In this guest post, Jo Wyganowska explains how we are on the cusp of a new level of consciousness, where organisations place emphasis on authenticity and purpose.
As the speed of change accelerates and the world continues to become more complex, organisations are realising that what got us here today, isn’t what’s going to help us thrive (and in many instances, survive) in the new age.
We now have access to a wealth of information and greater transparency about many matters in society and the world at large. At the tap of our fingertips we can delve into issues relating to the environment, economics, politics, business and, of course, the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of just about any organisation. Naturally, this provides a platform for people to make more conscious decisions about where they ‘choose’ to invest their time, energy and money.
We have seen the concept of ‘work-life balance’ pushed out the door. Instead, this has been replaced by ‘work-life integration’, and interestingly, not just from the perspective of when and where one works. Rather, work choices are increasingly being made on the basis of ‘career experiences’ that align with one’s identity, growth and development desires, and having a positive impact on society.
In the western world, we are living in a time where luxuries have become commodities, and the notion of constantly striving to ‘upgrade’ one’s life is proving to be a great source of disillusionment. Psychology and neuroscience have demonstrated that the joy associated with the initial taste of an ice-cream, the excitement from a windfall of cash, or the buzz of buying a new car, are short-lived experiences that dissipate quickly. Underpinning all of this is, the natural human desire to want to better ourselves.
Based on many such considerations, we can only expect that more and more people are finding themselves questioning, “What’s the purpose?” “What’s really important?” “Why am I doing this?” or “What’s the impact that I’m having?”
This is leading to a shift in greater individual and organisational awareness tied to purpose and values orientation. One could argue that these concepts have been around for as long as we can remember. That people have always referenced their values and organisations have commonly adopted mission statements. However, the re-emergence of these powerful human drivers is appearing to be more authentic and profound, than ever before.
The recent work of Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations (2014), proposes a framework of organisational evolution that speaks to such experiences. It tells the story of how companies have evolved along a spectrum of paradigms and ideas, and explains how we are on the cusp of a new level of consciousness.
The framework uses colours to highlight stage progression. Starting with Red, as characterized by strong leadership that controls people through fear; moving to Amber, which is focused on establishing stable hierarchies, job titles and descriptions, and processes; to the Orange paradigm, where the organisation retains its pyramid structure while trying to provide more freedom with a focus toward innovation and getting ahead of the competition; followed by the Green stage, where we see a focus on empowerment, values-driven culture and servant leadership.
Finally, there is an emergence of a second tier, through a shift into the evolutionary Teal paradigm. This is a reconnection with what it means to be human, with a view of the organisation as a naturally evolving eco-system, like we find in nature.
Teal organisations are characterized by distributed authority, self-management, self-organisation, natural fluid structures, bringing one’s whole self to work, and decisions being made on the basis of the organisation’s purpose.
Some of the values Teal organisations adopt are, win-win thinking, trust, respect, authenticity, honesty, giving and sharing. These organisations are human centric, they genuinely care about the individual, and there are no hierarchies. Leadership is a naturally emerging concept based on passion, expertise and interest, completely unrelated to ranks or titles. What’s more, these companies stand out as high performers and have a strong bottom line.
We see a similar pattern permeate from a customer perspective, with many people increasingly purchasing products and services based on a company’s purpose and its impact on the greater good. People want to spend money on things that are important to them and would prefer to invest their earnings into businesses that have a sense of social responsibility and seek to solve social challenges. As Simon Sinek¹ famously put it, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.
These concepts of human evolution are not entirely new. In the 1970’s Clare Graves presented his ‘bio-psycho-social’ systems framework, which applies value systems to human sociocultural evolution. The theory was further developed by Don Beck and Chris Cowan, who created a structured evolutionary model, and subsequently published Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change (1996). Now, we see the concepts re-emerging and being further evolved by Laloux, with specific examples of organisations identified to be operating in accordance with the Teal paradigm, such as Burtzog and Zappos².
If you find yourself wondering where you and your organization currently sit in respect to the proposed evolutionary shifts, simply consider the attitude that is driving your thinking and actions. At the Teal level, our decisions are guided by internal conscious awareness of who we are and the impact we choose to have. We are more inclined to be asking ourselves, “Is this in line with what I stand for?” “Will this have a positive impact on others?” or “Is there a different way?” Whereas, at the previous levels, the overarching perspective is likely to be “I’m sure I’m right” or “I’ve got it all worked out.”
In its simplest form, the teal perspective is about striving for authentic expression and an orientation toward bringing genuine value to society and the world. Through this we may receive success and recognition, but this is never the end goal.
Psychologist and Human-Centred Designer
¹ Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York, N.Y.: Portfolio.
² Laloux, F. (2014). Reinventing organizations: A guide to creating organizations inspired by the next stage in human consciousness. Brussels, Belgium: Nelson Parker.