Reinventing Organizations: The Next Stage for Working Together

Organizational-Development_stagesWhat’s next for reinventing organizations and the way we work together? I’ve been reviewing the history of organizations viewed through the perspective of evolving stages human consciousness. As humankind developed increasing abilities to handle complexity, they organized themselves to do work in more sophisticated ways. We can see examples of this in variously named stages:

  • Impulsive-Red: Tribe, crime cartels, gangs run by a powerful chief.
  • Conformist-Amber: Religions, military, and schools run by rules and social norms.
  • Achievement-Orange: Corporations, businesses, driven by innovation, incentives, goals, profits, competition and egos.
  • Pluristic-Green: Non-profits, service organizations, driven by culture of shared values, purpose, fairness, consensus, respect for community and environment.
  • Evolutionary-Teal: Self-managed businesses, driven by a culture of shared power, responsibility, wholeness, and higher purpose.

Author Frederic Laloux explains organizational development well in his book Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness (Nelson Parker, 2014). The next stage of human consciousness, called Evolutionary-Teal, corresponds to Maslow‘s self actualizing level and has been variously labeled authentic, integral or Evolutionary-Teal. People transitioning to Teal deal with the world in more complex and refined ways. For example:

  • The shift to Conformist-Amber happens when Impulsive-Red internalizes rules that allow them to dis-identify from impulsively satisfying its needs.
  • The shift to Achievement-Orange happens when Amber dis-identifies from group norms.
  • The shift to Evolutionary-Teal happens when we learn to dis-identify from our own ego.

When we minimize the need to control, to look good, to be right and to fit in, we are no longer fused with ego. We don’t let fears reflexively control our lives. We listen for wisdom in others and to the deeper parts of ourselves.

The fears of the ego are replaced by a capacity to trust the abundance of life. With this belief, if something unexpected happens or if we make mistakes, we are confident things will turn out all right and when they don’t, life will give us an opportunity to learn and grow.

  • In Impulsive-Red, a good decision is the one that gets me what I want.
  • In Conformist-Amber, decisions conform to rules and social norms.
  • In Achievement-Orange, decision yardsticks are effectiveness and success.
  • In Pluralistic-Green, decisions are judged by criteria of belonging and harmony.

In Evolutionary-Teal we are concerned with inner rightness: does this decision seem right? Am I being of service to the world? Does it resonate with my deep inner convictions?

In Teal we do not pursue recognition, success, wealth and belonging to live a good life; we pursue a life well-lived. The ultimate goal to become the truest expression of ourselves, to live into authentic selfhood, to honor our gifts and calling, and be of service to humanity.

Leaders of Teal Organizations

What happens when an organization is run from the Teal paradigm? A number of researchers have determined that the higher people are on the developmental ladder, the more effective they are in leading others.

William Torbert has established that a CEO’s developmental stage significantly determines the success of large-scale corporate transformation programs. Those leaders operating from Evolutionary-Teal were by far the most successful. (Organization Development Journal, April 2005). Clare Graves came to a similar conclusion in his research.

The more complex our worldview and cognition, the more effectively we can deal with problems. In Teal Organizations some of the corporate ills we see today disappear. But many questions arise:

  • When trust replaces fear, does a hierarchical pyramid provide the best structure?
  • Are all the rules, policies, detailed budgets, targets and processes that give leaders control still necessary or effective?
  • Are there simpler, more efficient ways to run organizations?

To answer such questions, author Laloux researched a dozen pioneer companies already operating on Teal principles and examined their structures, practices and cultures.

We’ll share more on this in our next article. In the meantime, what’s your opinion? I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me here and on LinkedIn.

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