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Uncentralised Organisations & Dee Hock

 September 26,2000

The VISA has emerged as an organisation described as uncentralised.  The old pyramidal organisation losing its height over a long time has become flat with the centralized authority decentralized whose end point is the individual.

The theory of social development, as we present it, is a theory of social evolution capturing the spirit of Theory of Creation of Sri Aurobindo within the social context.  Whether it is social evolution or social development, our theory confines its intensities to the phase of development.  Organisation is, according to our theory, the centerpiece of development, basing itself on the spiritual principle of growth in life through consciousness and growth of consciousness through organisation.  The physical, represented by the body is not endowed with consciousness, as the faculty itself in not there.  That is situated in the mind and partly in life.  To us, organisation is of the mind.  Mind, though its primary function is understanding, is essentially an organisation.  To observe phenomena, to collect them as facts, to sift the sensations from the factual event, put them in an order so that they would lead to a result and remain there forever to produce the same result, is to organise.  So far, the world has evolved many organisations and is advancing through them.  We know them as organisations for production, distribution and consumption.  These are obvious, but they rest on other organisations that are less visible. They are organisations for communication, social understanding and for the formation of social culture.  Production and distribution are mainly physical activities lying in the subtle physical and subtle vital planes. Education, media, etc. will come under organisations for communication, while family, religion, etc. will come under the same head of culture.  The demarcations are not exclusive as the basis is all is one, i.e., education is mental production, food grain production is education of the skill, etc.

What we see as organisations today were earlier isolated, independent systems later put together to synchronise for a wider social purpose.  The systems themselves originated in activities strung together and activities are a minor system of acts. What we call ACT is the unit of organisation, as atom is of matter.  We shall not go further and take up any description of the ACT, which is a universe in itself like the atom.

The theory conceives of man existing on four planes starting from the dense body and ending in the rarefied spirit.  He can be centred anywhere according to his present development.  The theory sees the pyramidal organisation as that of the physical man and the flat organisation is that of the mental man.  In its language it is an evolution of organisation from the physical to the mental.  

As the act is a miniature of the organisation, organisation is the miniature of society.  So, the physical, mental characteristics we will attribute to the organisation are also the characteristics of the society, into which we do not now go.

The pyramidal and flat organisations are physical and mental in their central characteristics.  If so, what are the characteristics of the physical and mental?



Fully unconscious

Mainly conscious

Learns by trial and error

Learns by understanding

Can learn only by experience

Can learn by thinking and observing

Violent in the release of force

Release of force tries to understand; violence is largely absent.

Can only repeat and cannot give up repetition.

Is capable of shedding repetition.

Fight, competition, rivalry are main strategies

Cooperation, appreciation, tolerance are the main faculties.

Totally unaware of anything around until it physically  touches

Observes things around the world taking observation as far as its imagination permits.

Lives severely in the present

Travels all over the past and future.

Food and sleep are its needs

Information is its food, thinking is its sleep.

Restless in its ordinary existence

Comparatively calm in work

Takes and takes and goes on taking and is incapable of giving.

Physically possessive.

Gives more than taking. Enjoys giving. Not possessive of things or persons, enjoys giving as the physical enjoys taking and possessing.

There is one center - in its organisation there is one leader.

Multi-centered and each is a leader of a sort

Held together forcibly by force

Allowed to exist on its own, if information comes to the centre.

Least productive

Highly productive

These are characteristics of any organisation that is physical or mental. 

The stages of transition, their rationale, and their theories are of interest. Why at all should there be a transition? The theory says society is in evolution and therefore the transition is necessitated. By way of answering a question of why evolve, we can reply that the Energy of the society is ever increasing which compels evolution.  To us the SOCIETY is an entity, a living entity and has a goal before it.  This IDEA releases energy continuously, as all energies emanate from ideas that actuate a work.

The goal of the society is greater comfort and convenience for its body, greater enjoyment for its vital, growing or ever growing understanding for the mind.  These are ends in themselves, as curiosity of the mind, enjoyment of the vital, security of the body.  Social development exists within these very narrow confines whose two extremities are comfort and understanding.

The transition is from the physical to the mental. The needs of the body are food and shelter for sleep.  That of the mind is idea.  One is of the physical form; the other is the form of thought. How is the transition effected from the physical to the mental? It is done through the energy of the vital.  The physical is matter, dense, concrete, not capable of movement by itself.  The mental has nothing concrete about it, its ideas are invisible, they are extracted from the sense impressions.  The vital energy moves the immovable matter into action, which is observed by the sensations and reported to the mind. The mind, extracting the fact from the impression, puts the facts in an order to create an idea.  This idea is imposed on the body for action.  This upward movement has two sides -- one that looks up, creative, the other that looks down,  preservative.  Man has always a choice - the human choice.  When he relates to an event on the live end, he evolves.  Otherwise he survives by choosing the lower end.

It is note worthy that every ACT has these two sides.

The book of Dee Hock describes in detail his 40 years of effort and thus provides enormous facts of physical experience, sensitively lived.  He describes the million waves that surround each event, especially at times of transition, and brings these two sides -- live and dull, growing and dead -- to the fore and summarises in 53  Mini maxims the strategies of a transition that evolves.  Our theory stands on 32 main concepts and is described under 25 heads such as organisation, education, money etc. It is possible to discuss this transition under those 32 concepts or detail those 32 concepts in terms of this transition. Each of the above 25 heads is described as having several characteristics - usually between 10 and 20 - of their own.

I shall illustrate on some major interesting aspects as to how I will do it. The reader may be more interested in how this transition is effected in history. Though it is a book of theory, it may be desirable to convey the theoretical expression through the historical facts as they developed. It was enabled by education, technology, the social psychological infrastructure of the society. Explaining the historical changes, their impact on organisation, their theoretical position will easily bring out the main purpose of the book:

How the transition from pyramidal to flatness came about.

1. Social evolution is unconscious in the collective.

In VISA the transition - organisational evolution - from pyramid to VISA has come about not consciously, but unconsciously. It is not as if some organisation, or bank, or government consciously evolved it planning for it. We see it evolving itself from several sides. 

 2. All achievements in the society are collective and not individual.

This is a collective achievement, not of an individual or several individuals.

3.  The collective achieves, the individual expresses on its behalf.

VISA has been collectively achieved.  VISA had no pioneer. Dee Hock is not a pioneer in the sense the theory uses it.

4. The subconscious  achievement becoming conscious accomplishment is through the individual pioneer.

Here banks have acted on behalf of the individual.

5. In a mature society the pioneer is a leader whereas in an immature society he becomes a rebel.

 For the purposes of VISA our society has proved to be a mature one.

6. Society destroys a leader if he appears too soon.

 Dee Hock, if he is not welcomed with open arms by the field, is not destroyed by the society.

7. The collective appreciates its own perfection in the individual, not his.

This is the character of the collective and any organization. One who has done yeoman's service to the organisation or the ideal is NOT appreciated as an individual who offered services. As long as the services are acceptable, the organisation receives silently. The moment a little falls short, the collective will forget his 99% service and denounce him.  In many occasions it does award an individual, praise him, laud him. It is all their veneer, underneath the collective appreciates itself.  It appreciates any individual so that it indirectly appreciates itself.

8. Collective social knowledge moves from experience to comprehension.

The character of acquiring knowledge in the collective is the same as that of physicality. Hock's experience every inch is an expression of it.

9.      Knowledge of experience is unconscious knowledge of the physical

Dee Hock's experiences are physical experiences in the field.  He is not aware of what he is doing. His one aim is the result.  Hence he is unconscious.

10.  Social development can be unconscious from the physical experience or conscious from mental knowledge

VISA is of the former.

11.  Evolution of society has its earlier stages of development, growth and survival.

This will not strictly belong here as we have focused only on one bit ----the transition.

12.  The laws of change in each plane are the same in essence. The only change is change required for operating in each plane. .

Hock writes in detail on these changes. His 53 Mini Maxims deal with them. They are all given under a different head.

13.  Even the laws of death, decay, destruction and disappearance are the same but work in the reverse direction.

Mini Maxim Nos. describe these reversals

14. These laws are the same for the individual, organisation and social collectivity.

Hock spells out all the laws of his organisation in Mini Maxims. It is easy to see how these laws apply to the individuals and society. (In the discussion of the Mini Maxims, this aspect can be well brought out.)

15.  Society is its own determinant and is under no obligation to any exterior force in its evolution.

In the evolution of VISA we see dozens of forces helping its formation and not one of them determining the creation of VISA.

16. Geographical environment, climate, historical past, natural resources appear to be determinants in the beginning. Ultimately society discovers that it is its own determinant.

This is the same as the above and the discussion mentioned there will suffice.

17.  At that point of transition from external determinism to self-determination, social evolution passes from unconscious to conscious status.

The creation of VISA from society's point of view is entirely unconscious. In the measure Hock took initiative, he is conscious of the part he is playing. This does not make the society conscious on this score, nor Hock a conscious pioneer.

[ How conscious the individual is in a given case, particularly here, needs an insightful discussion. I shall mention below the salient points,

  • Green Revolution is a conscious creation.
  • The Freedom Movement is a conscious movement. Gandhiji is a pioneer conscious of his role.]

18. Social evolution begins not at the conscious or even inconscient part but at the subconscious because society has its base in the subconscious.

  • Inconscient is Matter. Society does not exist there.
  • Society consists of human individuals. Therefore it is subconscious.
  • VISA started with several lines of new forms of credit.

19. Readiness of the society emerges at the individual, not in all societies, because the emergence must be in organised knowledge or organised action, not as ripe consciousness.

In VISA, Hock is not a pioneer in the usual sense of the word, but he does spearhead the movement in some fashion. Whether the whole thing came about entirely on his initiative or he was part of the movement must be discovered by reading the book. We can decide on the explanation of this point on knowing it.

20. In order to organise consciousness into knowledge or action in one individual, the whole society must supply consciousness.

The book is full of this information. We can document it.

21. Evolution from one plane to another demands conversion of energy on the scale of liquids becoming vapour.

I surmise the birth of VISA and the abundance of energy as represented by the money flow are at the same time. Energy flow can be explained form so many other points, but money is easily quantifiable.

22. Social development is by self-conception of the society. Refer  to point 15.

23. By social development we mean society accomplishing its work by developing an organisation for it and continuing to improve that organisation.

From the beginning of the first credit card until VISA came into existence, the development is a clear exposition of this.

24. All existing forms of behaviour, belief, functioning, etc., become obstacles when development begins.

Mini Maxims give full scope for explaining this. Particularly competition changing into cooperation renders itself the best example.

25. Society accepting the pioneer and following him is social development.

VISA is a direct example.

26. Development is development of consciousness.

Changes in the fifty attitudes are changes because consciousness has developed. Many changes lend themselves to clear exposition.

27. Change of attitude expresses the new consciousness.

Explanation of No. 26 is to be continued in the reverse.

28. All new economic progress begins with this changed attitude to lifestyle.

The economic advantages of VISA are ample.

29. The invisible plane of life is as much a field of production as the factory that manufactures and the land that produces the grain.

Arguments are easily fashioned but if we can give examples from VISA or as a result of VISA the argument will be fully concrete.

30. In fact, being subtle, this life plane is more powerful and more productive.

More subtle, more powerful - Sri Aurobindo

31. Historically, all phases of development have begun only like this.

32. Even when material resources, scientific discoveries have initiated a phase of development, they are only instruments and not causes.

Here computer, telecommunication are instruments, certainly not causes. The real cause is social maturity, rather social self-conception.

The above 32 principles of social development summarise the Theory, and what we have given is the VISA - the U.O. - answers to the Theory, i.e. U.O. is thus theoretically explained. This is a rough, if not a crude way of explaining the U.O. or the Theory. The best way is to assimilate the theory into the birth, structure, functioning of the U.O. and speak it out without ever mentioning the theory at all. There are parents or leaders who constantly preach. That will make the listener understand what is spoken. It has a fringe of human nature accepting by the well known mechanism of negativism, incidentally proving that whatever is spoken evokes a resistance even in the best of followers. There are other parents and leaders who NEVER preach as it is not their intention at all. It does not occur to them to preach as preaching offends their sensitivity. They practise. Children and followers take that practice fully proving the maxim that they do what their parents do, not what they are told. If there is a service to the Theory I covet, it is that.

Next, we consider what are the other avenues by which the theoretical justification of the U.O. can be best brought out. The recent history of the world is something that lends itself to be summarized as follows. It can be called the summary of human appreciation or spread of ideas or the art of social revolution by thought or effective human emulation.

1)      Adorable servility to the master where the ideal is worship of the master - physical.

2)      Integral superstitious FAITH that moves mountains - point of transition from physical to the vital (No. 6).

3)      Widespread superstitious faith - semblance of mind living vitally on the border of physical-vital.

4) ‘Rational' superstition - Believe what the entire society believes. Mind comes to believe the mental validity of social belief.

5) Individual discovery of social superstition - By arduous unintelligent research, by dint of hard personal intellectual labour, one ‘discovers' that the social superstitious illusion is the ultimate truth - modern scientist.

6) Individual personal clarity of truth which looks for social approval to follow his personal discovery - needs strength for his own convictions.

7) Individual conclusions that need the endorsement of the government.

8) Individual determinations that appreciate the endorsement of expert opinion.

9) Expert opinion that exhorts acceptance of its own findings.

10) Experts' findings that endorse the individual personal finding out of experience. This is what I aim at.

11) The above can endorse the finding of the individual by thinking. I do not find any thinking anywhere in the world on any subject. I would be happy to know of any rational man existing.

   The two ways of achieving the goal of No. 10 above are either to preach or to practise.

  • 1) The 25 heads (, etc.) under which there are 200 to 300 definitions and descriptions are the sidelights of the theory.

‘Authority exercised in utter freedom is that of the emerging Godhead.'  VISA tried to shift the Authority from the center and succeeded in doing so to the periphery, if not to the individual, but to a centralized organisation of a bank.

  • Here the Authority is exercised in Freedom, if not utter freedom which will emerge with the individual emerging.
  • No. 1 under this head says the ultimate determinate of accomplishment is authority. It is true.
  • No. 2 says spiritual authority silently achieves, perhaps unseen. This is also true.
  • It is easy for us to see how VISA explains all the nine points.

Mini Maxims of Hock

His book is invaluable. I assume there must be a host of such books written over the centuries explaining in minute detail one's own personal experience in several fields. For U.O., Hock's book is UNIQUE and incomparable, as such documentation in this field for an author who writes on it does not exist.  Here, I take them primarily as reversing values through attitudes when a new organisation is born. The truths inherent in the Mini Maxims are already known, well known too. For our purposes that is secondary. When a new organisation or a new level of organisation is born, it exists by values espoused by the attitudes of participating individuals. They always or almost always reverse. That reversal has over fifty examples here. I shall try with a few explanations from as many sides as possible. The central example is:            

Competition changing into Cooperation

Hock reveals ultimate insight into this phenomenon when he says that for competition to exist, the foundation of cooperation is necessary. This is the quintessence of spiritual wisdom of the East, taken to further heights by Sri Aurobindo who has made it THE STRATEGY of his Integral Yoga through which man evolves into supramental being. We have so far heard different versions of it. Dee Hock has excelled the world's known wisdom in this area. The world has known at different stages:

1) The dynamic man competes.

2) Competition must be healthy, but is necessary.

3) Competition is with the rival, for the glory of the field life sports.

4) Compete, not with others, but with yourself, to bring out the best in you.

5) Compete on the basis of cooperation.

6) Cooperate so as to raise yourself through competition.

7) Cooperate with the best in the rival.

8) Covert competition into cooperation.

9) Cooperate with the opposite to overcome the competitive spirit.

10) Convert the spirit of competition into the spirit of cooperation.

Competition exists when man sees the other as not-self or a rival. Cooperation comes into existence when man recognizes that the rival too is heading for the same goal through another road. All roads are acceptable.

Just now the world is extending the limits of cooperation beyond the national boundaries to the ends of the globe.

This is physical extension in quantity of space, not a qualitative extension of values. That will be a wider discussion requiring greater length. The principle in organisational evolution is,

  • At each stage of further evolution, values reverse.

As they reverse, life compels that reversal by creating unmanageable circumstances for the old values. To be able to observe that transition is effected in VISA by newer technology, higher education, etc., is to trace the evolution of organisation.

The writing can try to live up to those values in great and greater measure. That will raise the value of this approach. It is the approach of seeing the Whole in the part. Life consists of force, Energy, Form, Objects, Qualities of the Objects - education, skill, soft, hard, etc.--; it is possible for us to see one event from the point of view of all these shades. Let us pronounce the evolutionary grade of each of them and offer a theoretical explanation of it. It will make the book complete and rich. We shall take one Mini Maxim on page 192 of Hock's book.

Mini Maxim - "Given the right circumstances, from no more than dreams, determination, and the liberty to try, quite ordinary people consistently do extraordinary things."

            The best example for this mini maxim is Dee Hock.

Everyone in the audience recognizes the Visa card

It is popular.

Who knows what it is, nobody knows anything about VISA's origin, structure, etc.

People know its use value, not its technology.

Hock does not expect people to know.

The user is not expected to know the technology.

In 1968 VISA was a concept.

Organisation is born first as a concept.

Today it is worldwide and is growing

VISA is accepted by the society

‘I knew VISA well, I do not know what it is today, what it may become is not my affair.'

He is a pioneer of sorts. He is unconscious.

‘I shall write about it as I experience.'

It is knowledge of experience, not a conceptual knowledge.

VISA was a quasi-governmental, quasi-not profit, quasi-consulting, quasi-franchising, quasi-educational, quasi-social, quasi-commercial, quasi-political alliance.

Any organisation after its birth gradually integrates with every other organisation. VISA has done it.

It was none of them, yet it was all of them. It was chaordic.

When organisations are integrating with previous organisations they create chaos first and later restore order.

In a strict legal sense, VISA was a non-stock, for-profit membership corporation.

In another sense, it was an inside- our holding company in that is did not hold, but was held by its functioning parts

Change of ownership to the periphery

The financial institutions that create its products were, at one & the same time, its owners, its members, its suppliers, its customs, its subjects & its superiors

Not only ownership changes, its character changes. We see this transition to democracy from monarchy.

‘...highly regulated of industries, yet.. not subject to regulation'

cf competition changes to cooperation

‘...needed greater capacity as less cost'

Progress means less effort, less time, quicker, cheaper.

‘It could not be bought, traded...,ownership ... non transferable...'

From being a physical possession of a thing, like land, ownership changes into a mental right that cannot be traded

A change from physical to mental

‘However that position of business ---- extremely broad, active market'

Intangible character helps broaden. One aspect of progress is growth

‘VISA...transcended language, race, custom, culture'

The character of the instrument that serves the ideal. Money, Morse code, laws of physics, telescope like instruments had that character

In wars ‘belligerents never ceased to use it'

A true characteristic of being universal.

P. 190  most profitable consumer service in the financial service industry

Growth of organisation brings cheaper service.

p. 191  reduced the cost of unsecured credit

Profits coming in greater measure to less stable sections of the society shows the further evolution of VISA.

New concept of relationships...

distributed...their expense...

Telegraph conquered distance. VISA conquered the monopoly of ownership. It conquered the cost of credit.

Since it had no interest in controlling or owning technology...unlimited ingenuity...

Human ingenuity is the greatest asset. VISA proved to be an organisation that taps it.

Organisation is transparent.

Authority and ownership are less and less.

Not only transparent, ‘the core of the enterprise had no knowledge, no information...'

Authority of the center is not only dissolved, its basis of information itself is removed from the center.

p. 191.  No part knew the whole...the whole did not know the parts, none had any need to...

This is one sign of abundance. Authority that was scarce, now having become abundant, lost its characteristics of scarcity.

‘was largely self-regulating.'

A character of the conscious becoming subconscious as a step of progress in the descent.

"A staff of 500 coordinated...hundred billion dollars."

Efficiency is not double or ten fold but increases infinitely. Any company can raise its efficiency 1000 or 100,000 fold.

‘...electronic financial transactions in a week which Federal Reserve does in a year.'

The world is unaware that this peed is available to all.

‘ordinary people of $30,000 salary achieved all this.'

This is a greater truth than any the world has experienced.

A greater Truth not meant for this book is these employees can earn as individuals, better as members of a LIVE organisation 100,000 times greater salary, if the society becomes CONSCIOUS.

The above narration about VISA by implication describes the meaningfulness of the theory. They are:

1) Self-giving makes all richer beyond conception. VISA practises organisatonal self-giving.

2) When we replace the physical characteristics by mental ones, growth is enormous, cost is infinitesimal, speed is great, efficiency is high, spreading is quicker.

3) The Individual is recognized by the Society.

  • His importance rises.
  • Prosperity is in infinite abundance
  • Mental man is enormously rich, physical man is poor.
  • It is the spiritual values that make the mental man prosper.

story | by Dr. Radut