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"Working in Open Space is not without its problems, particularly for those who equate leadership with control. For them it may appear that Open Space is nothing, and how can you control anything with nothing?"
― from "The Spirit of Leadership: Liberating the Leader in Each of Us" ~ Harrison Owen


“Having outgrown its Manhattan headquarters, most of Bell Labs moved to two hundred rolling acres in Murray Hill, New Jersey. Mervin Kelly and his colleagues wanted their new home to feel like an academic campus, but without the segregation of various disciplines into different buildings. They knew that creativity came through chance encounters. “All buildings have been connected so as to avoid fixed geographical delineation between departments and to encourage free interchange and close contact among them,” an executive wrote. The corridors were extremely long, more than the length of two football fields, and designed to promote random meetings among people with different talents and specialties, a strategy that Steve Jobs replicated in designing Apple’s new headquarters seventy years later. Anyone walking around Bell Labs might be bombarded with random ideas, soaking them up like a solar cell. Claude Shannon, the eccentric information theorist, would sometimes ride a unicycle up and down the long red terrazzo corridors while juggling three balls and nodding at colleagues.III It was a wacky metaphor for the balls-in-the-air ferment in the halls.”  ― Walter Isaacson, The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

Dee Hock on Agreement

Agreement contains the essence of both difference and commonality. If there is no difference, there is nothing about which to agree.

Reaching and sustaining agreement is a continual process, as alive as the people involved.

Agreement is always dynamic, imperfect, and malleable.

Is it possible the most concise definition of organization is simply “agreement”?

With agreement comes at least some degree of commonality. If two individuals meet and agree, the agreement contains the essence of organization. They are, no matter how briefly or for what purpose, “organized.” Agreement also contains the essence of self-governance, for each must rely on the self-induced behavior of the other to act in accordance with the understanding. Agreement is always dynamic, imperfect, and malleable.

Other essential elements of agreement: tolerance, trust, and mutual caring. One must accept that the behavior of another can never be reduced to the kind of specificity that science proposes and contracts attempt to provide, or that the behavior of another can ever conform entirely to any single understanding of words, sentences, and paragraphs.

If this institution were to self-organize, in effect, to design itself, it would require continual consensus. Not consensus in the modern meaning of unanimous agreement, but in the original, deeper sense of solidarity. A position where all could stand comfortably together to act in accordance with purpose and principle, learn from the acts, reflect upon the learning and formulate the next step.

Dee Hock on Governance and Self-Governance

In the constructive sense of the word, governance can be based  - only on clarity of shared intent and trust in expected behavior, heavily seasoned with common sense, tolerance, and caring for others as fellow human beings.

Dee Hock on Purpose and Principles

Rules and regulations, laws and contracts, can never replace clarity of shared purpose and clear, deeply held principles about conduct in pursuit of that purpose.

There is no way to give people purpose and principles, yet there can be no self-organizing self-governance without them. The only possibility is to evoke a gift of self-governance from the people themselves. It is there that a true leader may be useful, perhaps even essential.

True governance is based on understanding that even simple societies are far too complex to expect agreement in the particular. Systems of self-governance, in the individual and at every scale beyond, are based on understanding that ordinances, orders, and enforcement deal with an absence of true governance. They are an attempt to compel the kind of behavior that organizations fail to educe. Ordinances, orders, and enforcement are simply different words for control, command, and tyranny. Force is the ultimate tool of tyranny.

People deprived of self-organization and self-governance are inherently ungovernable.

Dee Hock on Natural Ways of Organization

Why couldn’t a human organization work like a rain forest? Why couldn’t it be patterned on biological concepts and methods?  ~ Dee Hock

Although Visa arose from thinking about organizations as living, biological systems, I missed completely the need for an institutional immune system to thwart the viruses of old ways. ~ Dee Hock on Visa

Democratic Businesses

Visa as a pioneer in showing how democratic principles can govern a business. ~ Peter Senge

Democracy means learning how to both take a stand and to truly listen to one another, learning how to deal with conflict respectfully and without violence. It means learning how to vest authority in governing ideas rather than people and to distribute power so that no decision gets made at a higher or more central level than is absolutely necessary. It means learning how to let go of the traditional trappings of hierarchical power and position and the associated leadership styles. In short, democracy is an ongoing collective process of learning how to live with one another—much more than it is a set of feel-good values or simple mechanisms like voting and elections. ~ Peter Senge

We have frequently printed the word Democracy. Yet I cannot too often repeat, that it is a word the real gist of which still sleeps, quite unawakened... It is a great word, whose history, I suppose remains unwritten, because that history has yet to be enacted. It is, in some sort, younger brother of another great and often used word, Nature, whose history also waits unwritten. ~ Walt Whitman

Order from Chaos - Natural Order - Complexity - Emergence

There is something about the nature of complex connectivity that allows spontaneous order to arise, and that when it does, characteristics emerge that cannot be explained by knowledge of the parts. Nor does such order seem to obey linear laws of cause and effect. ~ Dee Hock

All complex, adaptive systems exist on the edge of chaos with just enough self-organization to create the cognitive patterns we refer to as order.  ~ Dee Hock

No part knew the whole, the whole did not know all the parts, and none had any need to. The entirety, like millions of other chaordic organizations, including those we call body, brain, forest, ocean, and biosphere, was self-regulating. ~ Dee Hock talking about Visa


True leaders are those who enable the unconscious values and beliefs of every member of the community to emerge, transmitted and consciously shared—who epitomize in their own behavior the general sense of the community—who symbolize, legitimize, and strengthen behavior in accordance with the sense of the community—who enable that which is trying to happen to come into being. The true leader’s behavior is educed by the behavior of every individual who chooses where and how they will be led.  ~ Dee Hock

educe \eh-duse\ A marvelous word seldom used or practiced, meaning, “to bring or draw forth something already present in a latent, or undeveloped form.”  ~ Dee Hock

True leadership is based on educed behavior and has an affinity for good, while false leadership is based on compelled behavior and has an affinity for evil.  ~ Dee Hock

Lead yourself, lead your superiors, lead your peers, employ good people, and free them to do the same. All else is trivia.  ~ Dee Hock

In the deepest sense, distinction between leaders and followers is meaningless. In every moment of life, we are simultaneously leading and following. ~ Dee Hock

Everyone is a born leader. Who can deny that from the moment of birth they were leading parents, siblings, and companions? Watch a baby cry and the parents jump. We were all leaders until we were sent to school to be commanded, controlled, and taught to do likewise. ~ Dee Hock

It is true leadership; leadership by everyone; leadership in, up, around, and down this world so badly needs, and dominator management it so sadly gets. ~ Dee Hock

Leaders spontaneously emerged and reemerged, none in control, but all in order. Ingenuity exploded. People astonished themselves at what they could accomplish and were amazed at the suppressed talents emerging in others. Position became meaningless. Power over others became meaningless. Time - became meaningless. Excitement about doing the impossible increased, and a community based on purpose, principle, and people arose. Individuality, self-worth, ingenuity, and creativity flourished; and as they did, so did the sense of belonging to something larger than self, something beyond immediate gain and monetary gratification. ~ Dee Hock on Visa


Since the strength and reality of every organization lies in the sense of community of the people who have been attracted to it, its success has enormously more to do with clarity of a shared purpose, common principles, and strength of belief in them, than with money, material assets, or management practices, important as they may be. When an organization loses its shared vision and principles, its sense of community, its meaning and values, it is already in process of decay and dissolution ~ Dee Hock


All organizations can be no more and no less than the moving force of the mind, heart, and spirit of people ~ Dee Hock

Chaordic organizations cannot be portrayed in two dimensions on a traditional organization chart. They are more akin to the organization of neurons in a brain. Yet even the three dimensions of physicality are not enough. The fourth dimension, the spiritual and ethical dimension, something we have largely lost sight of in existing organizations, is essential. How to physically embody and portray that dimension will be one of the great challenges. ~ Dee Hock

Safety and Learning

Failure is not to be feared. It is from failure that most growth comes, provided that one can recognize it, admit it, learn from it, rise above it, and try again. The important question is not whether an institution or an individual reaches the ultimate, but whether they aspire to reach it and constantly rise in the scale. ~ Dee Hock

Open Allocation and Dynamic Team Formation

We decided to simply release human ingenuity and see what happened. The excitement and challenge of open participation was compelling. There was an explosion of ingenuity. ~ Dee Hock on Visa

Meetings and groups evolved and dissolved. ~ Dee Hock on Visa

The Old Order

Deep in most of us, below our awareness, indelibly implanted there by three centuries of the industrial age, is the mechanistic, separatist, cause-and-effect, command-and-control, machine model of reality. ~ Dee Hock

The industrial age trend toward stultifying, degrading, rote work that gradually reduces people to the compliant, subordinate behavior one expects from a well-trained horse will not continue. ~ Dee Hock

Industrial Age
Taylorism / Scientific Management
Command and Control
Management heavy
Detailed Planning
Proactive (Owen)
Concentration of Power
Centralized control and decision making
Big design up front (BDUF)
Leadership by authority
Organizations as machines

The New Oder

Heaven is purpose, principle, and people. Purgatory is paper and procedure. Hell is rule and regulation. ~ Dee Hock

In the years ahead we must get beyond numbers and the language of mathematics to understand, evaluate, and account for such intangibles as learning, intellectual capital, community, beliefs, and principles, or the stories we tell of our tribe’s value and prospects will be increasingly false. ~ Dee Hock

A simple truth we have somehow lost sight of in our mechanistic, industrial age, command-and-control organizations. The truth is, that given the right circumstances, from no more than dreams, determination, and the liberty to try, quite ordinary people consistently do extraordinary things. ~ Dee Hock

In a complex, rapidly changing world, a clear sense of direction, a compelling purpose and powerful beliefs about conduct in pursuit of it, seemed to me infinitely more sensible and robust than mechanical plans, detailed objectives, and predetermined outcomes. ~ Dee Hock

Leadership by vision and influence
Quantum physics
Simple Rules
Shared Purpose & Principles
Chaordic (Hock)
Interactive -> Inspired (Owen)
Lean Startup
Distribution of Power
Decentralized control and decision making
Beyond Budgeting
Small releases
Hope, vision, values, and meaning, along with liberty to cooperatively pursue them ~ Dee Hock
Knowledge workers
Consciousness and Shared Consciousness
Leader Leader
Trust-based (trust is not negotiable. One either trusts or one does not. I prefer trust. ~ Dee Hock)