A Manifesto for the Platform Organization

4 Beliefs and 11 Design Principles to design adaptable, evolving, and future-proof platform organizations that can thrive through the challenges of 21st-century markets.

Simone Cicero

Emanuele Quintarelli

Luca Ruggeri

May 08, 2024


In today’s networked and ever-changing economy, traditional organizational models are increasingly supplanted by more fluid, dynamic, and participatory structures. The platform organization stands out as a model of resilience and innovation, leveraging deeply integrated ecosystems to drive growth and adaptability.

This manifesto outlines four foundational beliefs and eleven design principles for organizations wanting to adopt a platform organization model. This model is crucial for any organization aiming to harness the full potential of its human capital and technological capabilities.

As a company or institution that wants to embark on a journey to become a Platform Organization, you must be culturally aligned with the four beliefs that should be widely shared and adopted as common ideas. These beliefs need to be things that the organization’s leaders believe profoundly and that the workforce is enthusiastic about.

The eleven design principles can be used as guiding questions and provocations as you embark on your organizational evolution. This question, “Are we complying with the principle in our current organizational design?” will encourage you towards a more ambitious evolution.



The Four Beliefs of the Platform Organization

  1. Cooperation around aligned incentives trumps hierarchy

Hierarchical decisions can stifle innovation and agility. In a platform organization, conflicts are better managed by aligning each party’s objectives and market needs, rather than top-down mandates. This approach enhances flexibility and aligns the organization with marketplace demands without centralizing control in the hands of actors who may lack key information.

  1. Every individual is an entrepreneurial powerhouse

Each organization member is seen as an entrepreneur with the potential to drive change and create value. The organization unleashes innovation and creativity to respond dynamically to market challenges and opportunities by empowering individuals.

  1. Successful innovation comes from cultivating optionality through economies of scope.

Platform organizations thrive on diversity and innovation by cultivating multiple options instead of limiting themselves to economies of scale. This approach enhances adaptability and resilience through diversity.

  1. An architecture of enabling constraints favors innovation

The platform organization functions in an enabling, not controlling, role. The organization can channel efforts toward productive and innovative outcomes by setting broad guidelines that foster innovation while constraining detrimental behaviors.




The Eleven Design Principles of the Platform Organization

(1) Empower as many as possible to create value.

Everyone should have the autonomy to take action and responsibility without needing permission, as long as they can positively impact the customer and market. This empowerment fosters a proactive, entrepreneurial culture, reduces the time to market, and enhances the quality and relevance of offerings.




(2) Prevent scapegoating.

Resource allocation and decision-making authority should align with the expectation that teams and individuals achieve certain market success objectives. No one should be held responsible for a certain result without the capability to achieve it. If possible, Organizational Units should be allowed to hire the right people, receive the right amounts of capital (even from outside the organization), and summon the right resources to achieve objectives, even if it means sourcing services outside. This reduces blame and enhances collaboration, accountability, and focus on results.





(3) Create economies of scale around standard and reusable items and services.

The organization can scale efficiently and focus innovative efforts on areas that truly differentiate it in the market while standardizing and reusing components and common shared services.





(4) Avoid hierarchies and stable structures for agreements and contracts.

Flexible agreements and dynamic contracts should replace rigid hierarchies and stable structures to adapt swiftly to new challenges and opportunities and prevent players from extracting positional rents. Avoiding command and control hierarchies prevents organizational debt, such as institutionalized bad performance, mediocrity tolerance, and unjustified value extraction.





(5) Favor clear interfaces over complex processes

Implement straightforward and actionable interfaces for accessing internal services and products between units. By minimizing the complexity of collaboration policies and avoiding ambiguous interaction methods, you promote efficient exchanges under clear conditions for all stakeholders, thereby reducing the time and effort spent on renegotiating agreements.





(6) Enable competitive bidding vs monopolies.

Fostering competition within the organization prevents monopolies and encourages continuous improvement, driving down costs and enhancing service quality. Organizational entities should bid to participate in opportunities and negotiate upsides and downsides with the opportunity creators. Enforcing a monopoly of one particular entity in a task, area, or topic is a risky pattern that must be considered carefully in a platform organization.




(7) Maximize transparency 

Embracing open books for financial information and making product and customer information accessible across teams discourages secrecy and fosters an inclusive, transparent organizational culture. This approach improves decision-making and product design and maximizes available information.





(8) Encourage common languages

Facilitating communities of practice around shared product and service taxonomies and visually representing portfolios and strategies helps standardize communication, enhancing shared strategic understanding and collaboration.





(9) Whenever possible, allow ‘skin in the game’.

Aligning the interests of individuals and teams with the organization’s success through revenue-sharing or profit-sharing rewards enhances engagement and accountability. By tying rewards directly to market outcomes, everyone becomes responsible for capital and resource allocation, ensuring they face the consequences of their decisions. This alignment fosters a culture of shared success and collective responsibility.




(10) Let those who produce market value manage part of such value

Individuals or teams creating market value through growth and innovation should manage outcomes. They have a first-hand and likely better idea of resource use and should be able to cultivate and demonstrate their strategy, management, and execution skills.





(11) Always consider rules as evolving.

The organization must remain agile, with rules and policies evolving based on feedback and changing conditions. This adaptability prevents stagnation and ensures alignment with the environment.






This manifesto is a blueprint for organizations aiming to become platform-oriented in their operations and culture. Applying these principles and beliefs must meet organizational realities, but they should drive the organizational development ethos and be recognized as key guides.

By adopting these beliefs and design principles, organizations can create a vibrant, innovative environment that adapts to, anticipates, and shapes market dynamics. The future belongs to those who are flexible, collaborative, and entrepreneurial—qualities embodied by the platform organization.

Simone Cicero

Emanuele Quintarelli

Luca Ruggeri

May 08, 2024

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