21 Slices
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8. The Impossible Imagined

Hock, Dee Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man’s job?
If you don’t understand this you will get lost,
However intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.

—Lao-Tzu

“Mr. Carlson, I’m in trouble. When I spoke up at the meeting in Columbus I had no intention of getting so involved. I agreed to serve on the committee with the thought of setting things in motion and stepping aside. Problems are much worse than we imagined. People across the country have become deeply concerned and are looking to the committees as a possible solution. There is growing expectation I’ll continue as chairman. I have a few ideas about how to proceed, but no way of knowing what might result. I’m continually being drawn deeper into the situation and should either make a serious commitment or step aside. I’m torn between the two.”

Conversations with Mr. Carlson are never long. The most patient, intense listener I have ever known, his questions are inevitably short, penetrating, and singularly to the point, although often softened by looking down or away. His manner induces others to listen intently and give short, clear answers. In the habit of referring to me as “young man,” that is how he began.

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15. What’s in a Name?

Hock, Dee Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Either the Stars are great geometers or the eternal geometer has
arranged the stars.

—Voltaire

It was perfect—perfect in its beauty—and perfect because, from the
sun in the heavens to the fly with burnished wings on the hot rock,
there was nothing out of harmony.

—Mark Rutherford

In 1973, it became apparent that continuing proliferation of names for the card could hinder growth of the system. At the time, the only common worldwide identity was the blue-white-gold bands design. The product had a different name in every country and in some countries, several names. In the United States, the common name was BankAmericard. In Canada, Chargex. In the remainder of the world, it was usually known by the name of the issuer, such as Sumitomocard in Japan, or Barclaycard in the United Kingdom. Once the card had been introduced in the name of one bank, others were reluctant to join.The multitude of names was confusing to merchants, seriously undermining card acceptance. Ability to conduct international marketing and ensure acceptability of cards was severely limited.

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16. Breaking the Mold

Hock, Dee Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The true strength of rulers and empires lies … in the belief of men
that they are inflexibly open, truthful, and legal. As soon as government
departs from that standard, it ceases to be anything more than
“the gang in possession” and its days are numbered.

—H. G. Wells

They that reverence too much the old times are but a scorn to the new.

—Sir Francis Bacon

How could you treat people who performed a miracle of communications with a piece of string and a dirty coffee cup and proved the validity of a new design by counterfeiting their own cards as though they were no more than “human resources?” You couldn’t and we didn’t.

The greatest delight from all my days leading Visa were open staff meetings, from which we never wavered.Within a day after every board meeting, staff meetings were held to include every employee of the company at every level including the newest. They were conducted by the most senior person present.At the meeting, every decision of the board was fully disclosed. Every employee was free to ask any question about the decisions, or anything else of concern to them. Their questions were answered fully. “That’s confidential” was not considered an answer. “I don’t know but I will find out and tell you at the next meeting” was permissible, but only if the promise was faithfully kept. All I ever said to them of a cautionary nature was, “You realize that some things you will learn could be detrimental to our purpose if they were bandied about publicly or prematurely leaked to the press. However, until we are consistently proved wrong, we will do our best to behave in accordance with the belief that mutual respect and trust is the strongest bond among people, and can be relied upon. I hope to earn your trust and respect and you shall certainly have mine.”

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2. A Lamb and the Lion of Life

Hock, Dee Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The striking of a match is every bit as wonderful as the working of a
brain; the union of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen in a
molecule of water is every bit as wonderful as the growth of a child.
Nature does not class her works in order of merit; everything is just
as easy to her as everything else: she puts her whole mind into all that
she does ... [she] lives through all life, extends through all extent,
spreads undivided, operates unspent.

—Stephen Paget

It is 1934, and I am five years old, wild with excitement, trotting back and forth, peering around overall-clad legs bulging with muscle as neighbors with crowbars strain alongside my father to move the frame cottage a quarter mile down the cement highway, on rollers made of old telephone poles, to an acre of land purchased from a neighboring farmer. With the cottage on site and a man on either end of a ten-foot crosscut saw, the poles are soon bucked into short sections. They are buried on end under the jacked-up house, which is slowly lowered, creaking as it comes to rest a foot above the ground on the wooden foundation.

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18. The Jeweled Bearing

Hock, Dee Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

God will not ask me why I was not Moses.
He will ask me why I was not Susya.

—Rabbi Susya

The moving finger writes; and having writ
Moves on; nor all your piety and wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.

—Omar Khayyám

Early in 1984, the curtain came down on my performance as CEO of Visa. The business costume went into the closet and I went directly from the commercial theater to life on 200 acres of remote, ravaged land. It was shockingly difficult, an aching void emptied of things once craved—money, power, prestige, position—all achieved and now abandoned. The lifelong dream of pioneering a new concept of organization had been realized. There was pride and gratification in knowing what it had been, what it now was, and what it might become. There was also a sense of failure about what it ought to be. The world was marveling at Visa’s success. To me, its flaws were all too apparent. Well, so be it.

Life flows on. Bishop Butler had the right idea:“Things are as they are and will be as they will be, why then should we desire to be deceived?”

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