Decisions: Benevolent Dictatorship, Tribalism, Opinionocracy, Organism

How an organization makes decisions shapes the culture, the brand and its ability to scale. The greatest potential for growth and impact comes from disaggregated decision making that remains aligned to the principles and values that define the brand.

Our next moment, our day, our week, our year, our careers, our lives: they are shaped by the decisions we make—one decision after another, after another, after another, all stacked on top of each other. This is how we find ourselves here, and this is how we’ll find ourselves wherever we might be in the future.

Inside our organization, there are countless decisions being made. The larger the organization, the more decisions.

Decision after decision after decision, the brand is built, the business is shaped, the market is impacted… or not. But how do decisions get made?

Are teams trained to make decisions?
Is there a decision-making process?
Are there guidelines to follow?
Are decisions based on data or personal opinion?
Who gets to decide?

In small companies, decision-making is easy because it’s a dictatorship—hopefully a benevolent dictatorship but a dictatorship none the less.

If employees stick around, they become indoctrinated in the principles and values of that founder (the benevolent dictator). As the company scales, those employees can anticipate the founder’s decisions and make small to medium-sized decisions on her behalf. This is the tribal state, where there is still strong leadership, but decision-making becomes disaggregated.

Then something happens. A threshold is crossed. It can be caused by high turnover or fast growth or changes in leadership; but at some point, if a company continues to grow or sticks around long enough, the tribal structure breaks down. The principles and values which once guided decision-making become diluted.

With no clear guiding principles and values, the organization splinters –often into opinion-based decision making and smaller tribes whose individuals share a common point of view. These tribes attempt to consolidate responsibilities in order to control decision making and shape their slice of the organization based on their view.


This dystopian, post-benevolent dictatorship, post-tribal, “opinionocracy” is avoided by codifying the principles and values of the founder into decision making tools. The organization can then be trained to use these tools in every decision it makes.

As decision after decision after decision is made using these tools, the people, processes and systems begin to align with the principles and values of the brand. With consistency and time, the benevolent dictatorship, tribe or opinionocracy transforms into an organism: A scalable singular entity, with a collective intelligence, cable of decentralized decision-making and growth.

This is how brands scale without selling out. Not from logos, fancy videos and social media likes alone; but rather decision after decision after decision in every corner of the organization, all fully aligned with the original principles and values that started it all.

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