- Tens of thousands are now involved with the Occupy Wall Street Protests worldwide
- Web based platforms facilitate the coordination of mass gatherings and protests around the world
- With online collaboration tools, a single leader or clear plan are not required.
You have undoubtedly heard about the Occupy Wall Street protests that have been growing around the world. The short news snippets don’t really capture the magnitude of the movement. Protests are being scheduled in dozens of cities around the world and recently the Almalgamated Transit Union, with 190,000 members has given its support. This is a world wide phenomenon and it is growing quickly.
How Occupy Wall Street Started
The birth of the movement was a post on the Adbusters website on July 13th. Here is a small quote from that first call to action,
On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.
The home page of OccupyWallSt.org describes the movement as,
Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.
Occupy Wall Street to Occupy the World
Another website, OccupyTogether, has since been created to coordinate some of the scheduled protests and other activities in dozens of cities around the world.
On Oct. 4th, the date of this post, there were more than 39,000 followers for the @OccupyWallSt Twitter account, with many thousands more for city focused protests around the world. (@OccupyChicago – 7000, @OccupyLA – 5000, @Occupy_Boston – 3500, @OccupyToronto – 1600, @OccupyTokyo – 400, with many more for every major city on the planet.)
Lessons in Collaboration
We have learned from the middle east uprisings this spring that leaderless movements have the power to topple governments and really change the world. Occupy Wall Street is no different. There is no central organization or leader directing the movement, participants are connecting and coordinating with widely available web based platforms . There are groups like MoveOn.org, that are trying to co-opt the protests, but for the most part, it is a largely ego-less and egalitarian process. Even the demands of OccupyWallStreet.org have been community driven.
The Future of Collaboration
Whether you support the protests or not, there are many principles here to learn from. With the internet, and social media in particular, ordinary citizens can coordinate and mobilize on a large scale. Time, money and central leadership are no longer necessary for massive collaboration.
Consider some of these implications.
- Motivating and involving a dispersed volunteer effort is starkly different than an employer – employee relationship. Try motivating people to take action without paying them.
- A vision to do good in the world is far more powerful than any monetary reward. Is your company making the world a better place?
- Large groups of people can be mobilized without central control or authority. What could your employees accomplish if given the freedom?
- Democratic and egalitarian processes can formulate a unified vision. Direction doesn’t have to come from the boss. Give your employees the information and freedom to direct their own future.
- Self-interests and ego gratification only serve to derail the process. Let the cause or vision be the focus, not a rock star executive.
- For your next project, try an egalitarian process where there is no leader and decisions must be made democratically.
- Find a meaningful unifying vision for the project, and get out of the way.
- Put trust in the process. You will not always get your way, but continued involvement by motivated participants is far more valuable than being in control.
- If your company is not making the world a better place, than maybe it is time to adjust your priorities.