Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Vergne, Jean-Philippe


The rise of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin is driving a paradigm shift in organization design. Their underlying blockchain technology enables a novel form of organizing, which I call the “decentralized autonomous organization” (DAO). This study explores how tasks are coordinated within DAOs that provide decentralized and open payment systems that do not rely on centralized intermediaries (e.g., banks).

Guided by a Bitcoin pilot case study followed by a three-stage research design that uses both qualitative and quantitative data, this inductive study examines twenty DAOs in the cryptocurrency industry to address the following question: How are DAOs coordinated to enable growth? Results from the pilot study suggest that task coordination within DAOs is enabled by distributed consensus mechanisms at various levels. Further, findings from interview data reveal that DAOs coordinate tasks through “machine consensus” and “social consensus” mechanisms that operate at varying degrees of decentralization. Subsequent fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analyses (fsQCA), explaining when DAOs grow or decline, show that social consensus mechanisms can partially substitute machine consensus mechanisms in less decentralized DAOs.

Taken together, the results unpack how DAO growth relies on the interplay between machine consensus, social consensus, and decentralization mechanisms. To conclude, I formulate three propositions to outline a theory of DAO coordination and discuss how this novel form of organizing calls for a revision of our conventional understanding of task coordination and organizational growth.