Reinventing Organizations is a book that pushes the limits of how mainstream society often thinks about the structures and operating principles of nonprofit and for-profit organizations. It begins by drawing on Spiral Dynamics and Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory. The foundational assertion of the book is that a new way of collaborating has emerged with every major stage in human consciousness, resulting in new organizational models. The organizational models are given names and colors: reactive--infrared paradigm, magic--magenta paradigm, impulsive--red paradigm, conformist--amber paradigm, achievement--orange paradigm, pluralistic--green paradigm, and evolutionary--teal paradigm. Each paradigm has distinct characteristics and marks a different way of operating than the other paradigms. For example, achievement orange is focused on individual success and results (e.g., profits). Power and a self-serving drive for success are characteristics of this paradigm. In contrast to the other paradigms that have come before it, organizations in the evolutionary teal paradigm have three essential characteristics: self-management (vs. traditional hierarchies), an ethos of striving for wholeness (bringing one’s whole self into the workplace), and the practice of listening for evolutionary purpose (actions are informed by adherence to organizational values).
Building on this evolutionary paradigm structure, Laloux discusses his research findings on 12 teal organizations in both for-profit and nonprofit arenas. At first, the practices and structures of these organizations seemed radical to me as someone who is new concepts such as Spiral Dynamics, Integral Theory, and self-management. With that said, the stories of how these organizations are structured and how they function are fascinating and have profound implications for how other organizations could operate if the conditions are ripe. When reading the book, I often felt simultaneously inspired by the possibility of surpassing “business as usual” using evolutionary teal practices and frustrated that the transformation to this new paradigm is currently unlikely in most settings given a strict adherence to hierarchy and power structures.
The main disappointment from Reinventing Organizations is that Laloux declares--only towards the end of the book--that building an evolutionary “teal” organization is only possible if the CEO and owners/board of directors fully support the structures and practices of teal organizations. Furthermore, he explains that he has not found an organization that is segmented with part of the organization functioning with teal practices and the remaining segments functioning in more traditional, hierarchical ways. While this conclusion is not surprising, it left me wanting a different outcome from the research. The “consolation prize” Laloux offers is to encourage organizations with CEOs and owners who do not support teal practices to strive to create more healthy practices within their current paradigm. There are many examples throughout the book of practices that could be adapted within the limitations of green, amber, or orange organizations.
The book is easy to read overall, although lengthy at times and dense in the opening chapters, and is directed toward practitioners, not researchers or academics. While Laloux presents a substantial list of research questions in the appendix, he does not describe his methodology or analysis techniques in the book. Anyone who is part of an organization and open to a different way of operating that enables people to bring a sense of wholeness to their work should consider reading and applying ideas from Reinventing Organizations.
Megan S. via Amazon.
About the Author
Frederic Laloux works as an adviser, coach, and facilitator for corporate leaders who feel called to explore fundamentally new ways of organizing. A former Associate Partner with McKinsey & Company, he holds an MBA from INSEAD and a degree in coaching from Newfield Network in Boulder, Colorado.
His groundbreaking research in the field of emerging organizational models has been described as groundbreaking, brilliant, spectacular, impressive, and world-changing by some of the most respected scholars in the field of human development. Frederic Laloux lives in Brussels, Belgium, with his wife, Hélène, and their two children.
The way we manage organizations seems increasingly out of date. Survey after survey shows that a majority of employees feel disengaged from their companies. The epidemic of organizational disillusionment goes way beyond Corporate America-teachers, doctors, and nurses are leaving their professions in record numbers because the way we run schools and hospitals kills their vocation. Government agencies and nonprofits have a noble purpose, but working for these entities often feels soulless and lifeless just the same. All these organizations suffer from power games played at the top and powerlessness at lower levels, from infighting and bureaucracy, from endless meetings and a seemingly never-ending succession of change and cost-cutting programs. Deep inside, we long for soulful workplaces, for authenticity, community, passion, and purpose. The solution, according to many progressive scholars, lies with more enlightened management. But reality shows that this is not enough. In most cases, the system beats the individual-when managers or leaders go through an inner transformation, they end up leaving their organizations because they no longer feel like putting up with a place that is inhospitable to the deeper longings of their soul. We need more enlightened leaders, but we need something more: enlightened organizational structures and practices. But is there even such a thing? Can we conceive of enlightened organizations? In this groundbreaking book, the author shows that every time humanity has shifted to a new stage of consciousness in the past, it has invented a whole new way to structure and run organizations, each time bringing extraordinary breakthroughs in collaboration. A new shift in consciousness is currently underway. Could it help us invent a radically more soulful and purposeful way to run our businesses and nonprofits, schools and hospitals? The pioneering organizations researched for this book have already "cracked the code." Their founders have fundamentally questioned every aspect of management and have come up with entirely new organizational methods. Even though they operate in very different industries and geographies and did not know of each other's experiments, the structures and practices they have developed are remarkably similar. It's hard not to get excited about this finding: a new organizational model seems to be emerging, and it promises a soulful revolution in the workplace. Reinventing Organizations describes in practical detail how organizations large and small can operate in this new paradigm. Leaders, founders, coaches, and consultants will find this work a joyful handbook, full of insights, examples, and inspiring stories.
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