aligns with that of the organisation. 

Q: What is the most challenging change aspect when changing towards this method? Change of roles? Change of leadership? Change of processes?

A: Change of mind. Overcome the limiting convictions of our conditioning/upbringing.

Q: About the change management in companies implementing this successfully: what has been the impact of structural changes vs. mindset vs. people training?

A: Information, seminars and training have proven to be the key for getting people inspired and motivated. Once they understand (or rather FEEL) what Swarm self-organisation entails, they almost ’take-off’. It’s quite amazing to see how this works. Yes, there are hurdles to overcome. Structure often needs to change to accommodate the change - this is initially somewhat challenging - yet this has second priority.

Q: In what differs your theory of self steering teams with others?

A: Self-steering v.s. Self-organisation are different in essence but have commonalities. Mostly in self-steering organisations, the basic hierarchal pyramid structure remains.

 

Q: Is it the courage we are lacking? to listen to our internal voice or intuition that we know the answer on the questions/decisions we are asking about and expect someone else gives us the answer or to take that responsibility?

A: Beautiful question. I believe we all know exactly what we want if we listen to our hearts first. People like Steve Jobs, have said this. The problem however is not in courage, but in the way we’ve been conditioned by our society and upbringing. We’ve been told Rational thinking is better than Intuitive thinking and feeling

Q: Do you think we as Dutch 'authority critics' (quite a lot of Dutch people think rules are for other people than themselves..) are good candidates for swarm? in other words are there cultural (dis)advantages?

A: I think the Dutch are the people with the best background to start implementing this. We basically were the first to use Democracy. But yes, culture is a very large factor.