Birth of the Chaordic Age

July 15th, 2006 by Nick Jacobs Leave a reply »

It was never my intention to make this Blog a weekly book review.  In fact, it was inconceivable to me that there would be two books that I’d even want to write about, but here goes.  Birth of the Chaordic Age by Dee Hock, Founder and CEO Emeritus of VISA was recommended to me, and actually sent to me by a very brilliant guy a few days after I had attempted to explain my philosophy of management to him.

If you are a student of management, or a front line manager, or one of those people about whom I wrote in an earlier blog: They are the BULLIES. You will see that there is hope.  At least one CEO in the country (besides me) gets it.

Dee_hock Dee is a very smart guy and, according to the book jacket, is currently founder and CEO of the Chaordic Alliance, a nonprofit committed to the formation of practical, innovative, organizations that blend competition and cooperation to address critical societal issues, and to the development of new organizational concepts that more equitably distribute power and wealth and are more compatible with the human spirit and biosphere.

Dee says plenty of things that absolutely nail it for me.  “Forming a chaordic organization begins with an intensive search for PURPOSE, then proceeds to PRINCIPLES, PEOPLE and CONCEPT and only then to STRUCTURE and PRACTICE.”

One of my favorite sections, too long for this blog, involves the reality quoted earlier:

“The Industrial Age, hierarchical, command-and-control institutions that, over the past four hundred years, have grown to dominate our commercial, political and social lives are increasingly irrelevant . . . They are failing . . .organizations increasingly unable to achieve the purpose for which they were created, yet continuing to expand as they devour resources, decimate the earth and demean humanity.”

Willis Harman, former President, Institute of Noetic Sciences, writes: “Dee Hock describes a new organizational culture that might well spell the difference between a smooth, orderly transition to a more salubrious, sustainable society and the chaos and anarchy that some see in our near-term future.”

So, as Paul Harvey said when he described us on his radio program, “And now for the rest of the story.”

My entire professional career has been dedicated to attempting to create an environment that was not like the hierarchical organizations where I had previously been employed.  Unfortunately, the bullies live on, and the world is under attack in every way by their greed and their egos.

So, think about buying Birth of the Chaordic Age.  For some of you, life may change.  For others of you, there may be a rebirth of your spirit, and for the rest of you, understand that there is a movement to unseat your archaic beliefs, those beliefs that currently feed our wars, our pollution and our failed systems.



  1. cw says:

    another new wave utopian fantasy. but you’re entitled.

    funny how education always leaves you searchin’…

  2. Ron Davison says:

    Nick, I’ll have to read more of your blog and about your company. A CEO in praise of Dee Hock! How cool is that?

    I do believe that there are times when progress is best served by striving to achieve within the existing order (think corporate advances in the mid to late 1900s) and times when progress is best served by striving to recreate a new order (think protestant revolt in the 16th century, democratic revolt in the 18th, and corporate revolution in the 21st). Obviously (hopefully) this corporate revolution won’t involve bloodshed, but it will involve similarly disconcerting adjustments of beliefs and mindsets.

    Thanks for seeing beyond your company and role to something bigger.

  3. Nick,

    I’ve been working on practical application of Complex Adaptive Systems or Chaordic Organization concept since 2000. Around 2003 I’ve first learned about Dee Hock and visited Chaordic Commons website. On the one hand I’ve been amazed by their work on another by similarities in our thinking. Since then Dee and his thinking remains one of my main inspirations.

    As to how utopian some people may see current advances in the research of CAS and its practical application, I think it can be compared to the history of Aviation. I’m sure there were days when many thought that the Vision of People flying in hours from one continent to another was utopian.

    You may want to visit our website. I’d be very interested to see what you’d think about our Initiative:


    Andrey Shovkoplyas
    Founder & CEO
    ImagineWeb Ltd.

    P.S.: I’ve recently tried to contact about sixty individuals listed as members of Chaordic Commons, but have failed to reach any of them. Any leads would be greatly appreciated.

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