Why Flash Mobs May Be Coming to the Office


Stanford researchers are touting the possibilities of Flash Teams.


While meaning may outweigh efficiency with today’s workforce, tight deadlines and last-minute projects haven’t slowed down. Redefining the workplace also requires that we periodically revisit the way we take on projects.

Enter the flash team. Derived from the flash mob movement, the flash team is a spontaneous group of people that, rather than provide entertainment, tackles projects in the workplace.

It may sound like something out of a comic book, but researchers from Stanford University believe it could lead to greater productivity and efficiency completing team-oriented tasks—if they can work out all the kinks. Operating somewhere between temps and focus groups, flash teams are flexible; they are hired to complete a project and then vanish. If it works, it could meet the demands of remote employees, start-ups, or small companies who need additional help with complex tasks on a by-project basis.

Because the tasks are more complex than an assembly line and because they target corporate, often technology-based jobs, the members of the flash team are chosen for their individual skills that can contribute to the project without extensive background knowledge or training from the employer. Each expert in the group is responsible to work on his own part of the project simultaneously. Tasks and workflows are moderated by a DRI (Directly Responsible Individual), who acts as a project manager and a liaison between the employer and the group. This person is responsible for seeing through the project’s completion.

The flash teams that proved successful in the Stanford experiment were created for tasks ranging from design to animation to education. While the concept is still being developed, and critical issues like accountability remain undefined, flash teams could mark a new wave in employment if they prove to be successful.