Last Friday we kicked off the Unboard—a mechanism to broaden participation in the management and strategic direction of the company. This is not our first experiment along these lines, with mixed results. But the Unboard is different and novel enough that it might do the trick.


Nearsoft is ranked as a Most Democratic Workplace and we’re always looking for ways to get everybody involved at all levels of decisions. As a small company it’s been easy enough to get a couple of people around food or drinks and discuss our latest challenges. However, as we grow, it gets harder to keep track of who’s interested in what.

At one of our Friday Talks, we talked about this and a proposal came up which eventually took shape as the Unboard. In the spirit of the Uncola and Unconferences, an Unboard, then, is an untypical “Board” for,

people … who are generally free-thinking, inquisitive and apt to rebel against authoritative structures
[from the Library of Congress blog]


Traditional Boards have a fixed number of seats reserved for the high and mighty, with fixed meeting dates, and held behind closed doors. We propose that the Unboard meets as needed, driven by specific issues, embodied by the people most passionate about a particular topic and be streamed live openly.

Like Unconferences, Unboards are,

designed from the outset to be spontaneous, participant-driven and democratically directed. First of all, they’re fun! Secondly, they offer an informal environment for people to share exploratory work and to test ideas.
[from the Library of Congress blog]

Each meeting of the Unboard will focus on a set of issues submitted by the Nearsoft folks. Anybody can then become part of the deliberations if they feel passionate enough about it.


VPO sleepingWe spend more time at the office (virtual or otherwise) than we do at home. The office is the place where people work, eat, play, read, chat, and even sleep. It had better be an agreeable place that is not only comfortable and pleasant, but should also be enjoyable and healthy in every sense.

This is how the Unboard was described in our Yammer network,

  • What?
    It is a shared forum where we can express and expose any suggestion or issue we may have about our workplace. It is not a social network to discuss random topics. Rather, if you have an issue that you want to discuss or resolve, posted on the Unboard agenda and we’ll discuss it at our next meeting. These issues can be about the company’s operations or strategy.
  • Why?
    We need people to commit to creating and evolving this mechanism, to broaden participation in identifying and deciding on Nearsoft’s operational and strategic issues.
  • How?
    There is a Google spreadsheet to keep track of items up for discussion. Any of us can post to this document, either directly or via a form. We will review the list every week at the Friday talk and decide if and when the next meeting will take place.
  • Who?
    You, me, and everybody else. In any other way this effort won’t last long and will be unsuccessful. We need full support from every individual and their willingness to cooperate!

So, Will This Work?

Yes, if we all help by sharing our points of view and acknowledging the points of view of others. Most importantly, we must realize that only by collaborating we can make this a better place to work for everybody; we will be directly improving our own work environment and making this office more enjoyable for all of us.

Let’s take the initiative to get ahead of potential problems (before they find us) and to innovate on how to make a Great Place to Work even greater.