The BetaCodex Network was founded in early 2008. This is the story of what led to the network’s foundation, and of what followed. This is not the definitive story of the BetaCodex movement. Instead, is a story that we think illustrates the context, the events and their outcomes well enough to serve as an introduction to the movement’s roots and accomplishments.
A turning point
This story begins not with Beta, however, but with a think tank called the Beyond Budgeting Round Table, BBRT. Over the course of the year 2007, roughly nine years into the BBRT’s existence, it became apparent that the Beyond Budgeting movement was stuck. It needed to change, urgently, in order to fulfill the promise of what was back then referred to as “the Beyond Budgeting model.”
The initiating moment for the foundation of the BetaCodex Network was a work gathering of six Beyond Budgeting Round Table directors in Basel, Switzerland, in December 2007. Before that meeting and during the meeting, a bold new vision and mission for the BBRT was drafted. That vision was quite simple. It said: “The Beyond Budgeting model is the standard management model.” What that meant is: The movement would aspire to turn “its model” into the natural choice of organizing for organizations of all kinds, everywhere. That new aspiration made sense to everyone at the meeting: The vision was bold. It was clear. It was “true”. It made sense.
Some other great ideas for the further development of the movement were dashed out during that session in Basel, too. Spirits were up. Then something awkward happened: When the group of directors came to vote on approving and installing the new vision and mission statement, both were rejected by a majority of the individuals from the director’s group. The reasons for rejecting the new vision and mission, it turned out, had to to with very personal motives and preferences. No more. No less. But, as it were, the attempt to transform the Beyond Budgeting think tank in order to become something greater, more ambitious and more relevant had failed.
The meeting’s uncomfortable outcome resulted in the immediate retirement of Robin Fraser, one of the “founding fathers” of the Beyond Budgeting movement, from the BBRT. Robin Fraser had been one of two leading figures in the BBRT’s transformational wing. The other figure of that wing was Niels Pflaeging, who at the time had served as BBRT director for five years, since 2003. Gebhard Borck, who had attended the Basel meeting as a guest and as a potential new BBRT director, decided, together with Niels Pflaeging, to go into another direction than Robin Fraser: Not “out”, but “ahead”. The two decided that the Basel meeting should be the starting-point of something new. Something bold, energizing and exciting.
In response to what had happened in Basel, Niels and Gebhard decided, together with Valérya Carvalho, to pick up the challenge of the freshly developed vision and mission statement, and initiate the foundation of a new network, separate from the BBRT. A more international and more welcoming, more open kind of network. It would be an association that would not just “talk” Beyond Budgeting, but that would also walk the talk. A network that would hat would not just be about conversation, but, instead, “make it real!”. Initially, this new network initiated by Valérya, Gebhard and Niels would be called the Beyond Budgeting Transformation Network, BBTN.
A new beginning (2008 – 2018)
Between April and December 2008, Niels and Gebhard worked on generating initial content for the network, based on their previous research and consulting work and focusing on what they thought could be starting points for positioning the network. This resulted in the first five network white papers. The three founders also tried to solve the riddle of how to take the model open source. In late 2008, the three arrived at the conclusion, together with help from a few peers, that all commercial interest should be strictly and permanently separated from the network.
Finally, in 2009, the new name and brand for the model and the network were established. Plans for a rather complicated, multi-tier membership concept were abandoned. All ranks, titles or positions, such as the title of “director”, were scrapped. The network, if it were to be truly open source, would not have any formal hierarchy. Its finances would not be based on membership fees, either.
The first web portal of the network, designed by Valérya and Niels, was launched at the end of 2009. It featured a social network community forum, which was eventually transferred to LinkedIn, in 2017. The website also showcased a great deal of BetaCodex content. The publication of the BetaCodex Network white papers is especially noteworthy, in this context: The white papers (14 in total, over the first 10 years, plus two “special edition” papers) attracted over half a million views during that period. Starting in 2014, some of the books published by BetaCodex Network associates became best-sellers: notably Organize for Complexity (2014) by Niels Pflaeging, published in seven languages), and Komplexithoden (2015, by Silke Hermann and Niels, so far in German only).
During the years 2011 and 2015, key “Beta” concepts such as Change-as-Flipping and OrgPhysics were first idealized and developed by Silke and Niels. The array of available content was broadened further with the launch of the current web presence, which went live in early 2018. This website was developed by Sebastian Blum and Bjoern Janssen, together with Niels. A Slack presence and a discussion forum on Slack were created, in order to make network activity more visible, and to nudge it further into truly becoming a movement.
From 2018 onward:
The present and the future of the network
The years 2018 to 2023 brought a new dynamic to the network. More people became actively involved. BetaCodex online forums like LinkedIn and Xing continued, but Slack became the platform for interaction and joint work. New Twitter accounts for the network were established, as well as a BetaCodex Network YouTube channel. The network initiated a bunch of local meetup groups, and online meetup series too, first in German, then in English.
A substantial review and update of the 12-item BetaCodex itself was undertaken by Silke Hermann and Niels Pflaeging in 2018. Around the same time, several new, BetaCodex-based social technologies were published under open source licenses by Red42 – the company founded by Silke and Niels around their joint BetaCodex work. The four social technologies published by Red42 are:
- OpenSpace Beta (2018) – for very fast, robust organizational Beta transformation. You can watch the recording from the 5th OpenSpace Beta anniversary event here.
- Cell Structure Design (2019)– for decentralized organizational design, leaderships and consistent self-organization. Never have the concepts of organizational decentralization and functional integration been outlined as succinctly.
- LearningCircles by Red42 (2020) – for organizational learning on the edge of org development. This social technology led to the foundation of qomenius.
- Relative Targets (2021) – for complexity-robust performance systems. This powerful social technology builds on insights originated in the BBRT’s research from the early 2000’s.
White papers on the groundbreaking change concepts Very Fast Organizational Transformation and Change-as-Flipping were published in 2019. The first Beta transformations that applied the OpenSpace Beta approach consistently happened in the same year. More and more companies are now referring to the BetaCodex as “their design principles.”
In late 2022, the network membership model was reconfigured. We now define collaborative research as the core network activity. Everybody who wishes to be associated with the network and movement can join a research project or create one, in principle. We also added a code of conduct to the website. Our expectation is that the community will be able to create a growing and thriving portfolio of research projects, publications and other activities aimed at sharing and disseminating the insights gained.
In May 2023, the network started the weekly BetaCodex LIVE series, presented by Rijon Erickson and Niels Pflaeging. In July, the 19th BetaCodex Network research paper was released under the title “Cell Structure Design Patterns”. The Laws of the BetaCodex booklet was published by BetaCodex Press, in the same month.
Are you going to contribute to the continuation of this story? For more about how to join, visit the network’s membership page.