Texting Your Ex: The Comfort of Hierarchy in DAOs
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March 7th, 2022

Anyone who has gone through a breakup knows the appeal of texting your ex.

You know you shouldn’t.

But a quick little “you up?” text is harmless, right?

Breaking up with hierarchy

DAOs are empowering us to breakup with the old way of work (and frankly, the old way had some serious red flags). But breakups aren’t fun. They’re painful and uncomfortable ‒ they force us to sit with all of our shit and be vulnerable.

Moving away from traditional hierarchical structure means sitting with that discomfort. Most people aren’t used to self-management ‒ we’re used to being told what to do, by when, and who we need to “win over”. And, like relationships, we tend to use the validation of others as evidence that we’re enough.

Sitting with your shit

So what happens when you have no boss to impress? No clear directives on what you should do?

You struggle ‒ everyone struggles. Because now it’s up to you to find the direction, to create the structures, and to get shit done.

And this is where that “you up?” text creeps in.

In chaos and struggle ‒ when you’re in it ‒ you want the discomfort to stop. And so we fall back to the only tools we know. And in many cases, that’s hierarchy.

We begin to re-create the same systems we fled from, the same ones we want to challenge. And it’s not because hierarchy is the ideal system, it’s because hierarchy is all we know.

Exploring your options

In web3, we tend to think we’re on the cusp of something completely new (and in some ways we are). But everything we’re trying has ben done before ‒ just in a different context.

Someone once told me “the trick to crypto is mental models”.

But the real trick is finding the right mental models.

Once you’ve done that, you have a lens through which you can predict and anticipate challenges and solutions. You can draw on what’s already been tried, tested, and modified. And often that gets you a lot closer to the outcome you want.

So before you go texting your ex, consider all of the other options on the market. There’s a damn good chance you’ll find something better.

Some of my favorite content for developing non-hierarchical mental models:

Quick note: In this article, I use the term “hierarchy” as a shorthand for systems where general (not tightly scoped) power is distributed in a centralized, top-down manner. I recognize that this is not how others define hierarchy. Depending on how you define it, I think hierarchy can be useful in DAOs in some contexts. Related: David Phelps on the difference between centralization and hierarchy.

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