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Editorial: May 2015

Book defines servant leadership, cooperative difference


A new business book just hit the market.

It’s “Wired Differently.”

No, it’s not about electricity; it’s not that kind of wire.

This book is about how one company is wired to be successful. It happens to be a cooperative, and it’s based here in Mandan and in Lake St. Louis, Missouri.

National Information Solutions Cooperative, or NISC, is the name of this business cooperative. “Wired Differently” shares the compelling story of a 50-year-old technology business built on the cooperative model that has grown to employ a thousand workers while providing software services to electric and telephone cooperatives throughout the United States.

The primary author of this book is Vern Dosch, NISC’s chief executive officer. Vern’s a true servant leader who has led NISC to compete with the giants in the technology world — not with stock options and profits — but with values, ethics and servant leadership.

He describes early on in the book that cooperatives have three powerful attributes that give NISC and other cooperatives a distinct advantage in the marketplace:

Cooperatives encourage long-term strategies rather than short-term gain. In the for-profit world, corporations are forced to focus on the quarterly report to stockholders. Miss the analysts estimates, and a company’s stock price could be punished in the marketplace. As nonprofit corporations, cooperatives can stay focused on the long-term needs of their member-owners.


Cooperatives promote a culture that serves others first. In the cooperative business world, it’s in the best interest of employees to serve their customers well because customers are also the ones who own the company. Over time, cooperatives develop more of a collaboration with their member-owners.


Cooperatives support a mindset to seek the greater good for many, rather than for just a few. There’s no competing interest in the cooperative model between customers and stockholders. Employees don’t have to worry about whether it’s more important to increase wealth for shareholders or to serve members better through innovation, better products and services. Cooperatives exist to make a positive difference in the lives of their members.


The University of Mary, based in Bismarck, has already embraced “Wired Differently.” It will be the basis of course to be offered in the university’s Tharaldson School of Business, and taught by Vern Dosch and NISC staff.

There are thousands of business books published each year; it’s inspirational to read this one. This book is about home. It’s about a North Dakota company started by North Dakota electric and telephone cooperatives that has gone on to be an industry leader in the field of software development and information technology services. The foreword of the book encourages the reader to “open your heart and mind to a fundamentally different way of thinking about business. If you do, you will realize the power of what can happen when people who love life and their communities come together to create a serve leader enterprise.”

And that’s the story of not only NISC, but cooperative business across North Dakota.  

If you’d like to order a copy of the book, visit



Dennis Hill, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, Mandan. Comments can be mailed to Dennis Hill, NDAREC, P.O. Box 727, Mandan, ND 58554-0727 or by email