Chaordic principles from an American Teilhardian

Chaordic principles from an American Teilhardian

Dear Team:

In this final Christmas letter I wish to discuss what Dee Hock the former CEO of VISA International called chaordic principles. Hock was a closet Teilhardian who needed to run a global organization with new rules for a global mind. His legacy was not a complete success and he resigned from VISA to ponder the deeper dimenions of chaos and order in all kinds of organizations.

Hock realized that you needed to treat all members of an organization as creative players in a process of increasing complexity and ingenuity. The importance of keeping an open mind with all was pretty critical. Also the need for asking questions constantly about any given situation until a solution miraculously emerged ecame a common pattern at VISA International.

Speed and rational planning were creating an age of efficiency freaks and speed managers. Uniformity, centralized authority, and enforced conformity was the price for the expansion of material achievements and this material acceleration brought on a mindless production and consumption cycle. Technology created by any centralized authority generated a complexity and diversity which in turn it tried to control and make uniform. It was a strange and dangerous contradiction.

This uniformity and efficiency clashed with any variability and complexity needed for any future evolution of any institution. Both parent and child were in conflict. Institutional faliure often could come out of this conflict. Out of this uniform straight-jacket the need for connectedness and relationship was fairly urgent. One needed to manage not only one's self, but also one's surperiors, peers, and subordinates. Human ingenuity was the most abundant, least expensive, and most under-utilized and constantly abused resource in the world. Hock saw that one needed to be taught how to manage and to be also managed at the same time. Everyone was limitless and it was important not to limit anyone. Out of chaos, order would ultimately emerge bit by bit.

A sense of community was needed and wanted. This came out of a shared purpose and set principles that would lead to new concepts of self-governance on multiple levels from the individual to the global. This was pretty essential. Not only were shared principles and purpose necessary, but also agreement was needed about how to pursue it.


The entire translation project we are all involved in now was an untested process especially with the financing so insecure. No one really knew what was going on including me and no one had time to really care about this.

Concepts for institutional organization were lagging behind the speed of change in everything else. I was attempting to organize a disorganized group. But there had been episodes of self-organization in the group. Dov's seminar idea, Rutger's attempts to organize a lawsuit against me. These were the most dramatic examples. Suzanne's tantrums, Evgueni's complaints, Kenta's shadow-boxing, and Dongwei's praise of the group were minor episodes that did not catch on. Rafa's unintended blow-up was more serious. Some process was needed to let organized information about problems emerge in a useful manner. What was the best form that the team could take in order to improve its function? There would be a penalty for evolutionary failure.

Back on Hock's track:

You needed to ask about things as they were. As they might be, and as they should be. All organizations were just ideas. Compulsive behavior could be destructive. Induced behavior was more constructive. What a self-organizing group needed was shared values and principles and also a sense of community. It's meanings and values were critical for successful kinds of self-organizing.


The idea of digital synergy was critical. I had done this with the publishing and translation, but market and promotion linkages to these activities were still stalling.

Back to Hock:

The exchange of monetary value in the chaordic age was not enough. Cultural, emotional, and spiritual values and their exchange were just as crucial. Digital technology which was decreasing in cost and increasing in abundance was becoming an almost limitless resource. How did one re-distribute this new abundance? A centralized organization could not do it. Some transcedental organization was now needed. It was important to create conditions were new concepts could swiftly emerge.

People had to be linked in the right relationships. You needed to challenge people and free them to do the job as they saw fit. Progress reports could be filled with crazy ideas aswell as failures. Just as long as they showed imaginitive thinking and also stimulated and inspired the group. Better questions needed to emerge.

Self-organizing and self-designing would lead to more than just consensus, but also solidarity. Innovation and synthesis would be critical to this process. The future was about imagination, hope and relief. One had to be the leader of a movement, not the commander of some structure. The group needed an understanding of the opportunities and also needed to be excited about the concepts involved. No one could be certain about what would emerge, but commitment to the process was needed. Not to some final result. Though a clear vision was still needed.


How could the Harvest community transform itself?

Back to Hock:

Information multiplied through its constant transfer and was never depleted by constant use. It was infinite in its abundance, utilization and recombination. Information breeded and really had no boundary. It was important to challenge the spirits of the team in order to release their ingenuity. Direction, purpose, and beliefs about how to get there were critical in a complex and rapidly changing world. A clear sense of direction was more important than a plan.

Failure would teach what to do next.

If you had built castles in the air you're work need not be lost. That was where they needed to be. Now it was time to put a firm foundation under them. In non-monetary exchanges of value things were done without measurement or prescribed return were the real heart and soul of the chaordic community.

Asking critical questions was a kind of recreation.

New information dissolved boundaries and allowed new patterns of relationships to emerge.


Nano-technologies were converging. This would create an explosion of social diversity and complexity. Networks had nodes that were hubs. It was important to hit these hubs in order to get things done. They had more links than others. The web was aristocratic. There were tons of nodes, but only a few had many links.

Back to Hock:

In our age we were fat on data, but starved for understanding and wisdom. Making judgements with incomplete data was always necessary. Leadership was about moving with a clear direction and with proper values. Wisdom, foresight, and compassion were hard to aquire. Rapid evolution brought extreme dissonance and stress. It was all based on an accelerating paradox.

External events didn't always fit our inner world view. Denial and repression of rapid change were various forms of black stress. Space-out was white stress. Changing your worldview demanded a transcedent form of mindfulness. Welcoming change and a new order of things was not easy.

You had to act on conviction and principle openly and non-judgementally trusting that constructive events would emerge. More self-organization was needed in the team. All differences had to be open, honest, and constructive. One had to back away from a difficult situation and look at it in a playful and unorthadox way. The larger sense of community and purpose transcended the situation ALWAYS. This would conquer all problems. It was no failure to fall short of realizing a dream. The effort was what was supreme. The will to succeed and the grace to compromise brought success. It was important that no outside experts be brought in. We were the experts because no one had done this before.

You needed to release human ingenuity and just see what would happen. You had to encourage self-organization. There could be no hoarding of ideas or information. You had to solve a puzzle with an explosion of ingenuity. There could be no commandments, no threats, or penalties from either side. Common objectives were solved locally and creatively. re-conceptualization was needed along with pioneering in short-time frames.

You were constantly asking questions and peeling the onion until a solution was found. You needed to be open to surprise. testing the strengths and weaknesses of the complexity and systematic diversity facing you. Learning, as one walked between chaos and order, cooperation and competition, compelled and induced behavior.


there were different kinds of exchange of value. I was pioneering a new concept of organization. What was the Harvest team trying to evolve to? What was struggling to become? How could I ask the right questions? This was all about the institutional DNA of self-organizing. VISA, the internet, and Harvest.

Back to Hock:

The team members were treated like real people not " human resources. " Mindfulness and systems theory were poking their heads here. Shared purpose, shared principles, a shared sense of community, excitement and a hope for the future.

This was all about seeing an orderly pattern on the edge of chaos.

There could be no command or control organization. One had to commit oneself and the higher forces would move too. Boldness and genius, power and magic was in this process. What was needed was a global civilization with a philosophy for sustainability. We were moving from hand-crafting to industrial-crafting to ultimately mind-crafting. The extension of Muscle power to the extension of mind power. Soft-ware to thought-ware. Would this lead to an age of extended ethical and spiritual power?

We'll see...

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