Teal is more than a pretty colour

You might have recognized by now that our Logo and any other design originating from our company has the colour “teal”. But this colour has a greater meaning to us than it just being a pretty colour – it stands for a specific organizational model as an embodiment of our mindset – we are a proud Teal Organisation. If this is the first time you’ve heard of “Teal Organisation”, here is an overview of what it means to be Teal.

What is a TEAL organization?

What are the reasons for pioneer organizations to run successfully?

For years, Frédéric Laloux searched for answers and eventually published the results in his book called “Reinventing Organisations” in 2014. What he found was that some of the organisations at the forefront of their relevant industries are convinced that the current way to manage companies is outdated. They disregarded what they had been taught in business school and sought something more powerful, soulful and purposeful instead.

Although these pioneer companies differ in industry and location, they ended up with the same three fundamental breakthroughs:

Self-Management: No levels of hierarchy. Authority is distributed.

Wholeness: Show your complete personality, including your emotional and spiritual side. The more life you bring into the company, the more life the company has. An enormous amount of energy and creativity is set free when we can be ourselves.

Evolutionary Purpose: Sense and respond instead of predicting and controlling the future. Because the world has become too big and complicated for the latter. The company is a living organism, so listen to where it wants to go and then follow.

These three features are indicators that an organization has reached a next paradigm describing a new level of consciousness, i.e. a new sensibility or apprehension of the world. Each precedent stage of consciousness has had their own breakthroughs. Up until the Teal-stage, all other stages (Red, Amber, Orange and Green) are described as competing and being adverse towards the integration of the breakthroughs that “lower” levels have achieved. The Teal-layer of consciousness is considered to be the first integral layer, meaning that the features from all stages are no longer in competition but integrated to co-exist. Although this model describes a general evolution, all organisational paradigms currently still coexist in our business world – even throughout a single company.

WHAT ARE CHARACTERISTICS OF A TEAL-ORGANISATION?

One of their characteristics is that they tame their ego and become more mindful. Thus, instead of only focusing on financial success, controlling mechanisms and trying to look good, they listen to their inner wisdom. They are growing into the next stage of consciousness and with them their organisation. With that they are making the next steps towards the solution of tangible business problems such as slow decision making, frustrated employees and missing innovation, to name a few.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SHIFT TOWARDS THE TEAL PARADIGM?

The first thing is to create the right conditions to develop a Teal organisation. The necessary condition for a paradigm shift is that the values and worldview of leaders and owners must match those of the Teal paradigm, otherwise; it won’t be lasting.

Secondly, the foundation for a Teal organisation needs to be built, which consists of the before mentioned pillars: Self-Management, Wholeness and Evolutionary Purpose.

 Self-Management

The most common misconception of this new paradigm is that everyone is equal at all times, and decisions are only subject to consensus. While certain situations might demand for consensus, the general principle of self-management is that decision rights and power go to any individual who has the expertise, interest or willingness to oversee a situation. Based on that principle, hierarchies can still exist, but instead of having these hierarchies as fixed they appear fluidly and naturally.

To make self-management work, individuals might need support with some of the following items:

Decision making, i.e. not try to please others, not going for democracy or even consensus

Conflict management, i.e. not just escalating conflicts to their boss

Communication skills, i.e. how to facilitate meetings and decision-making processes as well as how to coach each other and provide advice without having to agreeing with each other

HOW TO SUPPORT THE PEOPLE IN THEIR TRANSITION?

A powerful internal network allows people to contact each other when they need specific information or advice. What many individuals will feel is that this is not an easy space for everyone to operate in. It takes a lot of accountability to take a decision or to admit later on that it was not the right path. This level of accountability and the difficulty to handle it certainly is a challenge. This journey of development for everyone in the company (and the company itself) is not considered by many companies that want to transform. Naturally, the focus is put on processes and rules for the self-managing organisation, whilst very little attention is paid to the (for us) more important part: how to support the people in their transition.

Wholeness

In Amber, Orange and Green organisations, people often wear a mask to hide their emotional side during work. Very little attention is paid to feelings – or can you remember a senior leadership or board meeting where somebody said: “I can’t explain it, it’s my gut feeling though” and you took the decision based on that without taking a look at any numbers? Or when was the last time you had mindfulness practice in one of your meetings, honouring that there might be emotions in the room? Did you ever experience that this mask-wearing and acting as if you were somebody else as really exhausting?

In Teal organisations, however, the human desire of wholeness is respected. People are invited to be themselves – fully, with all their feelings, including those that are caused by other domains of their life (maybe stress-causing things like relationship difficulties, or sick children etc.).

In some Teal organisations, employees bring their kids and dogs with them or can take part in courses like meditation classes during work. The aim is not to turn the organisation into a playground for adults or motivate them extrinsically with perks as work. Creating value for others and striving for mastery is still the reason for coming together and is, of course, essential to keep the company profitable.

Wholeness means to change the conditions, to establish a frame where human needs and desires are respected instead of treating employees like machines.

Evolutionary Purpose

Vision or mission statements are often intended to express the purpose of an organisation. For today’s dominant management paradigms (Orange), this means the need to define a winning strategy and to follow it strictly. In Teal paradigms, however, the organisation is considered as a living entity, has its own energy, sense of direction and desire to manifest something in the world. So what leaders need to do is sensing what is going on in the organisation. There is no strategy for how to predict and control. They sense and respond, which makes them more innovative.

 Another important learning from the Teal organizations is that purpose always trumps profit. If my purpose is to cure patients, well then, I better take a decision that will support that and not (only) my profitability. You might now think that it is really naive to think this might work, but actually, there are plenty of examples where this principle is lived and makes the company successful.

AND WHAT ABOUT PROFIT?

Don’t get us wrong – we are not saying you should not be profitable as a company. Our company, as well as any other company, needs and wants to earn money, but it is not our primary purpose. Our primary purpose, for example, is to unleash the potential of individuals and companies to make this world a more sustainable one in a catalytic way (and to do science around how catalysis works!). Does this mean we work for free? Does this mean I do not check our bank account regularly? Of course not! Every company needs to be profitable in the end. The relationship between profit and purpose is just turned around: We will follow our purpose, do the right thing and trust that this will be exactly what our customers need and are willing to pay for.

OUR INTERNAL GUIDLINE
OUR PATH TO BEING A TEAL ORGAINSATION – OUR LIVEjourney
One year at LIVEsciences - a personal reflection from Irina

One year at LIVEsciences – a personal reflection

One year ago, I decided to join the company LIVEsciences, and, until now, this has been the best decision I have ever made. Spoiler: This hasn’t always been the case. 😉 (btw. I tend to talk a lot – so if you do not have time to read this; stop now or read it later😊)

Learning No. 1: A self-organized system can be overwhelming.

I have about eight years of working experience – in various kinds of industries. Despite the diversity in multiple regards across the fields, the one thing that always has been a constant was that I have worked in hierarchical systems. Sometimes the hierarchies I experienced were strict and, in some cases, they were already relatively flat. So, I joined LIVEsciences without knowing how this will work out. At the beginning, it was difficult to not have a person who takes decisions for me, especially because I did not know what to do. Of course, we have this advice process where I can get support from my colleagues – but in the end I have to take the decision on my own. In a nutshell, our advice process looks like this: I should ask people for advice who are…

  1. more experienced in this area, or
  2. affected by the decision I take.

Well that sounds easy, doesn’t it? But it is not (at least not for me). I basically didn’t know for what things I should seek advice for. So, I asked for advice (or let’s be honest, I was rather asking for permission) for basically everything. For example, this one time when I broke my smartphone, I asked my colleagues whether I can I get a new one. This was not a question about advice – I only wanted someone to give me the permission to buy a new smartphone or not.

Time flies and I am more relaxed now. We did have some tensions about me (and others) taking decisions without asking for advice, but we also had tensions about me (and others) asking too often for permissions instead of advice. As I said before: I now feel more comfortable with taking my own decisions and being responsible for doing what I wanted to do. And let’s be honest again: This is a journey and a neeever-ending process but I can tell you one thing: it gets easier (not easy 😉)with time.

Learning 2: Having a safe space is key to improve ourselves and the system we work in.

I am a very passionate person and I love the organizational development topics we work on with our clients. It is my passion and it is very difficult for me to close my laptop and stop working at the end of the day. Which is why I have often heard people telling me that I work too much. But what does “too much” mean in an environment where you have flexible working hours?

In July I became tired and frustrated with the whole system. I had the feeling  that our system was the reason for the long working hours and this whole “you are responsible for what you do” is only an excuse for the team not wanting to take care of each other. And anyway, are we were really following our purpose or are we just another consulting company?

I really thought about leaving the company. But here’s the turning point which I realized only a few weeks ago; I realized that we have such a strong safe space in our company which allowed me to address ALL my concerns and frustrations to my colleagues. I also told one of them that I wanted to apply for a recruiter position at another company (I love, love, love recruiting 😊) because I did not see my place here. He then responded with the well-known quote: “love it, change it or leave it”,  suggesting that I first should try to change my situation, instead of leaving it already.

Well, I know this is not a fancy nor a new quote. But it triggered something in my head… Was he right? Have I really been giving our new system a chance? I started to rethink some of my behaviours and attitudes. Since then, I have always been trying to get some feedback from others or asking for advice on how they do things and I am fully in love with the system again.

I still work on weekends, but I do take my time during the working week. Last Tuesday, I went to the massage in the morning and tomorrow I will be working from home. I am also not always starting at 8.00 am in the morning when I need more sleep. And I take two hours break if needed to go for shopping. This is something what love especially because none of us keeps track of what we do and when. To be given the trust to spend my time as I wish is already great, but having the safe space when I openly address that I want to leave the company is just a m a z i n g.

Learning No. 3 – A transparent salary round is … let’s say … interesting.

We have a transparent salary round and yes, I felt super uncomfortable with it. How can I decide on what other people should earn when I do not know what they are working on in detail? Do I hurt feelings with my suggestions? But exactly this feeling of being uncomfortable is a huge opportunity for all of us: for me to share my feelings and for others to share their feelings and their point of views.

We do not know how we will manage our next salary round as we have had several tensions with it but this is again something what I truly appreciate in our system: we discuss these tensions openly and are open to change if it does not fit to our system. (btw. I am pretty sure that my colleague @Timm or I will write something about our transparent round soon 😊 )

Learning No. 4 – Being truly yourself at work is a gift.

I’ve always had problems with having to act like someone else – this really is the worst thing for me. The same applies to wearing clothes that I do not feel comfortable wearing. Having und taking care of our safe space we have, (which is what I think is one of the key success factors in self-organized system) allows me to fully embrace myself. To be able to say things like “today, I am not okay”, “I am afraid of facilitating this workshop”, or “I feel super stupid when Steffen and Frank speak in their language with a lot of foreign words that I do not understand” is such a gift but it also takes a lot of courage.

For me it is crucial to wear clothes that I want to wear; I am a sneaker and jeans lover – please, don’t ever tell me I must wear a nice dress when I don’t feel like wearing one… (also as a consultant 😉)

And this is only a little extract of the wholeness topic. But to keep it short, I never had the feeling of not having the back of the team when leaving out my inner child (and this happens quite often :D)

Learning No. 5 – I could continue for hours…

…talking about our setup – but I guess no one wants to read so much. Therefore, I will soon come to an end and this “short” text should give you an insight about a person who’s had rollercoaster feelings for the system and who still think that there are areas of development for all of us as individuals and as a group.

And now?

This personal insight about my feelings might help you to see how other people react to new organizational structures. So, if clients come to us and tell us that they have people in their team who do not like their new setup, I can understand this. If you’ve worked in a company without having taken real decisions for years (or since ever?) while always having to deliver perfect results and now you should change this behaviour as of tomorrow and be open for new stuff, or if you’ve got rid of your job titles and your colleagues can’t understand this change because they’ve worked many years to earn their titles: this is hard and very challenging in any case!

And if you think that a self-organized system makes everything easier, you only do fun stuff, and everyone is happy all the time – I would (definitely!) not agree.

However, if you believe that people are more like entrepreneurs, things get more personal and you have more room for innovation – then I think self-organization is the way (the journey) to go! This setup we have, has increased my passion and my curiosity but, most importantly, it has allowed me to learn so much about myself.

Such a change / transition needs time, trust, full transparency and a lot of humanity! In the end, change starts in our minds but this new direction needs a north star (why should we change?!), role models who live for this (inspiring people), and a certain framework. You need kind of a playground where certain guiding principles (check out our LIVEline) and rituals exist that strengthen the communication and the commitment. But this was already nicely explained by our colleague Timm (articles), therefore, I will now stop talking for a moment. 😊

Much love,

Irina