Seminar Highlights: Melissa Valentine & Michael Bernstein on Flash Organizations

On November 30th, 2016 the Digital Seminar series hosted Melissa Valentine and Michael Bernstein from Stanford University for a talk titled “Flash Organizations: Crowdsourcing Complex Work Using Reconfigurable Organizational Structures.”

Abstract: The nature of work is being reshaped by computational systems, which increasingly draw on massive online labor markets to hire and direct workers’ behavior at scale. These crowdsourcing systems have accomplished work using pre-defined workflows, but this approach faces a fundamental limit: it can only complete tasks that are so modular and decomposable that they can be entirely pre-defined. Bernstein and Valentine have developed a crowdsourcing system that can achieve open-ended goals by combining the open call recruitment of crowdsourcing with the more sophisticated and reconfigurable coordination affordances of organizations. Their system creates crowd organizations, which automatically hire diverse online experts from massive online labor markets to populate computational structures inspired by organizations (roles, teams, and hierarchies), and then continuously reconfigure these structures to responsively adapt the crowd workers’ activities. Bernstein and Valentine were able to report a deployment in which crowd organizations successfully carried out open-ended product design, software development, and game production. This research demonstrates how computational systems can enable digitally networked organizations that flexibly assemble and reassemble themselves from a globally distributed online workforce to accomplish complex work.

Watch Melissa share her key take-aways from the talk and thoughts on the digital transformation of the economy.

Watch Michael share his key take-aways from the talk and thoughts on the digital transformation of the economy.

Listen to Melissa and Michael’s complete talk on SoundCloud.


  • Michael Bernstein

    Michael is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University, where he is a member of the Human-Computer Interaction group.

  • Melissa Valentine

    Melissa is an Assistant Professor at Stanford University in the Management Science and Engineering Department, and a core faculty member of the Center for Work, Technology, and Organization.