Did you read Frederic Laloux's Reinventing Organizations and are completely hooked but don't know what to do to implement this vision? Or have you stumbled across an organization in which employees implement projects in a completely self-organized way and would like to try out these approaches in your company? Then you've come to the right place.
Teal is not a strategy or a blueprint that can be studied and then implemented. It is expression of a mindset that translates into every decision. From the outside, it can seem contradictory and eclectic. It does not obey a congruent strategy, but reacts immediately to every new situation and is also ready to question its own basic assumptions.
These characteristics make it so difficult to describe Teal to someone who has not experienced it for themselves. And it makes it even more difficult to design concrete transformation plans. They often remain far too theoretical and abstract.
Our approach is different: we want to show you the first concrete step towards a Teal transformation as soon as possible. It's something you can do today that will immediately challenge your and your team's standard mode of operation.
If you're ready to take that step, we'd love to meet you.
Here you can book an appointment to get your first step towards a Teal Transformation. We will meet via video chat and you can briefly explain your situation to one of our consultants. After that, you will receive the first concrete step we recommend by email.
The whole thing is completely without obligation and free of charge.
The term Teal describes a certain way in which people work together. It is characterized by authenticity, autonomy and meaningfulness. The term was largely coined by Frederic Laloux, who in his book Reinventing Organizations examines companies, schools and other organizations that are radically different from others. They focus on personal initiative and the inherent drive of each employee to create good. But Laloux also draws on an existing notion:
The term Teal is used to denote a certain stage of the development of consciousness, which adults go through, although not necessarily to the point of Teal. I Although it is not the last stage discovered, it is the bleeding edge that is driving us forward.
The way people organize has evolved alongside humankind. The more sophisticated our mind, needs and emotions became, the more our need for more complex organizations arose; and at the same time our ability to build these organizations. But, let's start at the beginning.
Early human societies were organized in tribes. No more than a dozen or so people were able to work together and they were usually bound by blood-ties. There was no division of labour except that the men usually took care of the hunting while the women bore children and looked after them.
This changed when human consciousness developed further; to a stage we call Red. Now, people started to see themselves as separate and independent beings who could make their own decisions; unconstraint from their tribe. They started becoming opportunistic. At this stage, people organized in gangs – and still do in certain places.
At the top there is the boss who has the most power, meaning he can kick everybody else's ass. The rest of the pack follows him not out of conviction but because working together gives them an opportunity for profit and of course security. What holds the organization together is fear of retaliation by the boss or his underlings.
The advent of Amber consciousness held a huge change for people and organizations around the world. For the individual, it brought the ability to think transtemporally, meaning that they started planning into the future, and not just the coming weeks but for the next year. One of the most important products of this ability is the domestication of crops and agriculture: Stowing away the right amount of seeds for the next year and sowing them at the right time requires a mind that can plan at least one year ahead.
But this awareness of time also brought the awareness of one's inevitable death. Out of this fear arose a strong need for stability: "if we do everything the same way we did last time, then we are save, because last time it worked and obviously I'm not dead." This need for stability and repetition carried over into Amber organizations. If everybody follows the rules, it will work. Like this the constant struggle for power and security disappeared: everybody played by the rules because it gave them security.
This made possible some of the most revolutionary changes in organizations: First of all, the division of labour. If members are content following the rules, not always looking for a way to get more personal benefit, we can define processes and roles and assign them to somebody. Not only are workers now interchangeable, making organizations much more long-lived, we now get into the realm of scalability. The longest-lived Amber organization in the West is of course the Catholic church – a pinnacle of stability.
In order to run such large organizations, there has to be a clear chain of command. This is where the classic, hierarchical organizational schemes stem from. At the top there is the highest leader, who can be replaced eventually but typically this process is ruled by lineage or some other traditional concept. Then there are his closest subordinates, followed by regional or departmental managers, followed by the workforce. How many layers the pyramid has varies largely but what is true for every such organization is that the thinking is done at the top and the doing is done at the bottom.
Orange consciousness already developed in ancient Greece but it took until the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution for it to really transform the world. The biggest shift in consciousness is the ability to think abstractly, extrapolate processes and predict outcomes. Instead of thinking in terms of concrete roles and rules; which is great for improving stability, but does not lead to progress; Orange is able to formulate experiments in order to find out new things. This development of course triggered an enormous amount of innovation.
Orange consciousness also likes to plan. Everything is planned: from the weekly schedule at work to the vacations to career goals and even offspring. Indeed, plans are extremely important to the individual and having something not planned out makes it feel uneasy.
The change in the way we organize that came with orange consciousness is also great. Stability gave way to progress as the main goal and it became not only normal, but desirable for people to switch jobs and climb the corporate ladder. Organizations themselves also became much more adaptable, as it is now normal that departments are frequently resized, projects sold off and entire corporations merged together.
Orange organizations also realized that talent and competence has nothing to do with race, sex or creed. If you are smart and work hard, you can become anything you want. This not only lead to more freedom for the individual but to more equality and progress for the collective.
Green consciousness started taking the cultural lead in the 1960s and has since established itself in western society and beyond. Its biggest contribution to organizational life is a strong focus on all stakeholders, as well as on the importance of a value-centered culture. The latter is a very strong driver when it is genuinely applied and when culture is put at the core of the company. Then, there is a shift in responsibility and in leadership style: the ideal leader is no longer a decisive and headstrong boss but a servant of the ones he leads. Sometimes the leader is even appointed by those he will eventually lead - just as in a democracy. Also, it is important to notice how responsibility is pushed down the hierarchy to the people on the front line: they are the ones with the most information about their specific task so they should have a voice in decisions that affect them. In this way, Green organizations pick it up where Orange left it and take it all the way, so to speak. Sometimes, this is even taken a step further: not only are other opinions considered when taking a decision, but the basis of the decision is consensus between all stakeholders. This is to avoid any sort of top-down pressure.
A very important Green improvement upon the way organizations work is the stakeholder-value perspective. Whereas Orange companies see their most important, and sometimes only role in generating financial value for their shareholders, Green organizations realize that they are part of a bigger system to which they should bring value. So instead of focusing on one group of stakeholders (the shareholders), value should be brought to the environment, society in general and particularly to the less fortunate. Green organizations are convinced that this will bring more long-term benefit than the short-term focus on financial value that Orange companies champion.
Enter Teal. It is the latest developmental step in both individual consciousness and in organizational development. The most important development here is that Teal appreciates all of the stages that it went through. It can see them in itself, but also in others and can deal with them appropriately. A Teal organization therefore does not have one management system to rule them all but creates work-forms that fit the workforce.
When it comes to Teal individuals and how they organize, three very important changes should be mentioned.
First, there is the strong need for autonomy. Oftentimes this includes quitting ones job and starting an independent business, but it does not have to. If the company's structure allows for a maximum of autonomy and self-organization, it can unlock the great potential that lies behind this need: people who care about their work and want to take initiative, finding untapped resources and new innovations. Experience shows that the more responsibility they have over their work and the more they get to decide themselves, the more they are willing to put in the extra effort to see their project take off.
The second change is Teal's need for authenticity. People reaching this stage suddenly feel very constrained by the role they play at work. They realize how they only let themselves show a small part of their personality in order to come across as professional, highly motivated and untroubled go-getters. And of course, everybody else is doing the same. The thinking was of course that personal matters and especially emotions are distractions from the work. But Teal organizations who allow their members to bring more of themselves to work have shown us two things: First, that hiding ones true feelings and thoughts is a great source of misunderstandings, inefficiencies and smoldering conflict. This easily outweighs the "distracting" nature of emotions. Second, by holding back their true thoughts and intuitions, people rob the organization of their great ideas, their wisdom and their care. Tapping into that will transform the workplace from a theater stage on which everybody nervously plays their role into a place of warmth with a great sense of community and true personal bonds.
The third major shift on Teal is its unwillingness to work for something that has no higher purpose. Individuals on Teal can no longer wholeheartedly work for a company whose sole purpose is to shuffle money from one place to another, making somebody a little richer while somebody else gets a little poorer. From the Teal perspective, if an organization does not have a purpose that is larger than itself, it has no right to exist. Teal organizations give themselves a purpose and a reason to exist that is greater than themselves and sometimes even greater than their stakeholders. This should not be confused with the "Mission Statement" that most Orange companies have and that everybody working for them knows, means nothing at all. It is an authentic sense of meaning that carries over into every small action and into every conversation. If it is lost, it has to be renewed. New employees must be able to fully subscribe to it, otherwise they are not right for the job.
Teal will not be the last stage in this evolution of organizations, but at the moment it is the cutting edge. Now you might think: "That all sounds great, but how am I ever going to convince my manager that this is a good idea?" Well, that's where this program comes into play. We want to give you the first concrete step toward creating a Teal organization. We're looking forward to meeting you.