Dark Horse – on shared power and novel work approaches.

Lateral thinkers, children and geniuses have a lot in common – they tend to confound expectations. And while the outcome might strike us as unusual, it is often all the more exciting.
Text: Ji-Hun Kim
Photos: Lukasz Wolejko-Wolejszo

Lateral thinking.

Take Berlin-based agency Dark Horse, a paragon of turning traditional company culture on its head – and then some. By having 30 founding partners with equal say, for example. Surely a recipe for disaster? Not in the least, as proven by several years of successful business. Join us for a peek behind the scenes. Out meeting takes place in a spacious third-floor office of a busy Berlin-Kreuzberg business hub: Here, sociologists, humanities graduates, business economists, designers, engineers, philosophers, journalists, nutritionists and IT specialists have found their respective niche between an Italian coffee maker, office dog, cosy lounge corner and raised loft bed for the odd after-lunch power nap.

Yet what might, at first glance, resemble a coworking space – where everyone pursues their own freelance dreams – is actually a bona-fide firm. Dark Horse is a slightly different kind of agency. One of its key differentiators are the 30 equal founding partners and entrepreneurs – no bosses, no managers, no hierarchies. Decisions that affect everyone are taken in unison. Think shared power. And while some may call this concept crazy, others consider it a revolution of the workplace.

Easy and direct.

One of these founding members is Jasper Grote. All around us, his colleagues devour thin-crust pizza topped with sweet potato. Every once in a while, the office pooch greets new arrivals with a bark or two. The laid-back atmosphere is marked by gentle and respectful interactions with little indication of the archetypal high-stress or stressed agency buzz. And if we didn’t know him for a marketing expert, we wouldn’t be surprised to spot Jasper Grote selling organic burritos at a nearby street food stall. “Maybe, what we do is less important than how we do it”, says Grote who also teaches at Potsdam. “First of all, we are an agency for innovation. We develop innovative services, concepts, products and strategies for companies – or we help them to become more innovative themselves. Furthermore, we highlight methods and approaches to improve their company culture.”

Shared Power.

So, how does this ‘how’ differ from other methods? “When it comes to start-ups or founding a company, the going wisdom suggests to never found something with friends, to make sure that there are no more than three founders and to pour all of your time and energy into this new enterprise. Instead, we took the opposite route.

Thank God It’s Monday.

Dark Horse has 30 founding partners, we have been great friends for years and every single one of us is free to decide when and how often to join the work.” Meanwhile, Dark Horse have published their own tome on working culture and innovation, “Thank God It’s Monday“, which states – among others – that while solutions may be ingenious, mistakes can be even more inspired. “Many of the business people and decision-makers we meet have – during their studies and working life – learned how to avoid mistakes.

We think the opposite is beneficial. You don’t only learn from mistakes; mistakes can generate scope for completely new opportunities and creative potential”, adds Grote. Well, who knows: “Thank God It’s Monday“ might even become the future standard manual for company culture and young founders.

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