One of the reasons I like hands-on work is that it gets me to be practical, inventive, and specific about ideas.
There isn’t a great definition of organizational democracy, or even democracy in general. Or rather, there are many definitions, and choosing what’s important (which definition? Can it be made into a better definition?) takes some work.
My work at Product Perks™ helped me define two keys of organizational democracy: self-organizing teams, and term limits. Inspired by Tina Rosenberg’s NY Times article “Ethical Businesses with a Better Bottom Line” (the follow-up to her earlier article on B Corporations) and SalesForce.com’s up-to-80%-discount for B Corporations, I wanted to offer a Product Perks discount to B Corporations and organizational democracies.
I thought, How do you measure organizational democracy? What can you see that really matters? At places where I’ve worked (or lived), when did I say to myself, “This is a democracy!”?
For me, the starting line for democracy has been reached with self-organizing teams, and/or term limits. Teams created by their members coming together and saying, “Let’s do something we care about,” and term limits created by executives, managers, representatives or other leaders for themselves and their successors, are pretty cool. They are also sustainable… their companies last longer than authoritarian companies.
Creativity. Initiative. Accountability. Defined timelines with start and end dates. Collaboration. Education. Transparency. Friendship. Reputation. Trust. Communication. The buzzwords for why self-organizing teams and term limits make success go on and on.
Surely these two best practices do not solidify or make democracy permanent… but like a great theatre performance, democracy is not permanent. Very few things are, and at least democracy often has the guts to admit it. But while it lasts, and even after its members have moved on, it is amazing and worth rewarding and remembering.