spent three days in San Francisco working with the Chaordic
Alliance helping leaders create new organizational forms
that work and play at the intersection of chaos and order. That
sense of chaord* lives between the lines of the pages in this “Human
Capital” issue as we search for the right degree of order so that
the concepts of community and society can survive. Where is the
balance between the chaos of each person doing precisely what they
want to do and of everyone doing enough of what others need them
have been seeing the world through a divide and conquer lens that
focus only on how things differ since the days of René Descartes.
Likewise, our preoccupation with cause and effect has led to an
input-process-output model analogous to a digestive system. But
an increasingly complex society requires we attend not to the differences,
but to the mutuality of things. When good people use a digestive
system approach to this challenge, many of us feel more like the
effluent than the enthused.
think we need, instead, a generative metaphor. We need to create
organizational models that work more like our reproductive systems
that don’t simply reproduce—in the copy or cloning sense—but form
and birth something new that can, in turn, form and deliver something
more. Jack Ring recently reminded me that an oak tree provides shade,
home, and work for all sorts of ecosystems, but primarily spawns
acorns. Inside every acorn is not a tiny little oak tree, but rather
the ability to become an oak tree if given the appropriate environment
are capital not in the sense that they exist, like a five-axis machine
sitting on a factory floor, but in the sense that they can transform
information and energy into forms more useful for their constituencies.
I’ve learned that for organization to thrive, they need to figure
out models, technologies, and systems that generate new life; entire
ecologies where people can educe new means that honor the whole
self in the board room as much as in the lunch room and generate
at least enthusiasm if not joy for all.
I still consider the term Human Capital as much an oxymoron as Knowledge
Management, loud silence, and jumbo shrimp, I’ve seen it serve as
a poultice for those who love it and those quite unamused—by encouraging
us to focus on the other side of the mirror. Focus on the people
in the matrix, not just the structure of the matrix. Although economists
might remind us that the term Human Capital is better than the term
it replaced—Labor Costs—we still have far to go. We hope with this
issue we help take you further down that path.
help us do that, Thomas O.
Davenport challenges the metaphor of Human Capital, Michael
offers insights into what it means to be human-centered, Brook
Manville and I offer our best road signs on our path to something
and Verne Harnish ask us
to look at how learning is key to transformation, Gary
Becker explains how the term sprang to life, and A.
Human Asset explains just how that feels.
never forget that lip service happens when people are forced to
use analogies inappropriate for their purpose. It’s only the opening
to a system that ends where something else occurs. Time to start
forming organizations that birth something new. Time to start really
thinking and to remember William James’ admonition; “A great many
people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging
Chaord and its adjective partner, Chaordic, are terms created by
Dee Hock, Founder and CEO Emeritus of Visa International, to describe
what he saw as the intersection of what needs to be simultaneously
chaotic and orderly.