Flash Organizations: The Age of Crowd Sourced Pop-Up Companies

There are so many factors that go into creating a successful, long-lasting organization — and so much work involved — that it can be somewhat strange to think of a company that is actually designed to be temporary. Yet that is exactly what is happening with more and more frequency these days.

The thing is, this concept isn’t new. These types organizations have existed for decades, chief among them being the groups that join together to put together Hollywood movies. These hyper-focused, project oriented groups bring together people with a myriad of skill sets to create one main product: a motion picture. Then they are disbanded and the employees move on to their next ventures.

Two Stanford professors, Melissa Valentine and Michael Bernstein, have noted how this single-focus type of temporary organization has been popping up in other areas in recent years to launch things like apps, games, pharmaceutical products, and other one-off type projects. Valentine and Bernstein, management studies and computer science professors, respectively, have dubbed these “flash organizations.”

They did their case study on a flash organization that was organized to create a card game and mobile app called True Story, which gets participants to tell stories from their life based off of particular prompts. The professors followed the process of putting together this pop-up organization including the hiring of the differently skilled workers and also the management team needed to guide the efforts of the various contractors — from web developers to copywriters.

The professors were so intrigued by the way this team was put together to launch a product in such a short time span that they decided to start a firm called Foundry to push things further. The idea was to leverage current technology platforms to better enable the creation of flash organizations. Their thought was that with outsourcing sites like UpWork, the creation of these teams could be automated. Imagine kicking off an entire company with the click of a button.

Though, of course, it’s not quite that simple. The professors gleaned some valuable bits of information necessary for the success of these organizations. Firstly, data on workers is highly important for putting together the right talent for the job. Second, there needs to be a clear organizational hierarchy in place for projects to go smoothly, with everyone knowing their exact role and expectations surrounding what they do. And finally, there needs to be a layer of middle management. Though often a lampooned faction within businesses, middle management is actually a critical layer to keep people on task. These folks, acting as project managers, possess the hardest skill set to locate as the markets for other freelancers are stacked deep with talent.

What’s fascinating for us as a team building company is how these teams can actually achieve cohesiveness is such a short period of time. We know that clear communication and well-established leadership roles are essential to any organization, and factoring these things into the creation of flash organizations is certainly paramount to their success. And interestingly enough, the fact that these organizations are so mission-oriented, it actually provides a lot of focus for team members, helping to drive employee engagement and buy-in. Likewise, these pop-ups aren’t saddled with the baggage that so often accompanies older firms or start-ups that are still trying to find their way. It will certainly be interesting to watch how the rise of flash organizations plays out.

Doug Ramsay

Doug handles the marketing and web presence for Adventure Associates. If he's not geeking-out with the latest, greatest web marketing tools, then you'll find him swirling and sipping his way through wine country.

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