Democracy in a Start-Up


Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville is still considered the best description of political system of the United States even though it was written almost 200 years ago. Upon reading it I've discovered that it's lessons about democracy are valuable not only to European Union but also to start-ups. I was especially struck by the following passage:

It is true that centralization easily succeeds in imposing upon the external behavior of man a certain uniformity which comes to be loved for itself without reference to its objectives, just as the religious may adore a statue while forgetting the god it represents. Centralization has no difficulty in imposing an aspect of regularity upon day-to-day activities; in exercising a wise supervision of social control; in suppressing trivial disorders and petty offenses; in holding the status quo of a society which cannot be seen strictly as either decadence or progress; in maintaining in society a sort of administrative lethargy which administrators usually call good order and public tranquility. To sum up, its forte is obstruction, not action. When the issue is a profound shake-up of society or the imposition of swift progress, its strength evaporates. Whenever its measures require help from individuals, this huge machine is astonishingly weak and is suddenly reduced to impotence.

Centralization comes in many different guises and smaller companies are no less susceptible to it than large organizations. If your goal is a profound shake-up of (some part of) society, you'll have to progress swiftly and employ all the help you can get from your colleagues. So remember the words by Lao Tzu that

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done,  his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.

and go start building democracy in your startup.