One From Many: Lessons for the Web 3.0 generation from Dee Hock's book on VISA and the rise of Chaordic Organization
In his book One From Many (2005), Dee Hock beautifully tells the founding story of VISA and weaves in his concerns about centralized, command-and-control organizational structures. As an alternative solution, Dee describes his vision for “Chaordic” (Chaos + Order) organization and how VISA was started with such principles.
You can read the Amazon reviews for the gist of the story and how most people think about it. Here, I’m going to focus on a few things that stood out to me regarding lessons for the Web 3.0 generation.
(I’m excited to explore additional works of Mr. Hock as well - especially his thoughts about Bitcoin and Web 3.0 - as scaling trust is right up his alley. He was born in 1929 and is impressively still in the game. Apparently Dee joined the advisory board of Xapo, which is the first bank with regulated BTC access. If anyone is familiar with other work beyond his essays and blog regarding Web 3, I’d be very curious to learn.)
Purpose, principle, and people
Drawn from his observations of nature, evolution, and communities, Dee is a proponent of enabling people to organize and do their best collective work based on purpose and principle, not rule and regulation:
He tells an amazing story of the early days of VISA where the entire team was working together to pick up tasks and help each other out - with no central control - but instead collective incentive and drive to move all the necessary projects forward.
From page 173:
Receive, utilize, store, transform, and transmit information
And on page 175, he defines CRUSTTI, a key component of his Chaordic theory:
What a beautiful setup for blockchains and Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs)!
Cooperation and competition
And on page 226 he has insightful words about the balance between a unified group both getting along and competing:
(This has interesting parallels to Rene Girard’s mimetic theory, which states that humans get desires from other humans. Competition between two parties, for example, is stemmed from one party being provoked to desire what the other party has or is gunning after...such as when two cars fight over a single parking spot after one car saw the parking spot first!)
Finally, toward the end of the book, Dee describes talking to groups in different industries about Chaordic principles. On pages 270-274 he shares a talk given to a medical association about how the mess of the healthcare system in the US could be fixed with organizational restructuring to be more Chaordic. This is extremely powerful.
Toward a Web 3.0 vision
In many ways Dee was ahead of his time. Scaling trust via blockchains now make it easier than ever to create Chaordic organizations. The inherent power in these organizations is to unlock latent human potential significantly better than centralized, command-and-control structures.
From the bottom of the homepage on his website is the definition of one of his favorite words:
And this is, indeed, the dream. Imagine if the world was free to focus on educing maximal creativity and productivity.
How things were, how they are, how they might become, and how they ought to be
This refrain is repeated in many contexts throughout the book, culminating on page 277:
“...we have long puzzled over the nature of leaders who have had a profound effect on the direction of society. Mother Teresa, Buddha, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Christ, Mohammed, Martin Luther King, Galileo, Lao-Tzu, Newton, Thoreau the list goes on and on, from every continent, in every field of endeavor, throughout history. Few came from positions of wealth and power. Few were born to families of fame or fortune. Few were great orators. None were elected to do what they did. None had permission. Most were met with contempt and derision. Yet, somehow, their lives had profound effect on human consciousness.
What they had in common was uncommon ability to get beyond how things were, how they are, and how they might become, and immerse themselves in how they ought to be.”
Bitcoin & Web 3.0
Dee has direct thoughts more recently on Bitcoin:
“Bitcoin is one of the best examples of how a decentralized, peer-to-peer organization can solve problems that these dated organizations cannot.”
Obviously when we talk about “capital-B-Bitcoin” we are talking about the underlying blockchain technology that has been evolving for the past 10+ years. This will be a key part of the Web 3.0 era, combined with AI and various forms of advanced computing (and the new interfaces to them such as Brain-Machine Interfaces).
My personal excitement and interest lies in what Charodic orgs in the Web 3.0 era can produce for humanity in the areas of healthcare, education, innovation, and asynchronous social communication via trust networks. Beyond FinTech/DeFi, which are of course important, there are novel ways that humans can flourish via such technology and organization. I very much appreciate Dee Hock’s prescient examination of our organizations, for telling the amazing story about how VISA came to be, and for not holding back (even later in life!) about exhorting us all to rise up and help each other flourish.
Author’s note: thanks in advance for any/all comments and feedback. If we don’t yet know each other, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or find me on the socials (@wclittle). If you know me and have things I should hear that are better said over video chat or in-person, I welcome that opportunity! Otherwise, for diving into general intellectual conversations, I actually enjoy email or small group chat. Call me old-school. :) // Also, if you haven’t yet, feel free to subscribe to my Satchel, which allows you to subscribe to my general newsletter and/or specific topics I write about (i.e. mainly startups, health science, blockchains/Web3, software development, and my podcast, Ventures). Finally, many thanks to my colleagues at Prota Ventures who provided great insight/conversation about the book. Thank you!