New paper published on the Hyperloop project

How is modern-day IT changing the nature of the firm? Together with Professors Ann Majchrzak and Terri Griffith from the U.S., David Reetz and Prof. Dr.  Oliver Alexy, professor for Strategic Entrepreneurship at TUM School of Management, studied this intriguing question by looking at the Hyperloop project, in which also students from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and TUM School of Management, the WARR Hyperloop team, are involved more broadly. Studying Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), the team enquired how a largely volunteer-based organization – a core team of about 50 people, extended by about 30,000 infrequent contributors – could tackle such a complex problem as building a high speed transportation system. “The difficult thing,” so David Reetz, “is not the technology – much of that exists. The challenge is to organize all the moving parts of the project. For example, if I make an unexpected design change to the pod, could that also impact the tube, the stilts, or any other part of the project. Ultimately, how do I combine all these parts in a way that the Hyperloop system becomes affordable?” What the team found is that HTT’s core team made a series of unorthodox choices regarding the organization design of HTT, which jointly allow the firm to thrive. “When you want to involve large crowds of people via the Internet, the standard recommendation is usually to split work into very small chunks, which individuals can then pick if it matches their skills,” says Professor Alexy. “HTT does it entirely differently: Given it is not clear what the best overall structure of work is, HTT often keeps tasks larger and vaguer than we would usually see in crowdsourcing. Then, given the size of its community, many potential solutions will arise, showing the many potential combinations there are possible. In this way, HTT and its community learn both about how the different parts of the work need to be connected, and whether solutions to one specific problem fit well into the overall picture.” The team sees HTT as a potential forerunner to a gig economy, a term describing a kind of work, in which individuals will not necessarily work permanently for one firm, but rather hop between projects they acquire by themselves, open calls, or existing software platforms such as elance.

The WARR Hyperloop project is a student initiative from the Technical University of Munich. The team consists of 45 members from 16 different countries and seven different faculties. It was formed in 2015 in response to SpaceX’s call for pod prototypes and won the first SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition in January 2017, as well as the second Hyperloop Pod competition in August 2017. The Hyperloop is a high-speed train that travels in a near-vacuum tube and it is a new and efficient transportation concept for today’s urban society.

The whole paper can be found here.

More information on the WARR Hyperloop project can be found here.

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