Book Review: “Reinventing Organizations” and the Emergence of a New Management Paradigm

Since I first started writing this blog, I’ve been consistently looking for a way to synthesize the various topics I’ve written about over time and I was so excited to have come across a book called Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux, which finally helped me to do just that! 

ReinventingOrganizations

Not only does this book take into account much of the subject matter I studied during my MBA program at UNR, but it applies insights from philosophers I pay attention to like Ken Wilber; shares the stories of companies in the marketplace that I’ve noticed operating non-traditionally such as Patagonia and Sounds True; touches on key ideas like Integral Theory, Conscious Capitalism, B-corps, agile work methods, developmental theory, the economic implications of the digital economy, crowdsourcing, the collaborative economy, and more … all of which I’ve written about before.

The book provided a solid framework to help me understand how these various pieces of the puzzle fit together, why it’s important to understand how they do, and how this is affecting business, marketing, and the underlying economy as a whole.

In short, this book will mean many things to many different people, but in my own estimation, this is a book for highly developed leaders who are curious about new and effective ways to do business. While the points explored in this book run deeply against the grain of today’s accepted management practices, it’s an important read because it challenges common assumptions in favor of a better way of doing business that’s more congruent with the times we live in.

What is a Teal Organization?

Just as with human consciousness development, our organizations (which are essentially collections of individuals at different stages of consciousness development) each carry their own collective level of consciousness and can be described in the following diagram, which builds off of Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory and briefly summarizes the different types of organizational approaches we find common in society today, with Red organizations symbolizing the most basic and rudimentary, and Teal organizations representing the businesses that are operating at the leading edge of human consciousness development: 

Evolutionary Breakthroughs

(Image Source)

In Teal organizations, the capitalist “Orange” order of the organization is turned on its head. Hierarchy disappears, and access to information flattens. Instead of companies being viewed as machines, they are seen as porous, living systems. Performance reviews become irrelevant and are instead replaced by open conversations about goals and opportunities for development as they relate to helping the organization achieve its core purpose. Mission statements disappear and the focus zeroes in on organizational purpose and how to best align. Strategy disappears as all actions lead toward fulfilling a central purpose. Instead of following the leader, everyone becomes a leader in their own right, operating at various points of the spectrum that makes up the entirety of each individual organization. Individuals are empowered to make their own decisions and act accordingly. Teams are kept in balance through a process of self-management through following an advice process. CEOs become stewards of a company, as opposed to rulers. Individuals are invited to be more whole, and to embrace their inner dimensions.

Sound like a fantasy? If you don’t believe it, I invite you to check out this book which highlights a number of case studies about companies that are already operating this way, spanning various industries, continents, company sizes, and types. In the author’s own words, he states: “We are not dealing here with a theoretical model or a utopian idea, but with a reality wanting to be imitated and propagated.” Here’s follows a brief video from the author discussing some of his insights and research: 

I’ll follow up with more thoughts on how this relates to marketing in a later post, but until then, I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite excerpts/ideas from this book:

  • “Achievement-orange thinks of organizations as machines, and machines have no soul, no direction of their own. In that perspective, it’s the role of the leadership team to decide what the machine must do. In Evolutionary-Teal, an organization is viewed as a living system, an entity with its own energy, its own identity, its own creative potential and sense of direction. We don’t need to tell it what to do; we just need to listen, partner with it, join in the dance, and discover where it will take us.” – Page 199
  • “In Teal organizations, there is no strategy process … strategy  happens organically, all the time, everywhere, as people toy with ideas and test them out in the field. The organization evolves, morphs, expands or contracts in response to a process of collective intelligence.” – Page 207
  • “Teal paradoxical thinking invites us to transcend this either-or dichotomy: we can be both fully ourselves (rather than full of ourselves) and be working toward achieving an organization’s deeper purpose. We don’t need to reject parts of ourselves to be in service. It’s just the opposite: we are at our most productive and joyful when all of who we are is energized by a broader purpose that nourishes our calling and soul.” – Page 247
  • “There is a common belief in organizational development circles that if we could only get leaders to be more enlightened, all would be well. That notion is too simplistic; enlightened leaders don’t automatically make for enlightened organizations, unless they also embrace structures, practices, and cultures that change how power is held, how people can show up, and how the organization’s purpose can express itself.” – Page 257

While all of this is still very much emerging, as I see it, the entire trajectory of business could be very well moving in this direction as the case studies and insights shared throughout the book create a compelling case. What’s more, this book is grounded on developmental theory, which is a very interesting piece of subject matter on its own. You can learn more about this book at its website. If you’ve read the book, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts about it!

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