Democratizing the workplace
I've been convinced for years that extending democracy into the places that people spend most of their waking hours is essential, and I've thought a lot about strategies for how to achieve it. Small cooperative companies like Loomio can set themselves up as democracies from the get-go, and we could focus on supporting this, and hope that democratic companies will eventually replace "Smithist-Stalinist" corporations (by which I mean organisations that embody the worst aspects of both capitalism and socialism). But this would take at least a generation, and because it doesn't address the reasons why most companies start out as small and democratic mammals, but eventually devolve into hierarchical dinosaurs as they grow, there's no guarantee it would work.
I recently read a book called 'Maverick!' by Ricardo Semler, the CEO of Semco, who took over the Brazilian manufacturing company his father founded, and eventually launched a series of radical experiments in workplace democracy. But at first, not trusting his radical instincts, he followed the typical Harvard Business School approach, and turned the company into even more of a daytime police state. Even when he did start trying to give more decision-making power to workers, this was resisted at first, not only by those in management layers, but by shop floor workers and their unions who were suspicious of his motives.
This may be the answer to the question above - companies devolve into totalitarian dictatorships because too many of us - at all levels from shop floors to university business schools - are in the habit of thinking that dictatorship is the "right way" to run a business, the most "efficient" way to make decisions etc. What can we do to start changing these habits of thought? What other examples like Semco can be study for ideas about how to democratize existing workplaces?
Examples of large, well-established democratic workplaces:
* Semco: manufacting company in Brazil (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gG3HPX0D2mU, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxeosFrLFH8)
* Morningstar: tomato processor in California (http://self-managementinstitute.org/about-us/)
* Mondragon: federation of workers co-operation in Spain (http://www.mondragon-corporation.com/eng/about-us/)
* FaSinPat: ceramics factory in Argentina (http://www.argentinaindependent.com/currentaffairs/newsroundups/fasinpat-worker-run-factory-officially-expropriated/), one of thousands of factories occupied and taken over by their workers, see Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis doco 'The Take'
Examples of relatively new democratic workplaces:
* Loomio Cooperative!
Incubators and crowdfunding projects which help new democratic workplaces start up:
* Enspiral: a social enterprise incubator based in Welly, which Loomio works out of
* IOBY: a US crowdfunding site which aims to help people fund their neighbours new cooperative businesses (http://www.ioby.org/about)
* The Working Wolrd: a a US crowdfunding site which funds cooperatives (http://www.theworkingworld.org/us/what-we-do/)
Writers and academics who advocate for and research workplace democracy:
* Richard Wolff (Democracy at Work): http://tinyurl.com/kxhccwv
* David Graeber (author of Debt and the The Democracy Project): http://www.strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/
* Michael Albert (International Organisation for a Participatory Society): http://tinyurl.com/lmjchq7
* Chetan Druve (author of Why Your Boss is Programmed to be a Dictator): http://dhruve.blogspot.co.nz/2012/08/why-do-jerks-succeed.html