What Kind Of Organisation Do You Want To Work For?

The best business leaders care.

They care about their organisation, they care about its fundamental purpose, they care about its people and they care about its future. They spend a lot time thinking about what life in their organisation must be like for people who aren’t at the very top.

It is a sad truth that 75% of the global workforce feels demotivated and disengaged at work. For people who toil at the bottom of organisational pyramids, life is often unfulfilling and mundane. Work is simply a way to make the money they need to live; it has no meaning other than that. It is a necessary evil to be endured. If you ignore time spent sleeping, we all typically spend 57% of our waking hours at work during an average working life of 46 years. That’s scary.

Here at Inzpire, we are putting a lot of energy into thinking about how to create an engaged, humane and soulful workplace, in which people have autonomy, mastery and control in their work. We spend a lot of time considering this and also how to give work meaning.

The shadow of history (https://sites.google.com/a/online.sd71.bc.ca/the-history-and-present-of-human-rights/the-industrial-revolution)

One of the biggest hurdles to any business leader is the shadow of history. During the industrial revolution, large volume of uneducated workers were required to perform mindless repetitive tasks in order to build railroads, ships and factories. Creativity and initiative were not desired or encouraged and so called ‘scientific management’ techniques were used to drive forward efficiency by breaking tasks down into their smallest component parts.

People were viewed as inherently lazy, always putting their own self-interest first, acting in untrustworthy ways, and primarily being motivated by money. Hierarchy, routine, assessment, and process were therefore all seen as essential control mechanisms. Employees were deemed incapable of understanding the big picture and of acting in the best interests of the business. Parent-like bosses were thus installed above them to tell them what to do and to make decisions for them; employees simply had to hear and obey. Business today is still suffering from that legacy (just look at the number of places where you still have to clock in and out!) but thankfully things have, at last, started to move on.

At Inzpire we are determined to create what is known as a TEAL organisation. You have probably never heard of a TEAL organization, and neither had I until I read Fredrick Laloux’s brilliant book ‘Reinventing Organisations: A Guide to Creating Organisations Inspired by the Next Stage in Human Consciousness’

The central thesis of this amazing book is that we should dare to hope for a lot more from our organisations. What are so often energy-sapping and depressing emotional prisons could become energising places that are free of stress, burnout, resentment and apathy. They could be spaces that are truly productive and fulfilling, where work has real meaning, where talent can blossom and where the true callings of good people can be honoured. Sounds like a flight of fancy? Not according to Laloux and not according to Inzpire either.

Laloux studied how organisations have evolved over history, from the dawn of civilisation to present times. He came to the conclusion that they have developed (and will develop in future) in discrete stages, like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. He labelled the different stages after colours: RED, AMBER, ORANGE, GREEN and TEAL.

Organisations develop in discrete stages (www.quora.com/What-needs-to-happen-for-a-caterpillar-to-transform-into-a-butterfly)

Around 100,000 years ago, as early humans were moving out of Africa, family groups started to band together for safety. Thus, the first ‘organisations’ were formed. These were RED organisations in Laloux’s taxonomy. These organisations had a single objective: survival of the group.  Leadership was normally vested in an alpha male who ruled subordinates through fear. Fear was the glue of the organisation and the leadership style was highly predatory. The best metaphor for these organisations is a wolf pack. There are still plenty of RED organisations around today: the Mafia, Daesh, and tribal militias are good examples.

The Mafia is a RED organisation (www.hdwallsbox.com/text-quotes-the-godfather-movie-wallpaper-81131)

Around 5,000 years ago, at the time when humans were discovering agriculture in the Tigris-Euphrates crescent, AMBER organisations developed. These organisations, driven by the need to manage harvests and were focussed on division of work. They were highly stratified, and introduced the idea of a hierarchical pyramid. Key breakthroughs were the concept of formal roles and scalable processes. Stability was prized above everything and the future was seen as an extension of the past. Order and predictability were key. Leadership in these organisations was paternalistic and authoritarian. The best metaphor for AMBER organisations is an army. AMBER organisations are still widespread in our society even today. The military, the police, the church, public schools and government agencies are all good examples.

The best metaphor for an AMBER organisation is an army (www.defenceupdate.in/can-chinas-army-really-capture-new-delhi-in-2-days)

About 500 years ago, along came ORANGE organisations. These were all about achievement. For them the drive was profit, growth and beating the competition. The Dutch East India Company was a good early example. In ORANGE organisations the future must be different to, and better than, the past. Progress is essential. Leadership is task orientated and all about management by objectives. Accountability, innovation and meritocracy were key developments. In theory, anyone can be the boss in an ORANGE organisations so long as they are good enough at furthering its objectives. The best metaphor for this type of organisation is a machine and you see this model in most multi-national companies today.

Investment banks tend to be ORANGE organisations (www.business92.com/latest-news-pakistan/morgan-stanley)

50 years ago, GREEN organisations started to appear on the scene. GREEN organisations place a heavy focus on culture and values. Their aim is to achieve extraordinary levels of employee motivation through profoundly shared beliefs and ways of behaving. Leadership in GREEN organisations is normally consensus orientated and participative. These organisations introduced the concept of the ‘servant leader’, who is the opposite of the ‘great figurehead’. A breakthrough was the acceptance of the importance of all organisational stakeholders (not just shareholders). Another was the idea of genuine empowerment. The best metaphor for a GREEN organisation is a family. Examples include Disney, Ben and Jerrys, Innocent, South West Airlines.

 A values-led GREEN organisation (www.theodysseyonline.com/love-letter-to-ben-and-jerrys)

Finally, the world started to see the rise of TEAL organisations. These organisations are driven by something even more fundamental than values and culture. At the core of these organisations is the organisation’s underlying purpose (what is it there for, over and above making money). Purpose is everything in TEAL organisations. Self-management replaces the hierarchical pyramid and the concept of ‘wholeness’ is introduced. Wholeness is being who you really are at work and not pretending to be what you think the organisation wants you to be. Trust, transparency, information sharing, continual learning, and a belief that all employees are of equal worth pervade these organisations.

TEAL organisations are not embarrassed to use words like love, care, fun, gratitude, playfulness and curiosity. Profit in these organisations is viewed as a by-product of a life well lived and leadership is highly distributed. Leaders try to make themselves irrelevant, they want everyone to lead. They give away power and there are few hierarchies. Decisions are made by those best placed to make them. The best metaphor for a TEAL organisation is a living organism – something that is constantly adapting, changing and reacting but that is in total control of itself. These organisations are rare but they do exist. Patagonia is quoted by Laloux as one. Inzpire is striving to be one too.

Striving to be a TEAL organisation

TEAL organisations take a very positive view of the nature of humans. They fundamentally trust and deeply respect their employees and believe them to have good intentions. They prize diversity, they prize constructive dissent, and they strive to create an environment that is positive, optimistic, accepting and happy. They are places of immense passion and deep purpose.

This is where Inzpire is heading.

Are you coming with us?


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