Reddit Place – closer to your organisation than you think?

Something wonderful happened a couple of weekends ago. From “When Pixels Collide“:

For April Fool’s Day, Reddit launched a little experiment. It gave its users, who are all anonymous, a blank canvas called Place.

The rules were simple. Each user could choose one pixel from 16 colors to place anywhere on the canvas. They could place as many pixels of as many colors as they wanted, but they had to wait a few minutes between placing each one.

Over the following 72 hours, what emerged was nothing short of miraculous. A collaborative artwork that shocked even its inventors.

From a single blank canvas, a couple simple rules and no plan, came this:

Reddit Place - final animated version

I have stared at the detail for perhaps too long. One of my favourite parts of the development of the image is the growth of the German and French flags – and their point of intersection becoming the EU flag with a white dove at its centre:

Reddit Place - France/Germany/EU detail - animated

The ingenuity is just phenomenal. The Belgian flag ends in a beer pump and sauce dispenser, squirting ketchup and mustard onto a hot dog, while the French flag has wine and a baguette.

Reddit Place - France/Germany/EU detail - snapshot

What emerged was creative, inspired, funny, smart and profane. And I believe it offers a much more realistic metaphor for your organisation than an org chart, set of cascaded OKRs or our typical mental models of how work happens in our businesses.

What actually happened?

For an idea to develop and persist, six things needed to emerge:

  1. An engaging mission. An idea so compelling that hundreds of people would dedicate their time to implement, nurture and defend it
  2. A culture. A shared identity and set of behaviours and values
  3. A strategy. An approach to secure and defend the pixels necessary
  4. Creative adaptability. Recognising when a pivot is required; when coalitions and negotiations are necessary; and when it’s time to simply charge on through – and pulling it off quickly and effectively
  5. Resources. Enough people to get the job done, adapt to change and maintain what’s already been created
  6. Great processes. From original design to coordination and collaboration to decision-making and conflict resolution – this all played out very quickly and groups quickly and effectively reached out for tools to help them

Think about your own organisation. How would you score each of these elements out of ten, either for the whole business or for parts of it? What does that tell you about your employee’s willingness, motivation and ability to get things done?

I’m sure there’s a PhD thesis in analysing what played out over the 72 hours on Reddit Place, and When Pixels Collide does a great job documenting some of it.

I help CEOs and leadership teams of startups and scaleups to build better organisations – to grow their business, develop and retain great employees; delegate more and become less stressed. Get in touch for a no-obligation initial consultation.


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