Collaboration vs. Competition Structures

I spent a couple of days last weekend at a Hackathon gathering a lot of information about proposal-optimization. It was interesting because when I posed it as an open question “How to get the best proposals?”, everyone had different ideas.

The ideas were based on real organizations each person had worked in, and they all had different mechanisms for collaboration on proposals.

A few had competition-type mechanisms, and a few had collaboration-type mechanisms. It was enlightening.

One of the important things we did distinguish was that decisions fall into a number of categories, and that it makes sense, before going into "proposal-making’ mode, to determine the kind of decision it is, and what mode makes sense.

Right now, most DAOs are making decisions about very specific aspects of the on-chain governance, or aspects of the allocation of funds.

Most people felt voting is needed only in about 10-20% of decisions. Voting on everything is a major obstacle to efficiency

I think the focus on voting makes for very devisive communities.


Great point by @GraceRachmany that (Yes/No) voting can be devisive.
Highly asymmetric setup, where a person nurtures an idea and takes the time to write-up a proposal, only to have it shot down by a couple percent (as few as 2 people) vote.

One likely outcome would be ragequit. More introspect would look first at implementing ideas outside the DAO or shopping it around.

If nothing else, need a more meaningful way to vote, as a NO could mean:

  • Can you tell us more
  • Can we do X first and then this
  • Can we do this with next month’s budget
  • Proposal Y is similar, could you work together with them

Collaborative approaches often start with open-ended “brainstorming” sessions, then whatever comes out gets filtered, prioritized and refined. Most large bodies have committees and working groups to progress specific initiatives. There can be votes that are straw polls initially and could become more formal along the way.

Whether these steps need automation is unclear, and there have been many attempts in the corporate world to provide technology supports for broad and geographically distributed collaboration, but no clear winners or dominant approaches have emerged.

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I think the reason there are no “clear winners” is because there shouldn’t be. Some problems are better solved competitively. Some are better solved by people just getting on with their work (no decision). Some are emergencies and need to be solved immediately by a dictator. Some problems are best solved by consensus. Etc. I think it is foolish to say one way is “better”. It really depends on what the decision is. One thing is certain, though. The vast majority of decisions, in any organization, are not made by any kind of vote.

The bias for competition is a consistent meme in the current form of market capitalism and artificial scarcity. If there is no scarcity, what is it we are competing for? If you and I both have the same goal, why are we competing at all? Our success as the Genesis DAO is a group success. Why would putting ourselves against one another be a good default modus operandi? Maybe I’m missing something but I can’t figure out how this is logical.

Personally I don’t want to work in a place where I have to constantly be pitting myself against my colleagues. For that reason, you no longer see me proposing anything original. I now propose only those things that were “assigned” to me by specific request. For me the environment of constant competition is so hostile, I stopped actively contributing ideas.

For a startup those criteria might be more important than being the best. Radical scaling up can be a bit counterintuitive. Basically you waste budget to go faster in order to win. So the focus here is the organisation/business, not so much the reputation of the best individual contributor.

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Agreed. Hence some DAOs might have a governance meeting where they decide to be very relax on voting (until decided otherwise). As in, all agree to always upvote or not vote unless a proposal is really threatening the DAO.

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I agree and I would also say that the current proposal process only requires a very small fraction of total decisions to be made onchain (albeit the most important one: GIVE US MONEY(?)).

Once this decision is made, then there are many decisions usually made offchain by the recipient. The more trust in that recipient, the larger the scope can be, and the more decisions can be made offchain.

We still live in a world of scarcity. In order for the DAO ecosystem to mature, we need collaboration and competition. Competition trims waste and fat. Collaboration leads to emergence. Both are needed.

This is ultimately what we are after. I’m a big fan of @ezra_w’s piece - which uses a combination of competition and collaboration. Another example which comes to mind is BudgetBox from Colony which should work fairly well at ranking proposals / org direction using a competitive mechanism.

I’m not sure what is being worked on at the protocol level which would allow DAOs on DAOstack to help bubble up the “best proposals”… but there definitely needs to be a mechanism in place. @papa_raw any knowledge on this?

Is this not what HC is designed to do at the protocol level?

I’d be a bit skeptical of using the word “best” here – but there are some mechanics that can get “better” proposals. One example is skin-in-the-game: right now I’d say Genesis is making some poor decisions because there are a number of voters with no long-term stake in the GEN economy. I don’t think better “sense-making” happens at the protocol level: it happens through soft governance.

One thing I would highlight is that with current structures, most of us do in fact exist in competition, both within firms (a “collaboratively” structured nexus of contracts) and in markets. But this competition is delegated to the managerial level: managers are expected to sense-make the complexity of the firm and fight for their cut of the budget. The difference in shifting it more to the market level (as Daniel Resas elegantly presented at DAOfest) is that there’s more transparency in this competitive distribution of scarce resources; we can do it more transparently and in a more horizontal format. I see this as a net improvement.

100%. I would say that HC is designed more as a filter to highlight “better” proposals, as opposed to finding the best proposal / or a rank order from a group of proposals (for example, dHack has run into this problem).

I agree, a lot can be done through soft governance - but not sure a DAO can “rank” without a scheme or protocol change (?)

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@nylon has been speccing out a scheme for ranked choice decision-making – maybe he can share here.

But these could be good modules that are implemented as voting machines e.g. conviction voting, ranked choice, dot voting, etc… each having protocol parameters that can implement HC at larger DAO sizes to improve the resiliency of the decision-making.

Thanks @Grace for bringing this up, I believe it is a great topic and something we really have to think through. The Yes/No method of voting could mean a lot of things like @wkarshat put it:

It goes along with a question I had once about strategy because the fact that you say No to a proposal right now it does not mean that it might be a good idea in the future. Collaboration requires strategic thinking, if not we are like soccer players, all going after the ball without a clear idea where to go next.

But how to collaborate in a competitive environment? We have to find ways to create win-win situations because competition will exist since there is scarcity, as @eric.arsenault put it:

We have scarcity of time and effort. For example the amount of time and effort we are putting into this discussion we could all have been doing something else, but we are actually contributing and trying to get other people’s attention in order to improve collectively. Besides this we also compete with our personal time, family, friends etc. and in a DAO environment we are competing even more of our time and attention to other DAOs for example, it’s the opportunity cost of doing something else instead.

In a centralized organization we would be getting paid to have this discussion because it has value to them. On the other hand, unless I am the only one, we are not getting paid and other people that could contribute since they are not getting paid they are getting into this discussion. So I think for DAOs to have collaboration and competition we need to have a way to be able to measure value in the intangible contributions and not only things that deliver concrete products (most of the proposals I see are to make something like an event, advertising, coin exchange etc). As someone mentioned, maybe having committees and working groups might be a way to go about it.

Lastly, as questioned by @papa_raw, I’m not sure what “best proposal” means but if it means good things for the organization I believe the HC does that pretty well. But I think the HC approach is not necessarily designed for finding the “best” but rather the “most impactful” proposals because they could be either positive or negative, the ones that could have more impact in the organization, where a lot of people want it or don’t want it.

To bring it all together, I believe that the HC approach works towards collaboration and competition but the DAO needs to have a north, a strategy, even if it can change all the time as well as value intangible contributions. I like the idea of other ways of voting which can bring some of these aspect into the decision making process. Would like to know more about it @nylon :slight_smile:

This is one of those delusions of startups that it’s about “failing faster”. This

I would be concerned that HC is not designed for “most impactful” but “most popular”. For example, it would be wise to predict that Pat and Eric’s proposals will pass, because they are popular people. It would be unwise to vote against them, because they have a lot of REP and power in the community, and the voting is not anonymous. If you are smart with your GEN, you would bet on the most popular people and most popular proposals, not the “most impactful” ones.

Agreed @Grace, I should have made it more broad, most impactful to the organization and/or the person involved. Popularity or unpopularity and status in the community do play a role in society in general.

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Wow! I am learning so much! Starting to think that there should really be an unofficial DAOStack guide.

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