Visa to Where?

Mitch writes today of his frustration as a board member of the Chaordic Commons. This is a foundation formed by the organizer of VISA, Dee Hock, based on his insight that VISA came together and grew into the world’s largest financial enterprise because it combined the energy of chaos and order. Specifically, VISA is owned by its participating banks using a structure that balances the interests of the larger and smaller members. It holds no significant assets of its own, but exists to enrich its member banks.

The Chaordic Commons seeks to help organizations to employ those principles for their own success, and Dee Hock’s book, Birth of the Chaordic Age, provided some grist for the Xpertweb mill. Like VISA, Xpertweb is a transaction-processing (well, publishing) system, not owned in the usual sense, serving its users in an even-handed way. If Xpertweb’s virulence works as designed, its protocols could see global adoption as broad as VISA‘s, which is why it has no central function to slow it down. It’s a lot like rock ‘n roll while VISA is like a farmer co-op.

Mitch writes:

I have no idea whether the Chaordic Commons can or will survive or thrive, because after seven months on the board of trustees, I’ve never seen us do anything but deal with the process of communication rather than our real differences.

This is all especially ironic since Dee Hock thought of these ideas while building the largest economic entity on the planet, Visa. The ideas work elsewhere, but Dee always saw the power of greed, even if it was only the opportunity by some participants to protect what they already had by being more transparent and sharing resources. Every player in the Visa story was hoping for huge gains, not just a fairer environment for transaction processing. Nevertheless, the harmonizing of profit motive with representativeness and self-organizational models produced something great. All we have at the Commons right now is a non-profit struggling to find a meaning for itself. Since that meaning must emerge from a group of minds, we need to let go of the processes and wrangle a bit, because nothing in human history has come as easily as we would like and if we back away from the conflict through which we must pass to find what we have in common nothing will ever be accomplished.

Conversations are Markets

We in the information business want to believe that the world springs from ideas and that reason can sway enterprise. Actually it’s the opposite, which I hadn’t realized so strongly until I read Mitch’s description. Let’s riff on the ClueGuys’ point:

1. Markets are conversations.

I’d suggest the inverse:

1. Conversations are Markets.

The market precedes the non-campfire conversations. Until the Agora is up and running and moving the goods and shekels, we’re basically a bunch of gossips. But when there’s a product or service to design and produce, based on an inspiring (advantage-fueled) business plan, then we band together and do some, well, productive thinking.

Any board has trouble holding a productive dialogue if it has no pressing economic (productive) need for it. As I read Dee Hock’s book, the member VISA banks got something slapped together fast because they smelled money and, just as importantly, computer technology was so new they just did what made sense at the moment rather than hiring experts to study the opportunity. Actually, they did hire some experts, but Dee promptly fired them.

This sounds like a typical business is first and foremost rant, but that’s not the point. The point is that, until citizens are bound together through direct economic links, as in the Agora and farmers’ co-op, we’ll not have the clout to do for our nation what we think the managers in companies and the White House should do—organize resources on behalf of the nation rather than for their own interests.

Well, they are citizens, and they’re advancing the interests of the citizens they know best. The mass of citizens won’t have the power to enforce “fairness” until those citizens have the power to do so, collectively. Power is economic power, not the power of persuasion or moral rectitude or any of the other illusions that most of us would like them to be. There are no short cuts to wielding power. Unless there is a collective economic force which is palpable, pervasive, broadspread and even-handed, chaordically improving the allocation of productive resources, then there will be no counterpoise to Mitch’s dire prediction in his other post today:

This administration is out of control, is using warnings and hype to scare people and, I think, is capable of believing suspension of democratic mechanisms is necessary and even good for the people of the United States.

Doc is thinking about Cluetrain also today and wrestling with the impotence of words alone:

One of the questions I got from the floor during Q&A after my talk was “Where do you guys think you were wrong?”

Four years after we wrote the original [Cluetrain] Web site (and nearly as long after we wrote the book), I’m thinking that politics, democracy in particular (and regulation, too) is still remarkably free of influence by clues from citizens. Also that citizens still suck at clueing each other, blogs withstanding.
I did think, back in ’99, that “the end of business as usual” (our subtitle) would come sooner than the end for many other _____s as Usual. Education came to mind. Also politics and science. But politics is the big one. Why doesn’t more come out of our outrage?
Lot to think about there.

In 1999, the valley held the power of economics because even Washington thought the Internet was a tidal wave. The power has left with the money. The folks in Washington couldn’t be happier.

Grab Your Power or Grab Your Ankles

There are two major themes today: the incompetent and wrong-headed management of people and resources by the American management class, and the quiet but nearly total repeal of civil rights by an administration that sees itself as managers, not leaders. There’s no difference between the two.

It’s been 530 days since 9/11 froze us into meek submission to petty demagogues. Which way do you want the curve to arc in the next 530 days? If we the people do not build, deploy and populate our own economic and political web applications, then we’ll be in a worse place in another 530 days. Could we have imagined on 9/10/01 that our civil rights
would now be subject to the whim of whoever saw an advantage in violating them?

What do we want our reality to be like on 6/13/05? That June would be a good month to be free.

11:27:11 PM    

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