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Home Archive for category "Chaorder"

Systems of Agreements, Part 1

As I noted before, my favorite description for the underlying nature of organizations is “a system of agreements.”  But before we can really talk about systems, we need to talk a little more about what we mean by “agreements.”

When I just googled the definition of the word “agreement,” the following was returned:

  1. Harmony or accordance in opinion or feeling.
  2. A negotiated and typically legally binding arrangement between parties as to a course of action.

This was exactly what I was hoping for.  Two distinct meanings, both of which are essential to the success of human systems.

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Self-”Organization” – A Primer

The word “organization” carries with it so much baggage,  I find it useful to have a precise working definition.  It’s hard to get “out-of-the-box” if we don’t understand how big the box we’re in actually is.

I normally define organization something like:

A system of agreements, either implicit or explicit, which guides and coordinates actions among people, makes decisions binding on a group, defines common beliefs, and/or determines access to or disposition of resources created by or available to a group.  Agreements usually cover such issues as authority to take or direct action, management of common resources, manner and consequences of making and enforcing agreements, among others.

This definition is intentionally broad — encompassing everything from culture as a whole to the family unit and friendships.  For many purposes, such a definition is too broad and brings in too many unnecessary complications.  However, if having an impact on social change is part of the intention, I haven’t found anything narrower to be sufficient.

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A Chaordic Walk in the Park

Published on July 27, 2012 by in Chaorder, Stories

The cyclist suddenly races up from behind me and goes hurtling past.

Surprised, I reflexively leap to one side, lose my balance, stumble over a curb, and abruptly sit down on a patch of grass. Muttering mild oaths under my breath, I watch as she gracefully dodges among the joggers, baby carriages and other bikers, and quickly disappears from sight. The juxtaposition of her balance, agility and speed and my awkwardness at first grates on me, but then I pause.

How did she learn to do that?

If I got on a bike and tried to follow her, I almost certainly would kill somebody.

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The Visa Story

Published on July 26, 2012 by in Chaorder, Stories

Visa is often cited as an early prototype of chaordic organization. Despite Dee Hock’s caution that the organizational design of Visa was “at best a third right”, the story is both inspiring and instructive. What follows is an abbreviated rendition. For complete history, please read Dee’s book, One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization.

A TROUBLED INDUSTRY

In 1958, Bank of America issued sixty thousand credit cards to the residents of Fresno, California. After years of losses, the program became profitable and the bank blanketed the state with cards. In 1966, several California banks countered by launching Mastercharge. In turn, Bank of America began franchising BankAmericard.

Other large banks launched proprietary cards and offered franchises. Action and reaction exploded. Banks dropped tens of millions of unsolicited cards on an unsuspecting public with little regard for qualifications. Within two years, the infant industry was in chaos. Issuing banks were thought to be losing hundreds of millions of dollars, politicians were alarmed, the public was exasperated and the media was criticizing everyone involved.

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A Difference that Makes a Difference

Published on July 24, 2012 by in Chaorder, Philanthropy

Summary: The rapidly changing technological landscape is just one element of a much deeper set of societal changes. The institutional roles and relationships that make up the nonprofit sector will need to change dramatically before it can thrive in the next century.

In the middle of the 20th century, scientists and economists seriously pondered the question of whether uranium metal could replace gold as the standard for international currency and exchange (Scientific American, 1947, 1997). They surmised that energy — the capacity to do work — was a much more solid foundation on which to build economic value than an arbitrary malleable metal.

Although there is a certain elegance to this argument, looking back from where we are today, it seems ludicrous. But what actually happened was even more outlandish.

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Evolutionary Learning at Revolutionary Speeds

Published on July 22, 2012 by in Chaorder, Stories

• • • • •

It happens a billion times every day.

(c) the yes man

(c) the yes man

A seed falls to the ground. It waits for conditions to be right, and once they are, it begins its magic. Protoroots probe their surroundings, selectively absorbing the molecules they need. The roots pass the nutrients to the shoots as they reach for the sun.

Leaves and branches form, and eventually a flower buds, then blossoms.

Bees, butterflies, or insects may complete the pollination process. Deep inside the plant, molecules reorganize themselves into a seed, so that the cycle can repeat itself the following year.

But not quite.

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