Swarmwise – The Tactical Manual To Changing The World. Chapter Six.

The swarm must have mechanisms for conflict resolution, for decision making, and for reward culture. There are many ways to accomplish this. A traditional voting democracy is one of the worst.

We can easily observe that, in any organization, it happens that one person wants to limit what another person in the organization can do. This creates a conflict. In general, there are four ways to resolve this situation.

You can say that no person in the swarm has the right to limit what another can do. This would be the typical swarmthink, at least as far as nonscarce resources are involved. (When it comes to money, in case the swarm has any, decisions need to be made.)

You could also determine that 51 percent of the swarm has the right to exercise power over 49 percent of the swarm, which would be a meeting-and-voting scenario. This is not only counter to swarmthink, but it also creates a culture of fear of losing rather than a culture of empowerment and action.

You could also go with the principle of somebody having the final decision. Ruling over others by decree is not only completely counter to swarmthink, but it doesn’t work in the first place, as people are volunteers and, quite frankly, do whatever they want.

Finally, you can say that everybody has the power of veto for decisions. While this creates significant border-setting problems with regard to exactly who constitutes “everybody,” it is one of the most inclusive ways to get volunteers on board once that problem has been solved. However, it only works well for smaller subgroups (30 or less people).

Let’s take a look at each of these four mechanisms.

First, let’s discard ruling by decree as effective. That is not how a swarm works, and it would establish you (or other decision-makers) as a bottleneck for everything the swarm needed to do, disabling the swarm’s speed, trust, and scale advantages. It also assumes that the ordered person accepts the decree, which she or he has no reason at all to do, being a volunteer of his or her own free will.

This leads us to the next method of conflict resolution, voting. Internal democracy is often heralded as a praise-be-all because it leads to legitimacy in the elected decision makers. This is true for a country, and paramount on that stage: when citizens don’t perceive their legislators as legitimate, a situation is created which can get quite messy. Democracy has never been the state constitution of choice because of its ability to bring forward the best and wisest managers of a country, but because it has the best ability to stave off disastrous managers, and because the resulting choice of manager has a perceived legitimacy in an environment where all citizens find themselves subjected to the rules of that country.

But legitimacy in a swarm is quite different from legitimacy in a country. People cannot realistically choose to not be in a country, but people do choose to be part of a swarm or not be part of it. Therefore, legitimacy in the decision making of the swarm comes through the fact that people are volunteers in the first place and choose to be part of the swarm, with all the values that come with it.

Therefore, we are free to focus on the conflict resolution mechanisms that produce the best delivery potential for the swarm as a whole. In order for a swarm to function, people need to be happy about being part of it. There is a need to make everybody feel like a winner for pursuing their individual goals through the swarm, rather than choosing to stand outside it.

Here, we arrive at the important key insight:

The process of voting creates losers.

People who become losers are not happy.

Happy people are productive, enthusiastic, and good activists. Therefore, we want happy people.

When it comes to a traditional internal democracy, which is the dangerously easy way out for any conflict resolution, there are important drawbacks and side effects to be aware of. People who anticipate a voting process prepare themselves for the possibility of losing — so they become motivated by fear of losing personally, rather than motivated by the joy of building the swarm that furthers their personal goals.

This distortion of motivation in a voting scenario will cause such activists to behave in a completely different pattern than if they were focused entirely on the end goals of the swarm. It creates a significant shift to defensive stances at the individual level that are harmful to the swarm’s ability to function. We’ll be returning to why.

So, in effect, there are two good ways to resolve conflicts in a swarm.

The first is organizational, and means that we negate the possibility of one person determining what another can do in the first place. Nobody gets to tell anybody else what to do. This is the norm for a swarm. Some people call it a “do-ocracy.”

The second effective method is a consensus-making decision process where everybody can veto the way forward. This method is much more costly, but can (and should) be used in rare and carefully selected scenarios where the number of people concerned is graspable – typically 30 or less. Be careful with establishing consensus decisions as an organizational requirement, though – it would be extremely cheap for an adversary to kill the operational ability of the swarm by putting one person in the group to veto every significant decision.

Once you have clarified to the swarm that these conflict resolution methods are the ones we use, some people will insist that internal democracy with voting brings legitimacy to decision making. But there is an important underlying assumption at work here: that the collective makes better decisions than the individual activists. As we have seen, the swarm organization relies on the exact opposite.

The values we desire in a swarm are inclusion, diversity, and empowerment. But if we are voting on something, we are limiting the minority — not empowering them. We are letting a 51 percent majority decide what a 49 percent minority cannot do, things that the 49 percent believe would further the swarm’s goals. It is therefore highly demoralizing. Also, we are limiting diversity, as the swarm might need that crazy 5 percent of activists to succeed in a very specialized social context that only they understand, in order to create the perfect storm of different social contexts that cooperate toward succeeding with the swarm’s end goal. Voting as a concept closes and eliminates this route to success. Finally, a swarm is legitimate only because it lets every individual include himself or herself on his or her own terms in order to further the swarm’s goals.

Therefore, “democratic legitimacy” is a contradiction in terms in a swarm organization. The process of voting actively reduces the legitimacy of decision making and involvement, and should be avoided as much as possible.

Instead, let’s look more at the other two methods we just highlighted.


People accustomed to voting as a catchall panacea will initially have a hard time adjusting to a swarm meritocracy, as they won’t get to determine what others shall do and not do. But this concept — that no person can have a say over any other — is part of the swarm’s core values.

In a democratic conflict resolution system, individual influence is achieved by the group waiting for a decision point and then voicing individual opinions at that point in time. In a swarm, there is no waiting and there are no such decision points. Rather, influence is achieved by individual leadership and individual appreciation — if you think something needs to be done, you just do it, without asking anybody. If other people think that your initiative is good, they will join in of their own accord. If not, they go elsewhere. Thus, the person taking an appreciated initiative gains immediate influence, which gives the swarm as a whole a tremendous momentum and learning speed.

This has sometimes been expressed as “the law of two feet”: It is every activist’s right and responsibility to go where he or she feels he or she can contribute the most and, at the same time, get the most in return as an individual. If there is no such place within this particular swarm, an activist will leave the swarm and go elsewhere.

(Just for the record, the law applies equally to people in wheelchairs, disabled veterans, and people who otherwise don’t have two actual feet.)

There is no shame for an activist in leaving an activity where he or she cannot contribute and going elsewhere. Quite to the contrary: it is expected and seen as showing respect for the other participants in the activity, who won’t have to keep including somebody who doesn’t feel he or she can contribute.

In this way, the swarm will take initiatives all of its own that further the swarm’s end goal. Activists will gravitate to where they see that they can contribute. And from the founder’s perspective, beautiful things just happen without any need for central control or orders.


The tricky part can be to establish a meritocracy in an environment where people aren’t used to it. Again, this can be established through leadership — using the principle of teaching by example, and allowing others to learn through observation. In a swarm, people will copy the behavior of those with a perceived influence. As the swarm’s founder, you have the highest amount of initial such influence.

I solved this by establishing the already-mentioned three-pirate rule immediately, which was later set in stone as a core organizational principle in the Swedish Pirate Party. As I explained it then, people didn’t need to ask permission, and the concept went beyond that: they were specifically banned from doing so. Their own judgment was the best available in the organization for their own social context, and they were required to use that judgment rather than aspiring to hide behind somebody else’s greenlighting.

Asking permission, after all, is asking somebody else to take responsibility — no, accountability — for your actions. But the person asked is in a worse position to make an informed decision, and so may need to gather data to be comfortable with taking on this accountability. This creates delays and fosters insecurity in the organization.

The key insight here is that even the largest and most rigorous processes can screw up monumentally, to the point where the rest of the world asks out loud what they were thinking. To take a concrete example, one of Sweden’s largest labor unions did a large-scale campaign with the slogan “Work gives you freedom.” This was a multimillion-euro project by one of the largest organizations in the country.

Of course, the billboards came back down again and ads went off the air in the blink of an eye as soon as somebody pointed out the slight…lack of propriety…in the labor union using the same slogan as the Auschwitz extermination camp had used in World War II.

Another very honorable mention concerns the huge hospital landlord Locum, which is a Latin name meaning “place” or “location”. In the Christmas ads of 2001, they decided to advertise big. Their logo looks like this, just having their company name in lowercase:

Locum, recreated logo

However, for this particular occasion, the company decided to portray themselves as a warm and friendly company, and therefore replaced the small “o” in their logo with a big red heart. Then, they plastered the result in full-color advertisements in the biggest Swedish media. I’ll leave it to you to picture what message the altered logo actually conveyed in those full-color ads.

While these may be humorous episodes on the surface, at the expense of somebody else’s facepalming, there’s an important lesson here, too. These are thoroughly bureaucratic organization with stratospherically high budgets that a swarm can never dream of.

If this kind of rich organization can make that monumental a mistake, then no amount of advance checking can safeguard against making mistakes. Once you realize this, that some percentage of things will go wrong no matter how many safeguards and checkpoints you put in place, and that this percentage is fairly constant beyond the most basic of sanity checks, then you can go into a comfortable zen mode with regard to trusting and empowering others.

For if it doesn’t matter how many safeguards you put in place against PR gaffes, there is no point to bother with such safeguards in the first place. Instead, you can focus on optimizing the swarm for speed, trust, and scalability, and we can communicate to the swarm that mistakes will happen, and when they do, we fix them, learn from them, and move on.

My approach for a very basic sanity check was to have three people agree on an idea as good for the swarm. One person can come up with ludicrous ideas, but I’ve never seen two more people agree on such ideas. This was simple, communicable, and effective, yet enough to retain the full speed and agility of the swarm.

But this attitude has another very positive effect. By communicating clearly that in this swarm, you’re not only allowed to make mistakes, but expected to do so from time to time, you encourage the bold attitude required to change the world. You need not only your own crazy ideas, but the crazy ideas of many others to succeed, and you need to create the climate where they are welcome and rewarded.


This part is absolutely paramount to communicate to your officers in the scaffolding supporting the swarm — that mistakes are not only allowed, but expected, and when they happen, we learn from them. (It’s a different thing to tolerate somebody making the same mistake over and over, or sabotaging the swarm deliberately, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.)

When forming a swarm, everybody is venturing into unknown territory. By definition, it’s a trial-and-error venture. Everybody is breaking new ground in changing the world in a way that has not been tried before — both on the individual and the organizational level.

Since this has not been tried before, there is no right answer or concrete experience to fall back on. Everything done has, to some extent, never been tried before. Therefore, by necessity, it becomes obvious that a lot of things tried won’t work out. However, a small portion of the initiatives tried will work out amazingly well, and the swarm will learn from those and build further on them.

The conclusion here is that you must allow things to be tried. The good stuff won’t appear if you don’t allow the bad stuff to be tried, too. You only know which is which once they’ve had a chance to work out.

But it’s not enough to allow things to be tried. We have discussed the importance of optimizing the swarm for speed — as in minimizing the time from somebody’s idea to somebody’s action. But to truly outrun the competition, you need to minimize the iteration cycle — the time from a failure to the next attempt at succeeding. Make it possible to learn and try again, learn again and try again, and so on, and communicate that this is not only allowed, but expected.

Failures are expected, but with every failure comes a learning experience. In almost every organization, a number of failures are a prerequisite for an ultimate success with a particular activity. Make it possible to make those failures in as short a time as possible, minimizing the iteration cycle, and your success will come sooner.

Also, it’s not necessary to speak of failures, as most people won’t see a failure — they will see something that went reasonably OK, but which can be done even better the next time. That’s also the appropriate mind-set for maintaining a positive attitude.

With all this said of a meritocracy or a “do-ocracy,” there are some instances where parts of the swarm really may need to work as a cohesive group, rather than as individuals following the law of two feet. Collective decision making is always hard, and, as previously discussed, democracy creates losers. This begs the question; is there a method for collective decision making in a small group that doesn’t create losers? There is not just one, but several. I have a very powerful experience with one such method.


One good mechanism for arriving at a decision in a (defined) group is called a consensus circle. Rather than focusing on fear of losing through voting, which will cause people who fear losing to just stall what they think is a bad decision, the consensus circle focuses on including everybody and getting people into a constructive mind-set.

I observed this firsthand as we gathered the simulated parliamentary group of the Swedish Pirate Party for a kickoff in the summer of 2010. (We had simulated who might get elected in a sort of best-guess exercise, and, seeing the enormous diversity of the group, we realized that these people needed to learn to work together before getting into parliament, or we might just as well hand out name tags saying “BREAKFAST” on getting elected, as that’s the only name the veteran politicians in other parties would care to learn.) In this kickoff, there was a routine issue the group was in complete disagreement about, and we decided to try to agree on it during the kickoff.

The method as such appears quite simple, but with powerful results: The group gathers in a room. Everybody takes turns speaking about what is important to him or her about the issue, under a time limit of sixty seconds. (It could be forty-five, it could be ninety, but should be thereabouts. Somebody is assigned to use a stopwatch to time the speaking slots.) Everybody can spend his or her sixty seconds however he or she likes: by speaking about the issue at hand, by sitting in silence, by singing an unrelated song, or by dropping to the floor doing push-ups. The idea is that everybody will be discussing the issue, but the point is that each person can spend his or her time slot as he or she likes, and may not be interrupted by anyone during that time slot. Again, empower people. But once the sixty seconds are up, it’s the next person’s turn, going in a circle around the room in one direction of the circle, starting over on coming full circle and giving everybody another time slot, until everybody is in agreement on the issue at hand.

Here’s the important part: everybody has the power of veto over a final decision. One single “no” from any participant is a final “no” for the group as a whole. Therefore, nobody will leave the room as a loser. This creates two very powerful mechanisms: the first is that it forces everybody to find a solution that is acceptable to everybody, and the second is that it slowly releases all fears of leaving the room as a loser, creating a completely different mind-set from the one surfacing when fighting internally.

It is equally important that everybody respects this and doesn’t use any kind of peer pressure whatsoever to make somebody not exercise his or her right of veto. Everybody in the room has the power to block the final decision, and it is everybody’s responsibility to find a solution that isn’t blocked by anyone. Any attempts to belittle somebody’s right to block a decision must be immediately stopped, reinforcing the respect for everybody’s power of veto and the equality in the room.

When we discussed the issue in question in this large group of twenty-five people in the Swedish Pirate Party, it took two full rounds of speaking to see a complete transformation in attitude. Those who had come into the room prepared to stall, fight, and delay a decision out of fear of losing had lost all such sentiments, and displayed inclusion in the decision-making process. This, in turn, made the decision making take considerably less time than if we had used a traditional voting method, even when starting from ridiculously diverse viewpoints and giving everybody the power of veto.

Seeing this transformation of attitude happen in the room — going from a tense, jaw-biting fear of losing and infighting to one of inclusion and a constructive mind-set — was a complete epiphany for me. It was so powerful you could taste it in the air.

“Wow, I never thought this was possible. I was convinced we would be tearing each other’s throats out.” — a participant from the event in question

There’s one more important thing to the consensus circle method: a final decision must not be proposed until it appears absolutely certain that the group will accept it, that nobody will exercise his or her right to veto. If just one person blocks the final decision, the issue may not be discussed any more that day, and the group will not have reached a decision. This is important, as any deviation from this rule would throw the group right back into a factionalizing trench-warfare mind-set.

Now, this method doesn’t solve the problem of how to define the group in question where everybody gets the power of veto. That will be a problem that depends heavily on the very specific situation and context.


Let’s jump to another issue. From the very first day of the swarm, you will have people who claim that the swarm would work much better if it were organized in their favorite manner. More often than not, these people will fall into one of two categories.

The first category is technical people, who see everything as technical building blocks. Everything is logical in their world and can be moved around to achieve different, predictable results. As we have discussed, this way of looking at activists collides completely with swarmthink: activists are first and foremost people, and won’t lend themselves to being moved around in some kind of arbitrary logical structure. They make friends and change the world, and that’s it. The swarm is there to support their making friends and changing the world, not to fit them into a flowchart. The technical people eager to put things into comprehensive boxes will not perceive the swarm as a valid organization at all, as there is a lack of understandable, logical rules, and will seek to fix it by constraining people to roles and duties.

(The lack of understandable, logical rules comes from the simple fact that people are neither understandable nor logical by nature. They are social and passionate.)

The second dangerous type of wannabe “fixers” is the MBA-type people, who can come from large corporations or other bureaucratic institutions (including NGOs with strict internal democracy rules), and who will insist that the swarm must reshape to fit their preconceptions of an organization. The actions of these people roughly fit the saying that “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”; they have seen one way of building an organization that has become the way in their minds. Therefore, this group of people will also regard the swarm as a nonorganization, an invalid organization, something that needs to be fixed, again.

There will be no shortage of people who want to reorganize — or even organize, as they will call it. I call these people “organizational astronauts” derogatorily and intentionally, as they will have missed that any organization at its core is about people, and the more you can use the way people behave naturally to further the swarm’s goals, the faster you move.

The swarm is a disorganization by design. Some would prefer to call it a self-organization. In either case, there’s nobody assigning everybody to boxes, tasks, and activities. That’s why the organization works so well. Organizing it in the manner of organizational astronauts kills the swarm’s ability to function as a swarm.

You need to make absolutely clear to these people that the swarm works by its own consensus, that decisions are made organically by individual activists flowing to and from initiatives of their own accord, and that this swarm is your initiative; if the wannabe fixers and organizational astronauts don’t want to play by the swarm’s rules, they need to use the law of two feet themselves, and go somewhere else.

The swarm’s rules, by the way, are by and large that there are no rules. These people will seek to impose them.


This brings us to the delicate question of scarce resources in the swarm. As it grows, people will start to donate resources to it — servers, money, equipment. If it is a successful swarm, it will have recurring donations and some sort of predictable income.

In accordance with the overall theme of this chapter, some people will insist on “democratic control” over these resources. But again, doing so will turn the swarm into something it is not — there are no formal mechanisms for collective decisions, and there should not be. There are senses of rough consensus created by activists moving between initiatives.

At the end of the day, we have a structure that can handle budgets and money, and that is the supporting scaffolding structure we discussed in chapter 3. It becomes the duty of the officers of the swarm to distribute resources in the most effective way to support the end goals through the initiatives of the activists.

In this particular aspect, the swarm will resemble a traditional top-down organization in terms of allocating its resources in a decentralized manner. You, in control of the swarm’s formal name and resources, allocate budgets to officers, who subdivide their budget in turn.

With this said, once the swarm has any money to speak of, a sizeable chunk of it should be devoted to supporting individual activists’ initiatives where they reclaim expenses after the fact. The swarm lives and dies with the creativity and initiatives of its activists.


The military hands out medals when somebody does something good. This works in an impersonal organization, but a swarm is built on social bonds. So screw medals. Screw shiny trinkets. We can use much more subtle, and effective, ways to reward people in the swarm.

The key thing to rewards from a leadership position is to understand that attention is reward. If you are yelling at somebody who did something bad, you are giving him or her attention, and he or she will adapt his or her behavior to get more attention of the yelling kind. If you are praising somebody who did something good, he or she will adapt his or her behavior to get more attention of the praising kind.

(Now, as we recall from previous chapters, we should not be yelling at people in the first place in a swarm. If we do, people will copy our behavior, and disrespect for others will become an organizational value. A yelling match may be a fun game in the sauna between drunk college students, but it is not a very effective way of running an organization with tens of thousands of volunteers. Rather, I mention it here just to illustrate the point.)

It follows that we reward exemplary activist behavior with our attention, and completely ignore things that we want to see less of. Anything that we focus on in the swarm, for whatever reason, will grow in the swarm. Therefore, if there are behaviors we don’t want to see growing, we should ideally pretend they aren’t even there — block them out from our conscious radar, and spend time rewarding other kinds of behavior.

So what behavior do we want to see growing?

Initiatives. Even initiatives that fail.

Supporting others. Actually, this one is quite important. I frequently emphasize that helping others excel is just as valuable as excelling on your own.

Creativity and sharing ideas.

Helping people get along.

While these are just examples, the criteria for rewards tend to converge on three key factors — helping the energy, the focus, and the passion of the swarm.


At some point, you may want to adjust the goals of the swarm. For a political party, this is almost inevitable. For a single-issue swarm, it is more avoidable. Nevertheless, it creates very difficult problems in the face of the swarm’s disorganization.

In a traditional corporation, this would have happened by executive decree. In a traditional NGO or government, it would have happened by majority vote. How does it happen in a swarm?

Let’s go back to where we discussed motivations of fear. People who invest their time and identity in the swarm do so because they agree with the swarm on a fundamental social level. If the swarm reidentifies itself, that will create a discomfort. Even the aired idea of doing so will create severe discomfort among activists and cause a standstill and a halt to recruiting.

Say, for instance, that you have a swarm focused on going to Mars, and all of a sudden, you air the idea of repurposing the organization to selling mayonnaise instead, and skipping that Mars thing. Arguably, this is a ridiculous example to make a point, but the social and emotional effects will be very similar for the more credible repurposings — even those you think would make perfect sense.

After all, people have joined you in the swarm to accomplish something specific. If the reason they joined no longer exists, what are they doing in the swarm? What are they going to do with all the friendships they have built? What about all the energy and identity vested in the swarm? This creates a fundamental energy crisis with the swarm and an identity crisis with activists who have joined the swarm.

For this reason, if you should ever need to repurpose or regoal the swarm, you need to get a very high level of buy-in for this. You need to be aware that there will be a high degree of pushback, as your new goal or method isn’t why people have joined. The costs will be high, but sometimes, it will also be the only way through, if the swarm has learned that the initially pictured goals or methods for attaining them weren’t possible.

In such a scenario, voting may be the only way through. In doing so, you will create losers, many of whom will leave the swarm permanently with a bitter aftertaste. But if the alternative is to accept the failure of the swarm as a whole, it is still the preferable option.


So at some extreme scenarios, you may still have to use voting. This, I really want to emphasize, should be a last resort through a conscious choice of options that best care for the energy, focus, and inclusiveness of the swarm, given a difficult circumstance, rather than just the default lazy option which is used “just because.” In almost all cases, other mechanisms of conflict resolution are superior, far superior.

This brings up a number of problems. How do you determine who has the right to vote in a loose network? Everybody who wants to? Everybody who has left his or her contact details as an activist? Anybody who is a paid-up member of something? The last option will certainly be perceived as offensive to a lot of activists, for example — that influence can and must be bought and paid for, rather than deserved through effort and ideas, which is the swarm way.

In such a process, it is absolutely imperative that everybody is feeling included. This sounds easier than it is.

There are many ways to exclude people in practice from influencing the final outcome. If you call a physical meeting in a specific location, you exclude the people who are unable to get to that location on that time, for whatever reason. If you choose to discuss and vote during several hours on a Saturday, you are excluding parents who prefer to spend time with their kids. If you instead pick evening hours on weekdays, you will exclude people who work late. If the issue to vote on is reasonably complex, you are excluding people who can’t take themselves the time to absorb the details of it.

Every exclusion is a failure. Just because you don’t see any people being formally excluded, that doesn’t mean people don’t feel excluded. Every exclusion is a failure.

One way of getting around this, which the German Pirate Party has used very successfully, is to allow everybody with formal voting rights to select somebody to vote in his or her place. This voting right can be assigned differently for different issues, and also be assigned in turn, creating a chain of trust to make an informed vote. This taps into the heart of the swarm’s social mechanisms of trusting people and friends, rather than fearing to lose. “Trust over fear.” We like that. That’s swarmthink. The German Pirate Party calls this liquid democracy.

Under this system, somebody could be voting for 1,337 people — herself and 1,336 other people who all have delegated their vote to that person, possibly in several steps. This makes the other 1,336 feel a level of inclusion and influence, even if they can’t attend the discussion or vote — or, frankly, if they would rather be doing activism than administration.

However, the concept of liquid democracy doesn’t solve the problem of determining who should have voting rights in the first place.


In the process of running the organization, you will occasionally discover people who don’t feel they get enough attention from you personally for their ideas on how to run the swarm. (Attention is reward. They feel they’re not rewarded enough.) This is quite likely due to you simply disagreeing with their ideas and not wanting to nurture them.

A particular kind of attention-craving maverick will create a group of followers determined to wreak havoc until they get their way. This can be very disruptive and goes counter to swarmthink, where the best ideas and the best arguments win, rather than the loudest mouths. Still, it is a significant disturbance.

The way to deal with this is not to agree to demands — if you do cave in to get rid of the disturbance, you will teach the entire organization that creating loud disturbances is a very effective way of getting influence in the swarm, and you will start going down a very bumpy road as other people start imitating that behavior. You will never be able to convince the maverick that he or she has bad ideas (and especially so if all he or she wants in the first place is attention for his or her person, rather than recognition for ideas). You will never be able to win that person.

Rather, you need to identify the reward mechanisms within the subgroup that has formed around the maverick. Odds are that they’re forming a group identity around not being recognized as individual activists. You can shatter this identity by recognizing good contributors in the group who are hang-arounds of the maverick; odds are that there are several good contributors in that group who are just temporarily wooed by the maverick’s charisma. If you pick away a couple of key people in this group and recognize them for good earlier work — unrelated to the maverick’s yells — you will isolate the maverick, and the disturbance will lose critical mass.

Always remember that an organization is people, and that attention is reward.

Onward to chapter 7 >>

(This article is part of the final edit of the book manuscript. It is Creative Commons, CC-BY-NC.)


This is a part of the book Swarmwise, available for purchase from Amazon (US, UK) or for download as PDF. It is an instruction manual for recruiting and leading tens of thousands of activists on a mission to change the world for the better, without having access to money, resources, or fame. The book is based on Falkvinge’s experiences in leading the Swedish Pirate Party into the European Parliament, starting from nothing, and covers all aspects of leading a swarm of activists into mainstream success.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. Jennifer

    There are some fascinating ideas here that I have never encountered anywhere else. Learning about the swarm is like studying an alien lifeform. 😉

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Thank you – feel free to spread the word about the book! I hope it should be available in about two weeks (I sent a buglist to the publisher last Thursday, and they should need some 10-15 days to fix that list, and with a bit of luck, that should be the last set of showstoppers before publication).


      1. Nick

        Hey, I want to say that in the current pdf version of the book there are many words and also the last five pages of chapter 8 which are unreadable. I used Skim and Preview on OSX.
        I hope a better version will be released.

        1. Nick

          Correction: I think its only Skim which doesn’t get it right, default reader Preview can do well this time.

        2. Nick

          It’s very strange actually, I was now able to use both applications to read the file completely, I dont know if the bug is in my system or in the pdf file, but just to let you know.

  2. jhhdk

    “… you will isolate the maverick, and the disturbance will lose critical mass.”
    Sounds a bit Machiavellian and arrogant.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Your responsibility is toward the swarm as an organism, not to those who would seek to hijack or disrupt it. People have joined the swarm to achieve a specific result. That’s where your loyalty needs to be, and not to those who crave your personal attention.

      That’s not Machiavellian, or arrogant. That’s doing what you said you would.

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