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What could DAOs mean for HR?

Decentralized autonomous organizations upend the hierarchical company structure. Check out’s latest Culture Builder newsletter for an explainer, and a thought experiment.

A team at work. (Photo by from Pexels)

Written by Technically Media CEO Chris Wink,’s new Culture Builder newsletter features tips on growing powerful teams and dynamic workplaces. Below is the latest edition we published. Sign up here to get the next one this Friday.

A first wave of so-called decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) are sweeping across the chaotic and experimental universe of blockchain deployments. As radical as it sounds, consider the thought experiment of what such dramatic change would mean for your role in HR, operations and recruiting.

“A DAO is a leaderless organization that is governed by its members,” as CoinGeek succinctly put it. This week, a new company called Gorilla DAO is selling tokens that will effectively serve as voting rights for the direction of the company. Another DAO, Yield Guild Games, raised $1.3 million this month to distribute in the development of these sorts of tokens, one example of what is called non-fungible tokens (NFTs). An investment firm called Stacker Ventures structured as a DAO announced that they’re raising a new fund to invest in further exploration.

The big idea behind DAOs is that direct democracy is possible with the speed and efficiency of these new technologies like smart contracts. A driving force is something like an assumption that centralized power inherently corrupts. If decisions are more widely distributed, outcomes may be more equitable. Think of this as an even more radical extension of employee-owned firms.

A future DAO might have a leadership committee that facilitates company decisions that are voted upon by token-holding employees. Set aside how imminent, inevitable and widespread you think such an environment is and consider: What would such a transformation mean for your work?

I’m reminded of the criticism that some HR departments are purely tools of a leadership team misaligned with the staff. Many HR pros like to see themselves as referees mediating between leadership and team, but ultimately, they report to those at the top. When reporter Donte Kirby spoke to former Google recruiter April Christina Curley she argued in part that her efforts at increasing diversity weren’t taken seriously because leadership priorities didn’t match those of employees.

By no means are DAOs inherently good. They’re an experimental structure. How much would your role and your organization change if power shifted between your C-suite to an evenly distributed structure? Would the good outweigh the bad? How would HR and people ops functions change? I’d really love if you shared with me by email —

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Meanwhile, a couple unexpectedly self-promotional notes. A month ago the Technically Media offices were burglarized. We’ve been struggling with the news that property insurance is only covering a small portion. I am genuinely dazzled by the kindness that longtime community member Jeff Friedman launched a GoFundMe on our behalf here. We’re figuring it out, but hey, if you so choose and want to help us get out feet back under us, it’d mean the world.

Another way to help out? Next Thursday (March 18) is hosting (virtually) our annual NET/WORK tech jobs fair. Join us, spread the word and get your company involved.

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