Blog Post

The Future of Work: Noded


Recently, I’ve been talking to many local journalists about the unfolding implosion of the newspaper industry and its implications for their profession.

As the industry struggles to adapt to a world which is moving onto the web, journalists are not only learning to blend social media with traditional reporting, but as UK-based multimedia journalist Adam Westbrook explains, some are also exploring how distributed work teams could replace the newsroom.

Westbrook’s piece introduces the philosophy of Noded working: principles for forming distributed teams for particular projects.

The Noded concept is explained in a book. A downloadable preview describes the philosophy as:

“A group of individuals, often but not necessarily geographically distant, that come together to form temporary or recurring project teams. Unlike ‘distributed teams,’ Noded teams work for a wide range of clients and any member of a Noded team can take the lead to bring in work, manage work and choose their team members.”

Delving deeper, the Noded philosophy can be summarized as seven discrete principles:

  1. Personality — Individualism is celebrated, enabling all members of a Noded team to define their own values and vision, but with a shared agenda.
  2. Team — Each member is treated as an independent business owner or freelancer. Collaboration is driven by the needs of each project, often involving various combinations of members.
  3. Leadership & Roles — There are no fixed roles. Traditional team leadership is replaced by project leadership, likely rotating between members who bring in the business.
  4. Goals — There’s no collective group goal, only a range of individual member goals, which together form a kind of autonomy with shared purpose.
  5. For Everyone — Anyone from employees of large companies to freelancers and indie workers can be part of a Noded team.
  6. No Branding — A noded team isn’t branded discretely, but is a representation of the brands of each member, accompanied by an icon illustrating the Noded nature of the group.
  7. Means Business — Noded teams are formed for business purposes.

The Noded philosophy seems to codify many of the existing principles of freelancers who work as part of project teams, defining a set of structures for establishing loosely coupled joint ventures.

Though many web workers are likely already members of Noded-like teams — whether they are aware of it or not — there’s something useful about having the Noded philosophy expressed that, now articulated, makes it easier to understand how to form project teams that cross organizational and disciplinary boundaries.

The Noded philosophy is analogous to co-working in many ways, with one major difference. Where the originators of co-working explicitly encourage others to modify and extend their values, the people behind the Noded concept appear to be establishing sole ownership over the philosophy and seeking to establish their own brand. This is understandable, but somewhat in contrast to their own stated beliefs.

Do your working practices already follow the Noded principles?

14 Responses to “The Future of Work: Noded”

  1. This is common sense in an Internet age, no more – no less. Such collaborations have been going on for years now – the only difference i can see here is that there is that there are no lead partners, but that they come together under a neutral node as the brand (which is a brand!?!) There have been several jobs done by my agency where were the collaboration has been between a Government arms reach agency in the UK, a sole trader DB expert in Sheffield, a technology learning company Oxford and a team of UI experts scattered around northern Europe. All connected via Basecamp and the delivered solution a series of 5 disparate cross platform and code systems (Microsoft, and LAMP) connected seamlessly via Web Services. All done through an agile approach with leadership rotated throught the project on a best knowledge basis.

    When do people find the time to read all these books!

  2. Quite a timely piece, as this is exactly what I’ve been discussing with my (ex)colleagues after our recent redundancy.

    Until now, we never had a term for it. I just refer to it as a ‘collective’. Any projects that needs support would be passed to the appropriate people in the group.

    We are thinking of a form of branding, even if it’s just a website with a portfolio of work and skills of each individual, but stopping short of creating an *actual* company. This way the guys are free to pursue other things.

    Actually, thinking back to my freelance career, this is basically the way I’ve working anyway. Most freelancers I know share projects and help each other out. Now we just have a name for it – ‘Noded’. :)

  3. Ah, got it, I see your point!

    We have thought about how Noded could evolve in that sense, and we’ve always felt that the Noded philosophy is very open and that it can be taken in the direction any one wants to take it. But maybe we need to be clearer in how we talk about it, maybe open up a bit more.

    Good food for thought, thank you!

  4. Imran Ali

    Thanks Jaan – I think what I’m getting at is more than use of a logo, but that Noded would perhaps be a more powerful meme if it was explicitly open like BarCamp and Coworking which have very clear goals of openness.

  5. Hi Imran,
    Thanks for posting about our Noded philosophy. Great stuff!
    About the icon, the reason we’re suggesting (only suggesting) that people use the icon to discretely illustrate participation in a Noded team, is to try and establish an easily recognizable visual representation. A bit like, say, the RSS feed logo.

    We do how ever also mention on the icon page that it can be included in other art work etc so we’re happy to see it used in ways that make sense for the individual. And as the Noded icon is not a brand, we’re also happy to get suggestions on other ways to indicate ones membership in a Noded team.

    Again, thanks for the post!