The pace of learning and adaptation is accelerating
February 14th, 2022

One of the delightful second order effects of Web3 that was not anticipated is the scale at which individuals, organizations, and protocols are learning and evolving. An interesting thing happens when teams, products and ecosystems build in public – everyone else learns from the mistakes, and models the triumphs. Humans use mimicry to develop and interact with the world; learning to talk, walk, write, etc. It was once believed repetition creates experts, though this was later debunked, mimicry certainly creates adeptness. 

A few years ago at Twitter, there was a practice of inviting Square’s leaders to chat with, and compare notes with Twitter’s leaders. It was thought that if experiences were shared, leaders could learn from one another more quickly. The problem spaces were different (communication platform and payment platform), but the technology and scale problems were similar. Org design problems for companies like Twitter and Square were also alike. The time spent was valuable, but offered pinhole size glimpses into the solutions each were exploring. As most know, what works for one organization is not always going to work in another.

Stepping outside of the Twitter and Square experiment, if someone is interested in improving their skills, the traditional path of Meetup groups, professional organizations or building development networks/mentorships is common practice. If you are like me, you likely find staying connected to and on top of the ephemeral topics interesting, but it takes more exposure before those ideas sink in, and are really crystalized in work habits. What if Web3 could improve the way we interact and crystalize our learning?

Imagine if the best experiences, the experience of working on something or participating in a mission bigger than yourself could be shared, and was open to outsiders. Imagine if we had transparent, consent-driven organizations that had accountability built in at the base layer, where anyone could interact, contribute, ask questions and learn. This sounds like the dream of startup life, with the impact of working at a Unicorn organization all with employment co-op ownership without terrible politics or nepotism. Enter DAOs.

DAOs are the new rage - I know, it feels like DAOs are old hat by now, right? DAOs offer the insight and experience from varied participation levels that would usually take more than a full time commitment in a web2 company. DAO contributors have unfettered access to financials, team compositions, role details, working meetings, mission- and objective-sharing, upside through ownership and much more. DAOs offer an opportunity unlike traditional corporations (tradcorps) - where intent, grit and the willingness to learn is prioritized above lockstep or time-based advancement opportunities dependent on extractive ownership participation models.

This shift feels like the beginning of a larger change in how we work, how we deliver value to customers/partners/communities and most importantly how we learn and bring that learning to the next interaction. Best of all, it comes with a fractional investment of time that was once required as part of building a career. This change in work style is what has already seeded tremendous growth in org design, user incentives and general development in the blockchain space.

Let’s look at a couple of examples for those willing to endure different career models.

Most college graduates will graduate with the goal of finding a position in a tradcorp. Ideally one with amazing benefits, great pay and in an industry that is inspiring. This same person may maintain a light professional network and friendships where they compare notes on what’s happening in their organizations – from their vantage points. This means they will only be learning skills up and down on the fringe of their work. Said differently, they will do their job, observe their manager, join all-hands meetings, and perhaps hear about the work of their peers/friends. This graduate’s ability to learn and digest information will be hampered by their ability to move up the ladder given closed meetings and siloed information. If they are paying attention, they will read articles on techcrunch/vox and consume other organizations from the view an external media source paints.

For those graduates who seek a job with a startup, they will have more access to information and opportunity, but with an increased risk in stability. Their role will flex and they will wear many hats. The ability to learn in a startup*,* often outpaces any learning from a role in a tradcorp. Startups often greatly accelerate careers, but they come with immense risk as market fit is often unproved and startups burn cash faster than most can lay runway – all remuneration is from a single organization, usually based on a single idea. The skills learned are done so by solving problems at startup scale, which means this graduate will solve 10x problems, going from 0 to 10 as opposed to tradcorp scale problems of 1MM to 10MM. It’s do or die and if the startup fails, this graduate walks away with their experience intact, but often their ego and mental health damaged in a way that a tradcorp may protect them from.

Imagine now a new type of graduate, one who has only known remote graduation, remote work and remote learning. This college graduate decides they want to contribute to a DAO, instead of finding a tradcorp or startup role. They see the allure of DAOs as one that are similar to startups, but with a twist - they have a community and bond unlike most startups and tradcorps. The graduate finds their remuneration is based on the value they deliver to that DAO’s community/partners/customers, and as a result, there are already highly tied incentives to delivering value as a result. The graduate now also has access to the DAO, and everything the DAO is and does. This means they participate in budget planning, building a case for their budget to be funded (with others in their pod), they are directly responsible for delivering value, and are compensated for the value they deliver. At the same time, they form relationships with others in the ecosystem and learn about industry level trends as if they were in a tradcorp. They are often observing other DAOs at a minimum or more likely, participating in multiple DAOs at once. Observation of adjacent trends and successes are a natural result of the open operating systems of DAOs. This graduate can join any number of communities' calls and bring those learnings into their contributions as well. Their pace of learning, and adaptation is accelerated by the open frameworks web3 has created. This is not without risk as token economics can be volatile, but the skills they are learning in project management, community engagement, product delivery are also transferable if the DAO they chose fizzles out.

When reviewing these options, the path of the first graduate may still be the more common, “safe” road to travel for a number of years. But in time, as the wild west is settled, we will see the continued rise of DAOs that will compete with tradcorps in a way that is unfathomable today. With the creativity and expertise of the entire industry, not just of those select few leaders with incredible pedigree, web3 will win. Each individual who chooses the third path exponentially accelerates the rest of the industry. A mesh of information sharing is evolving. This is evidenced by how quickly a Defi 2.0 rise came just after the first Defi Summer launch event.

If you are interested in learning more or joining the rest of us in Gitcoin to build and fund an open web, public goods and our future “internet of jobs,” please check out our primer on Gitcoin, or dive into the fray of our DAO.

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