Rules are an intrinsic part of human life, but enforcing one too many is bound to have consequences. Some cultures shun the Internet, despite it being one of humanity’s most marvelous inventions. Others ban free speech, which most people will agree is a very harsh enforcement.
Without doubt, rules are necessary in a less-than-perfect society. But what if the rules themselves are to blame? According to Dee Hock, founder and former CEO of the Visa credit card association, stringency and stupidity co-exist in a natural juxtaposition. Less might be better.
Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior.
Hock, now at age 86, is said to have helped invent the credit system known as VISA International through a series of accidents. For those outside the organization, Visa appeared deliberately uncentralized. Hock later explained (during a dinner speech at the Santa Fe institute) that the institution was based on systems that were both chaotic and ordered at the same time, and described the concept using terms like “chaord” and chaordic,” a portmanteau combining the words chaos and order. He even coined the term.
He tried to apply the methodology to better the world through the non-profit Alliance for Community Liberty, later The Chaordic Commons. The nonprofit sought to develop new concepts of organization that would result in improved health, greater compatibility between humanity and the biosphere, and more equitable sharing of power and wealth. It failed to achieve any of its goals and, in 2005, it ceased operations. However, the principles of chaordic organization are being used to this day as guidelines for creating business organizations, non-profits, and even governmental institutions.