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The process of integrating new agents into an organization, OVN or other, so that they can take productive action.

Onboarding is part of a larger capacity building process composed of Outreach --> Onboarding --> Orientation --> Support --> Animation

Onboarding relates to the experience of an agent when it first comes in contact with the organization and the journey of this agent from being an outsider to being a participant or contributor. First, onboarding is sensitive to the type of agent and its potential role in the organization. Secondly, onboarding depends on the organizational structure and its environment (physical environment and digital environment).

Onboarding is part of a larger capacity building process that includes Outreach --> Onboarding --> Orientation --> Support --> Animation


Designing the onboarding of an organization is about designing an experience, a jurymen, a path.

Onboarding is about generating the feeling of having agency. Find out where the YES is in people, what is the approach, how we can approach people to get a Yes. Create a situation where the YES is revealed. Not go into guess work.

Onboarding is also about keeping bad intentions out, a filter. If stuff snicks in, how do you deal with it internally?

Since an organization caters to multiple types of agents, we need to create multiple funnels.

An environment that allows people to express their superpowers.

It is important to use a language that fits the context. In time of transition confusing language is used, as new languages are in formation and terms can acquire different meanings. This can create cognitive dissonance / interference and hinder understanding. For example, in the context of open networks people use terms like user, client, service in ways that refer to or to proprietary platforms or to traditional organizations and economic models, corporations.

It is easy to spot negative outcomes, much more difficult to detect patterns that lead to positive outcomes. Controlling flow by putting boundary conditions to stop the development of undesirable patterns. We don’t know how to create healthy patterns, but we can identify dark patterns. Probably because our minds have been engineered to detect bad things to stay away from. But good things are infinite, we let them happen.

Design patterns, pattern language for building these spaces, with situations, roles, rules, that provide predictable outcomes, consistency - you can predict general things, like success, not necessarily particular results. Ex space for shared understanding. Clean modeling methodology - questions to understand / reveal someone else's model, metaphors, models of understanding. This will allow you to understand someone and allows you to talk to the person in a language that the person understands. A practice that can predictably deliver results of shared understanding. This can be a module that can be used in conjunction with other modules, these are patterns, and we can compose these patterns to build more complex spaces.

Design spaces and situations that lead to predictable outcomes - see the prisoner’s experiment, that promote a given output, stimulate a given behavior. Have practices and roles within the environment that can produce predictable outcomes. Predictability is desired (ex. sensemaking space that promotes critical thought, good debate). Predictability leads to trust and value. It is like rule of law, adds predictability, consistency in an environment. That opens to “investment”.

Instead of spaces that promote doing we should implement spaces that promote being (ex. exploration space, have rules and roles that produce successful explorations - lower the expectation of productivity and efficiency).

Move from per-designed spaces (industrial era type, where some agents think and others do, specialized containers) to free spaces, where emergence can occur. Intentional space for example are more emergent, if the intention is clear, the space will take shape. Metadesign - design a space for emergence, to predictably engineer emergence.

Related to culture

Onboarding is an intake process, adding new agents to an organization. Agents carry with them values and worldviews and have habits. It is important to match the intake process with the organizational needs and requirements in terms of its own culture (values and habits). Thus, the outreach process needs to act as a filter to select agents that share the organizational culture. Furthermore, the onboarding process needs to provide accustoming opportunities, i.e. programs for exposing agents to the organizational culture, transfer of values and generate new habits.

Patterns to avoid

  • tribal (us vs them),
  • competition,
  • lala land (everything is pink or dark, no feedback, fake emotions),
  • corruption (collusion, unfair extraction),
  • control (exercise influence, exploit, bullying),
  • mind control (hijack someone’s mind),
  • monopoly (come on top, dominate, become a hub),
  • means justify the end (gains over anything, psychopath),
  • mistrust (paranoia) / predation,
  • paralysis (inaction, wait for others to do it, lack of task ownership or responsibility),


Traditional spaces welcome new agents at the bottom of a scale, presenting them with a process to move up. As such, the first feeling is being worthless. In other words, these environments put forward "zeros and minuses" and provide processes to move the agent into the pluses, i.e. need to learn, to prove, gain reputation, acquire rights, generate wealth, etc.

We advocate environments of pluses (not minuses), that allows people to recognize or discover qualities and strengths. An environment that encourages participation. We also advocate for environments that express (make explicit) a multidimensional wealth (new forms of wealth) and that are flexible enough to establish new flows using signals from the edges. Spaces where you don’t start at zero and need to rise up to a given level to be enabled as a productive agent, an environment where you already are enabled by recognizing that you have potential based on what you carry with you.

Dealing with unknowns

Most traditional onboarding process out there are built on a pattern of matchmaking the agent's offers with the organizational needs. Open organizations are also sensitive to fact that voluntary participation is only possible if the organization caters to agents' needs. Therefore open organizations (communities and networks) improve the previously mentioned pattern by reversing the relationship: matchmaking the agent's offers with the organizational needs, and viceversa.

Platform type organizations use a market pattern, where agents with needs and wants are put into contact and transactions among them are facilitated. Some open organizations can also implement such market patterns.

But all these approaches for onboarding suffer from an important flow: the assumption that agents know what they have to offer and what they need. This is far from being the case! These approaches assume perfect agents, they are based on a naive representation of a social network, similar to naive economies where we assume rational agents.

People don’t always understand what they have to offer or what they need and the same can be said for organizations. So we need en environment that can process the individual and organizational unknowns. the environment needs to stimulates discovery on the agent side (what can be offered in this context and how the agent can benefit from it) and it must provide pathways for organizational adaptation, to include and operationalize feedback from every new onboarding experience, in terms of new formulations of organizational needs and offers.

We advocate for a wayfinding approach (closer to p2p) rather than a waylaying (quest, you are a zero, ambushed) approach.

Hierarchy of awarness

New comers have immediate access to the first bottom layers, but limited access to to top layers. the on-boarding process must provide access to the higher layers, so that there can be better coordination between actors.

Hierarchy of awarness