Pay attention to DARPA’s informal process and ignore formal process

For the most part there’s been few changes in the weird things about how DARPA’s program managers work, the incentives and structure of the organization, the funding, and general shape of the process. So it is not worthless to study the modern organization. However, The majority of changes in the ARPA model over time have involved adding more explicit process. Regardless of whether or not those changes are the reason that Most of DARPA’s outlier output happened before 1972 when it was ARPA, they certainly didn’t help. Therefore, if you want to replicate DARPA’s outlier success, it makes sense to pay attention to DARPA’s informal process and ignore formal process.

Usually, formal process is put into place to increase oversight and decrease reliance on trust. Formal process lets people outside the organization trust in the process instead of the people.

This trust-dependence means that it is essential for an organization that seeks to replicate DARPA’s success to start with trust from funders and collaborators outside the organization . This trust-dependence creates a chicken-and-egg situation because by definition new models and organizations do not have a track record and the people who are most likely to create a new game are ones who haven’t won at other games.


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