Dee Hock 1929-2022

Dee Hock, founder and CEO of VISA, died last week at the age of 93. VISA’s success was based on its chaordic structure.

chaordic [kay-ordʹ-ic], adj., fr. E. chaos and order. 1. The behavior of any self-organizing, self-governing, organ, organization, or system that harmoniously exhibits characteristics of both order and chaos. 2. Patterned by chaos and order in a way not dominated by either. 3. Blending of diversity, chaos, complexity and order characteristic of the fundamental organizing principles of evolution and nature. —Dee Hock

In the early 1990s, Hock looked into how to create more democratic companies, a mission he never achieved.

Not so long ago, says [Peter] Senge, Hock was addressing an audience full of CEOs. And he really had them pumping: “Great! This is how to create a learning organization that can grow at 20% per year! He’s found the keys to the kingdom!” That is, until the end, when he told them about the one little problem: “You’ll never be able to justify paying a CEO $1 million a year to run this kind of corporation.” —FastCompany 1996-10-31

According to Hock, one key factor that blocks democratization in the private sector is monetization.

The primary principle in monetized corporations is that whoever has money and can buy shares takes everything they can get and all other parties are given as little as possible. That prostitutes the meaning of capital by restricting it to money. It ignores natural capital – that is the value of what the earth produces for us at no cost. It ignores the value of community, and that is a form of capital. It ignores intellectual capital – that is the intrinsic ability and intelligence of people. It ignores every form of capital that is not reducible to the mathematics of money. Money is just alphanumeric data – a means of measurement. It has no intrinsic value.
Plazm 2013-09-14

In 2018 Dee Hock summarized the symptoms of our current age.

Unhealthy health care systems,
Welfare systems in which no one fares well,
Schools that cannot educate,
Corporations that cannot cooperate or compete,
Universities that are far from universal,
Agriculture that destroys soil, poisons water, and degrades food,
Police that cannot enforce the laws,
Unjust judicial systems,
Governments that cannot govern, and
Economies that cannot economize.
Sovereignty 2018-02-02

Two years later and at the beginning of the current pandemic, Hock described how ill-prepared we are to deal with a chaordic adversary.

“The Covid-19 virus emerged and has spread very chaordicaly, and clearly illustrates the futility of our simplistic, mechanistic, command and control concepts of organization when it comes to managing an ever more diverse, complex society.” —Dee Hock 2020-06-15

Perhaps a new overarching organizational framework — based on democracy — will not be possible until we see the death of financial corporate capitalism. Given the state of the world, that time is now.

18th century engraving of the death of aristocrcay
Last words and death of the aristocracy – French Revolution Digital Archives


3 thoughts on “Dee Hock 1929-2022”

  1. Wow, brilliant stuff. Thanks for sharing this Harold. Found the following quote below on the essays section of Dee’s website. Pretty much sums up the times we’re living within and why so many people are stuck in denial and blaming others.

    When our internal model of reality is in conflict with rapidly changing external realities, there are three ways to respond:

    First, we can cling to our old internal model and attempt to impose it on external conditions in a futile attempt to make them conform to our expectations.  That is what our present mechanistic societal institutions compel us to attempt, and what we continually dissipate our ingenuity and ability trying to achieve.  Attempting to impose an archaic internal model on a changed external world is futile.

    Second, we can engage in denial.  We can refuse to accept the new external reality.  We can pretend that external changes are not as profound as they really are.  We can deny that we have an internal model, or that it bears examination.  When the world about us appears to be irrational, erratic and irresponsible, it is all too easy to blame others for the unpleasant, destructive things we experience.  It is equally easy to  abandon meaning, engage in fantasy, and engage in erratic behavior.  Such denial is also futile.

    Third, we can attempt to understand and change our internal model of reality.  That is the least common alternative, and for good reason.  Changing an internal model of reality is extremely difficult, terrifying, and complex.  It requires a meticulous, painful examination of beliefs.  It requires a fundamental understanding of consciousness and how it must change.  It destroys our sense of time and place.  It calls into question our very identity.  We can never be sure of our place, or our value, in a new order of things.  We may lose sight of who and what we are.

    Changing our internal model of reality requires an enormous act of faith, for it requires time to develop, and we require time to grow into it.  Yet it is the only workable answer.

    — Dee Hock

  2. It’s seems there are a lot of people in this world who only get to the second step 🙁

  3. Having lived through (or continuing to live through) what Hock sets out has been life-changing for sure 😉


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