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Birth of the Chaordic Age Hardcover – January 1, 2000

4.4 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Birth of the Chaordic Age is a compelling manifesto for the future, embedded within the intriguing story of a personal odyssey. An engaging narrator, Dee Hock is the man who first conceived of a global system for the electronic exchange of value, becoming the founder and CEO of VISA International. He looks critically at today's environment of command-and-control institutions and sees organizations that are falling apart, failing to achieve their own purposes let alone addressing the diversity and complexity of society as a whole. The solution, Hock claims, lies in transforming our notion of organization; in embracing the belief that the chaos of competition and the order of cooperation can and do coexist, succeed, even thrive; and in welcoming in the chaordic age.

The underlying tenets of Hock's ideas are well illustrated by the incredible story of the birth of VISA International, an organization formed on chaordic principles that now links in excess of 20,000 financial institutions, 14 million merchants, and 600 million consumers in 220 countries. Hock deplores an age where ingenuity and effort are wasted on circumventing the rules and regulations of insular, hierarchical bureaucracies. In a bold-type subtext interspersed throughout the book, he examines how this situation is stunting our potential as individuals and communities and contemplates what can be changed. This rumination is propelled onward by "Old Monkey Mind" (Hock's own thoughts). Though the technique allows the reader to engage in stimulating mental discovery along with the author, its New Age spiritual tone is sometimes a bit saccharine. His insights, however, are clear and provocative. In the Chaordic Age, he contends, "success will depend less on rote and more on reason; less on the authority of the few and more on the judgment of many; less on compulsion and more on motivation; less on external control of people and more on internal discipline." Hear, hear. --S. Ketchum

From Kirkus Reviews

If only the world were more like VISA International, chaos and order would be in balance, and people would work happily together in communities based on ``shared purpose.'' At least, that's the utopian vision of Hock, founder and ``CEO emeritus'' of VISA International and head of a group called The Chaordic Alliance, advising mostly not-for-profits how to reorganize themselves in a new humanitarian way. Hock advocates an evolutionary system of social organization: Top-down control is out, and a blending of cooperation and competition is in. He is not the first businessman to suggest that what he calls ``command-and-control institutions,'' including not only businesses, but social, political and religious institutions as well, are experiencing a ``global epidemic of . . . failure that knows no bounds.'' His solution is harnessing chaos and order in chaordic harmony to the wagon of social evolution. Hock offers a blueprint of sorts for forming a chaordic organization, but warns there is no bottom line, there ``is only becoming.'' That Zen-like mantra echoes the oracular reflections (``Is man machine? Is machine man?'') the author shares with an alter ego, Old Monkey Mind, in boldface sections throughout the book. (Sketches of a lively monkey scamper through the pages.) Lighter face type carries the obligatory saga of Hock's early life and his role in launching VISA as a chaordic enterprise in the early 1970s, a winsome narrative that would be better served by more fundamental description of exactly how VISA works and how it differs from traditional credit card operations. Boxed ``MiniMaxins'' that occasionally rise to the level of ``Saturday Night Live'' affirmations are scattered throughout. Another successful businessman finds meaning in his life by reinventing corporate culture to save the world in this murky, pretentious, and decidedly unchaordic tome. (First printing of 75,000; $100,000 ad/promo) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 345 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 1st Edition/ 1st Priniting edition (January 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576750744
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576750742
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #828,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gerry Stern on November 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In large part, this is a personal account of the development of VISA as told by its founder and CEO Emeritus. It is also the author's personal quest for understanding the nature of society today and the reasons for the failure of so many organizations. He presents his ideas about the birth of a new age filled with accelerating change and disorder which requires organizations that can operate at the thin edge between chaos and order.
Hock introduces the concept of chaordic, an adjective referring to the behavior of any self-governing organism, organization or system which blends elements of order and chaos. Chaordic organization is one able to maintain a harmonious order-disorder balance, characterized by principles of evolution; its nature includes being self-organizing, self-governing, adaptive, and nonlinear.
Hock uses his business experience as a springboard to put forward ideas about chaordic organization which include: they have no destination or ultimate being-only becoming; they incorporate inherent paradox and conflict; they are driven by a deep conviction and shared understanding of the Purpose of a community from which all else flows (profit is not, according the Hock, a Purpose); and they apply principles that are an expression of behavior in the pursuit of Purpose.
The full scope of Hock's thinking encompasses the environment, society, and individuals. This book is a mixture of subtle concepts, insights into organization, and a well told tale (in detail) of the evolution of an idea into a major business enterprise. Hock's deeper insights are intriguing.
The book will be immensely rewarding for those interested in delving into reflective thinking about the evolving nature of organization. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a profound book.
Dee Hock created the largest business enterprise on earth - the VISA credit card network. More precisely, he created the organization/system/environment that allowed and encouraged the creativity and passion of thousands of people to create VISA. Hock has coined the term "chaordic," meaning chaos and order at the same time; the harmonious interplay of both is necessary for all vital, adaptable systems. He makes the critical distinction between control and order. Control is imposed, an attempt to eliminate chaos, and stifles creativity and the human spirit. Order arises naturally out of a shared purpose that engages people at the core of their being and brings forth the best they have to offer. Hock states it exquisitely, "Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex, intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple, stupid behavior."
Hock offers a new way of organizing human activity, one that can alter our headlong rush toward social and environmental disaster. It is not merely theoretical but imminently practical - applicable to all sizes and types of organizations from individual to global for-profit and non-profit endeavors of every kind. This new chaordic understanding nurtures the human spirit, the biosphere, and a sustainable future. And it comes just in the nick of time. Maybe we CAN create a livable future for all of the grandchildren.
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Format: Hardcover
If you are interested in the best way for people to work together in organizations, you must read Dee Hock's account of the founding and development of Visa. His thinking has played a key role for those who are trying to apply chaos and complexity theory to organizations, and to seminal thinkers like Peter Senge and Arie de Geus. Now, you can read the simple, humble thoughts that can turn ordinary people into extraodinary combinations of effectiveness. I loved the aphorisms interspaced through the book and the down-to-earth way that Dee Hock shared his experiences and thoughts. Think of this as the opposite of Chainsaw Al, and with greater results. Anyone who wants to move beyond the command and control culture that tends to dominate in most organizations should read Dee Hock's account of Chaordic Organizations in the new Chaordic Age. If you liked The Fifth Discipline, The Dance of Change, or The Living Company, this is must reading for you.
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Format: Hardcover
'We are living on the knife's edge of one of those ... momentous turning points in human history. Liveable lives ... hang in the balance.' So begins a compelling, passionate, deeply practical and radical exploration of a way forward for our society and for business. Compulsive reading.
I have been waiting for the book to come out since hearing Dee Hock speak at a conference in 1996. It is well up to my highest expectations. This is a book to experience rather than to summarise or analyse. I can not recommend strongly enough that you permit yourself the experience.
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Format: Hardcover
Dee Hock interweaves his experiences growing up and founding VISA with his thoughts about how to address the decline of community and of modern institutions. He perceives a general breakdown in the social order, fueled by an overemphasis on monetary values and greed, and perpetuated by institutions committed to old methods derived from ideas about machines and structure rooted in the Industrial Revolution. Now, businesses need a more dynamic, flexible organizational structure based on a clear sense of "purpose". This purpose should be rooted in contributing to the community. It must be based on ethical principles and values. This process involves developing "chaordic organizations," those which balance chaos and order. Hock uses examples from his life and from the development of VISA to show how this process works.
This is an excellent, thoughtful book. Hock's fascinating story about founding VISA provides a good context for his meditations about the modern need to develop more chaordic, flexible organizations. At times though, his writing can become somewhat ponderous and wordy, particularly when he tries to express fairly complex or abstract ideas.
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