Decision making

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Here we present our best knowledge about decision making processes that are compatible with open networks (OVNs), as well as praxis, or how decision making is implemented or used in an OVN, or open ventures.

See also the page on Governance.


An OVN is a dynamic and diverse ecosystem with complex interconnected processes. Governance is the set of principles and processes by which the OVN is collaboratively developed by participants (affiliates) through collective intelligence. Different types of sense-making, decision making, and responsiveness are needed for efficient and optimal conduct. The governance framework provides different decision making mechanisms that may be applied. Sub-networks (i.e. different projects or communities) are free to adopt decision making processes that suite their culture and philosophy, as long as the results allow for a stable interface with the rest of the network.

What is a decision?

Definition: Decision-making can be regarded as a cognitive process resulting in the selection of a course of action (including the expression of an idea or opinion) among several alternative possibilities. Every decision-making process produces a final choice that may or may not prompt action. See Wikipedia - Decision making

Here we are more concerned with collective decision making processes that correspond to the OVN organizational model and its economic model. In other words, how the fruits of collaboration, the artifacts that we create, as well as the organization itself, evolve through p2p processes and interactions. Sometimes we need to make conscious decisions, weighing pros and cons of various alternatives (making individual and collective conscious choices). Other times, things evolve through emergent processes like stigmergy, where every participant makes allocation decisions on what matters most in context, at a given time.


Making a decision is making a choice. Decision making presupposes free will of the individuals involved in an individual or a collective decision process, however the choice may or may not be free of influence. For example, the election process, collective decision (actors are all citizens who vote) by an entire nation, is not free from influence. The opinions of voters (actors) are heavily manipulated by propaganda from different sides. Although we can never dissociate a decision making process from peer influence, in an OVN environment the culture is one of individual sovereignty or freedom, with a lot of room form self-determination. That is substantiated by the fact that OVNs or open ventures are opt in organizations, i.e. affiliates are free to join and leave at will. In other words, the only thing that keeps someone around is a perception of individual benefit (tangible or not), a purpose for which the organization serves as a conduit, an important need (the sense of belonging for example), or any other type of intrinsic motivation. We call all this an experience of value. But one's perception can be influenced by others or by the environment. We strive to minimize influence by designing the organization in such a way that self-determination can be maximally expressed.

Having said that, we also need to consider that p2p is understood as a synthesis of libertarianism and communism, two extremes that oppose individualism to communitarianism, to This, the concept of self-determination in p2p supposes a concern for the community around, as the individual and its community (social relations) are inseparable. Within the p2p framework one cannot conceive an individual in abstraction of its social relations. Success for an individual evolving within an organization cannot be conceived without the success of the organization, which provides the infrastructure, access to much needed resources and collaborators (skills and morel support). Thus, any decision making process requires considerations for the individual and for the group.

Degree of certainty

A decision is NOT choosing among different outcomes, because there could be risk involved, i.e. a suspected outcome is not 100% probable. The choice can be made knowing with certainty the outcome of some or all possible actions, or can be made in absence of certainty. For the second case, the outcome can be negative, positive, or neutral, which will affect the decision making process.

Random or analysis

Making a choice also implies some knowledge about the situation. The choice can be made at random. This happens when the actor(s) have no information on the situation and simply toss a coin. In absence of information we tend to rely on trust, i.e. follow the opinion of other individuals who are recognized to know more (reputation). This can also happen when other decision making mechanisms are absent. The choice can be educated, a result of an effort of analysis. Voluntarily biased analysis amounts to manipulation and to an influenced decision. There is a distinction between genuine analysis and understanding and false/deceiving analysis and explanation.

Related to types of domains or context

The Cynefin framework is a conceptual model developed by Dave Snowden that helps leaders and decision-makers understand different types of problems and situations they may face, and how to respond appropriately. The key aspects of the Cynefin model are:

It defines five domains or contexts:

  • Simple (known)
  • Complicated
  • Complex
  • Disorder (when the nature of the situation is unclear)

Each domain represents a different cause-and-effect relationship, requiring a different decision-making approach:

  • Simple - Obvious solutions can be applied
  • Complicated - Expert analysis is needed to determine the best approach
  • Complex - Emergent solutions must be probed and sensed
  • Chaotic - Immediate action is required to stabilize the situation
  • Disorder - More information is needed to determine the appropriate domain

The model emphasizes that leaders need to be able to recognize which domain they are operating in and adapt their decision-making style accordingly.

It is intended to help leaders make sense of complex, ambiguous situations and choose the right course of action, rather than trying to force a simple solution onto a complex problem.

The Cynefin framework has been widely adopted across various sectors, including business, government, healthcare, and the military, to aid strategic planning, problem-solving, and decision-making.

In summary, the Cynefin model provides a framework for understanding different types of problems and how to approach them, helping leaders navigate complex, uncertain situations more effectively.

Actors and scope

A decision making process has actors (individuals involved in the decision making process) and scope (the group of individuals that are affected by the choice).

  • Some decisions only concern the actor: what I will eat for dinner.
  • Some decisions only affect others: the policeman to give or not to give a ticket
  • Some decisions that involve a very few actors can have a broad scope with important consequences: a tyrannical regime, but also representative democracies
  • Some decisions involve the entire society and have a society-wide scope: a referendum, presidential election (which is influenced - see below)

Access to decision making

When it comes to technical decisions, averaging across everyone's opinion may not lead to the best outcome, since one educated voice can surpass the validity of everyone's voice. In some circumstances, participation in a decision making process can be seen as a privilege, a form of benefit. In sensitive cases, indiscriminate access to decision making can constitute a vector of attack. How can we think about distributing access to decisions making in an open network?

Kurt advocates a governance equation which automates access to group decision making processes.


making up one’s mind, according to a set of criteria and implementation, which can be done in various ways, is not a decision per say, if it is not enacted. Some decisions become effective as soon as they are uttered (ex. the decision of a judge). Others need complex actions to be enacted, implemented or become effective. Thus, we need to make a distinction between having made one's mind or reaches a consensus and having made a decision, which is an individual or collective commitment to take the proper action for implementation. The decision will be ultimately evaluated based on its impact in the real world, and that depends not only on the decision itself, but also on its implementation. Thus, a group can make a good decision and do a poor implementation, leading to undesired outcomes.

reversible decisions (ex. getting married) and irreversible decisions (ex. commit suicide). Reversibility can be only partial, because decisions have consequences that cannot be reversed, as we cannot reverse time (ex. after a divorce- the reverse decision to getting married, the family estate gets divided). Irreversible decisions carry a higher burden for those involved, higher responsibility must be applied, access to decision making must also be well considered.


Refers to the thing on which the decision is made.


  • allocation of resources - some type of resource
  • modifying the governance - some norms
  • exclusion of an affiliate (a member)

Types of decisions

See Sensorica's doc about decision making

Specificity of OVNs

Decision making depends strongly on the organizational context, which in turn depends on the economic context. Thus, to understand decision making within OVN we need to understand what sets them apart as organizations. Here we consider an OVN that exhibits resource-intensive activities, such as an open venture (enterprise). One can also get some inspiration for other types of open and decentralized projects, even DAOs.

First, we need to consider that an OVN (or a sub-network such as a open venture) is a value-based network, not a power-based hierarchy. This means that decisions (individual or collective) are mainly determined by a value experience. They are not determined by the will of one individual or a select group, whatever the motivation may be, exerted through instituted power relations. Thus, a good decision is one that increases the probability of making a process or a thing more valuable (for individuals or for the entire network).

Second, we need to consider that an OVN (or a sub-network such as a open venture) is a collaborative environment, a socioeconomic setting in which ideas, initiatives, and projects compete with each other for resources, NOT individuals competing against each other. This means that decision making processes must not be understood as adversarial (ex. election voting where political parties fight over power by dividing the population using ideology and other means). This is why various types of consensus building mechanisms are favoured in collaborative communities. A consensus building process is designed to build shared understanding and to collectively evaluate the possible outcomes of a decision as a benefit to a great majority. The accent is put on building bridges, making compromises, choosing options that lead to an overall positive value experience (see above). A form of consensus tied to a lazy democracy process has been used in Sensorica, but as we will see below OVNs should not heavily reply on group decision making processes. Hard disagreements are resolved by forking, which is a peaceful way of departing and exploring alternative paths.

Third, we need to consider that OVNs are long-tail organizations (i.e. open) and are designed to harvest the edge of the network. In other words, all participants are by default considered as equal in potential (which is NOT to say that they all actualize their potential equally), since it is impossible sometimes to know who is lurking in the background and from where the best idea can emerge. Traditional organizations apply a filter at the entry (a selection process for employment, an interview) and assign individuals to specific roles that formally provide exclusive access to decision making. In these contexts, the decision making process can take many forms, but in the end, this selected group of individuals are empowered to cut through the debate, take responsibility for the process and are held accountable for the consequences of their decision. It is assumed that these individuals have the capacity to weigh all the costs and benefits, but this is not always the case, even if they consult more largely with other stakeholders. OVNs must have processes in place that can deal with the messy and noisy open participation, avoiding elitism.

In contrast to traditional firms, coops rely more on democratic decision making processes (a majority vote for example). In this case, the responsibility is shared and by the same token the accountability is diluted. Another perverse effect of this process is the averaging of opinions (lowest common denominator), which can be detrimental to technical decisions that require expertize. Thus, experts must incur the costs of educating and convincing the majority about the merits of their opinions / choices. In some settings a more restrictive democratic process is applied, including only specialists, which can be seen as a middle ground.

Thus, OVNs must have processes in place that can effectively identify participants who have a higher probability of making a good decision and weed out those who don't have a clue or who have bad intentions. This can be done by relying on the role, reputation and the value system.

From an individual perspective, an OVN is an empowering environment, stimulating everyone to passionately contribute, in which good initiatives have a greater chance to be implemented, even if they arise on the “margins” of the network. Affiliates need to understand their roles and capacity in a processes, and coordinate with their peers.

From a collective perspective, every affiliate needs to understand not only every other affiliate's role and capacity, but also the reputation. This leads to the concept of voluntary subordination, in order to increase the potential of the group, to increase the probability of mutual benefits, which binds all the participants together. Voluntary subordination arises naturally (as part of the self organization process) if every participant understands the collaboration process, to allow the emergence of a set of positive incentives that drive every one's involvement.

There are different types of decisions to be made within an venture. Some of them refer to incremental additions to a project or venture. Others determine a path among different possibilities, not only binary cases. Decisions over allocation of resources should be less common within an OVN, since resources and capacity can always be increased by affiliating with other OVNs or through crowdsourcing (the resource allocation process is bottom up in OVNs).

If we think of good decision making as a way to insure a good development path, one way to approach decision making in an OVN or an open venture is to reduce its reliance on group decision, deliberation. In other words, the OVN must rely more on stigmergy. A good initiative is one that makes a venture valuable. By the same token, this initiative increases the rewards for affiliates. We need to consider the venture as a Darwinian environment for ideas, proposals, initiatives, in which the good ones get traction and the bad ones are neglected/forgotten. Some conditions must be fulfilled in order for this to happen.

  • The value system must be transparent and very well understood by every affiliate - dashboards, analysis tools, AI
  • Roles and reputation must be transparent as well - dashboards, analysis tools, AI
  • Access must be granted to all affiliates - more on openness and transparency, permissionless infrastructure, uncapturable processes
  • All activity must be contained in a shared environment - collaborative digital environments that can support stigmergy, beyond the website or webpage paradigm, perhaps game-like environments
  • A good signaling mechanism must be put in place - pheromones, more on stigmergy
  • Ability to fork and explore alternatives - Holochain allows forkability of entire infrastructure

Wen it comes to forking, it is the responsibility of the initiator to rally support. If the initiator can do it alone the initiative cannot hurt the group, even if it does not represent a valuable contribution to the whole. Thus, decision making is transferred to every participant. Everyone makes an individual decision according to how benefits and costs are estimated at the individual level, taking into consideration the benefit of then group, which should constitute the basis of individual success. These individual decisions aggregate and influence each other within the open space. The initiative is given a chance to get started and its progressive and continuous implementation further influences other affiliate's decisions. The collective decision making process becomes emergent and is constantly coupled to the initiative itself (the object of decision). If this new initiative produces good results more affiliates will allocate resources for it, which fuels the initiative even more, and so on... That is what we mean by traction. Negative effects are also rapidly felt and propagate through the system, making bad initiatives short lived. Malicious actions or attacks are starved of resources and dealt with through the reputation system. The general advice is to NEVER spend energy killing new initiatives. Let them run and the good ones will get traction and will be implemented. The bad ones will be forgotten. This is NOT a perfect system, whatever that means! But it is one which solves the decision making problem in a value-based decentralized environment.

What if everyone starts implementing initiatives, wouldn’t that de-focus the group’s activities and stretch thin its resources? Well, if the [value system]] is transparent and if communication flows well, most participants should realize how to get to the rewards in the most effective way. This alignment process may take some time though, which depends on the effectiveness of feedback mechanisms. The individual choices of participants with higher reputation will have an impact on other participants, this is how skills, talent and capacity are included into this process. Some participants will still get it wrong and adopt a bad initiative, but if the OVN is well structured most of them will not. We assume that the aggregated costs are lower than a bad decision made by an elite in a corporate environment.

DAOs grapple with the problem of resource allocation as transfer of tokens from a shared pool (or treasury) to various projects. Most of them use proposals and onchain voting mechanisms to transfer funds to various initiatives. This problem is in fact self-induced by pulling tokens into a shared wallet, the pool, instead of using a crowdfunding pattern, effectively crowdsourcing the allocation problem, which is more compatible with stigmergic processes.

Within Sensorica, some ventures also had to work with shared accounts, usually held in trust by a Custodian, containing funds from grants or partners. The allocation scheme in this case replies more on planning and ongoing self organization, using the NRP-CAS not on explicit group decisions like in DAOs, based on proposals. Sensoricans have reported very few problems with this process. Moreover, Sensorica's economic model relies heavily on crowdsourcing at every level, drastically reducing reliance on monetary currency.

Another observation from the Sensorica experience is that open ventures should have two diffuse layers, a very pragmatic core, composed of goal-driven individuals, and an outer layer composed of passionate, idealistic, fun seeking individuals. For a revenue-driven open venture we can say that we have a market and a gift economy intertwined. The value system needs to be conceived in such a way to avoid conflict between these two classes of affiliates, participating on the extremes of these two types of economies, within the network. In other words, the revenue-driven affiliates should have no business putting pressure on passion-driven participants, or vice versa, because both types of affiliates are necessary to increase the potential of the venture.

Some collaborative organizations rely on do-ocracy, which cannot function well without stigmergy. In other words, a do-ocracy with a fragmented collaborative space and no proper signalling mechanisms can lead to unfruitful development paths, since the initiative can be put in the hands of unskilled individuals with no oversight, no proper mechanisms to correct the path.

Decision Types and Tools

In this section we discuss tools that can be applied to various decision making types within OVNs.

Decisions amongst a group of stakeholders can be reached through many different participatory mechanisms. Most familiar is "majority rules" yes/no voting. Other systems like Consensus encourage deeper inquiry and alignment to reach agreement from all affiliates.

A comparison of different types:

Online Tools

Recently, AI has been integrated into decision making tools.

Plannig and decision making

Planning involved decision making, as we are faced with a variety of choices of actions. Planning tools must include tools that support individual and group decision making.



Implemented by Tiberius Brastaviceanu during the early days of Sensorica, influenced by discussions with other Sensorica affiliates and observers see original document on Decision making.

  • A space for suggestions was created, where members could propose something new, discuss and rate different opinions. The implementation was a Google Moderator embedded in a webpage on SENSORICA's website.
This was used a bit in the beginning (2011, 2012) but not very much afterwards. A lot of propositions and discussions were carried out on Sensorica's general mailing list. Some discussions were carried out on G+, very few on Facebook.
  • A space for decision making was created where issues were presented and decisions ware made by voting. This space is a webpage on Sensorica's website, using an announcements template, and voting was implemented using Google forms enbedded on this page.
Only a few decisions have been made. The data was recorded in a folder on SENSORICA's database (Google Drive) named Decisions forms. Affiliates also had the option to subscribe to page changes or announcements to get an email every time a new decision is published on the decision page.

Folder - Governance and decision making

Some important docs

Other docs

Based on spheres of activity and impact, decisions are addressed within the appropriate membrane through a process of awareness, coordination, informing, and feedback.

Some "governance patterns" to support swift and adaptable configuration of decision making framework.include:

  • Sphere of activity: project or intention space (membrane)
  • Scope of activity: range limits of governance (time, type, overrulings)
  • Required capacities: skill sets or contribution types relevant to sphere
  • Allocation strategy: how are tasks and needs described and fulfilled in sphere
  • setting collective targets - via workgroup, deputies, or network
  • identifying crucial needs - via workgroup, deputies, or network
  • gathering proposals (open space style)
  • entering into contracts (enterprise mode)
  • posing agreements (non-dominium)
  • individual initiative (free agency)
  • Collaborative framework: nature of engagement and value creation in sphere
  • open participation / free flow
  • designated team / membrane
  • designated roles / accountabilities
  • private work tracks
  • Decision-making framework: default mode for collective sensing and resolution
  • self-determining - autonomous, within basic network guidelines
  • subsidiary - subject to an encompassing body or governing board
  • counseled - subject to formal response from peer body or board
  • executive - subject to express determinations from an exec role
  • network - subject to ongoing adjustment by network input
  • Governance around decision framework: self-organization and/or oversight
  • Coordination/Informing Process: transparency and publication / synchronization
  • realtime visibility
  • scheduled updates
  • dedicated liaison
  • indeterminate
  • Feedback Process: response and adjustments by peers during implementation
  • Execution Process: key permissions, accountabilities, metrics
  • Feedback Process: response, rating, reputation following results
  • public comment threads
  • p2p interaction on record
  • scheduled open hearings
  • formal rating system (per result)
  • formal reputation system (per participant)

See also

Links for decision making documents from individuals and organizations close to the OVN model.

From Bayle Shank