Big Medium is what my friend and collaborator Dan Mall calls a design collaborative. Dan runs his studio Superfriendly the same way I run Big Medium: rather than carry a full-time staff, we both spin up bespoke teams from a tight-knit network of well-known domain experts. Those teams are carefully chosen to meet the specific demands of each project. It’s a very human, very personal way to source project teams.
And so I was both intrigued and skeptical to read about an automated system designed to do just that at a far larger scale. Noam Scheiber reporting for The New York Times:
True Story was a case study in what two Stanford professors call “flash organizations” — ephemeral setups to execute a single, complex project in ways traditionally associated with corporations, nonprofit groups or governments. […]
And, in fact, intermediaries are already springing up across industries like software and pharmaceuticals to assemble such organizations. They rely heavily on data and algorithms to determine which workers are best suited to one another, and also on decidedly lower-tech innovations, like middle management. […]
“One of our animating goals for the project was, would it be possible for someone to summon an entire organization for something you wanted to do with just a click?” Mr. Bernstein said.
The fascinating question here is how systems might develop algorithmic proxies for the measures of trust, experience, and quality that weave the fabric of our professional networks. But even more intriguing: how might such models help to connect underrepresented groups with work they might otherwise never have access to? For that matter, how might those models introduce me to designers outside my circle who might introduce more diverse perspectives into my own work?