Companies as organic systems

After the financial crisis of 2008, we look to Nature to find its answer to unpredictable situations such as those we face after the changeover to the digital age. Companies are beginning to be understood as organic systems. But, nature has its own rules. In this article, the 3 laws of nature and their relation with the contribution that the most evolved companies (or teal) make to their management are explained.

According to the great contribution of Frederic Laloux in his indispensable book Reinventing organisations, the three innovative elements of this type of company to management are:

Evolutionary purpose: It is the main purpose to which he aspires, his particular way of changing the world.
Self-organized teams: The digital revolution has so accelerated the world that the hierarchical structures of organizations are so rigid and inflexible that they are unable to react to the changes in a complex world.
Plenitude: It is about cultivating it, to bring out the enormous potential that all of us have within us and to make our work meaningful to our lives.

(If you want to know more, I wrote an article about the teal movement, with all the keys).

Companies as organic systems

With the change of paradigm that Laloux warns, companies are no longer understood as machines (Orange paradigm) or families (green paradigm) to be interpreted as organic elements. And, Nature provides us with three laws to understand how a dynamic system works, capable of self-regulating and responding with resilience to any type of situation.

The essential condition for self-regulation

The first condition for a system to regulate itself is that the elements of a system must not be mutually controlled. So, for companies to function as organic systems, a new kind of leadership is needed, since no element can unilaterally impose its will on others. New forms of governance, such as Sociocracy, are based on self-organisation and are organised around circles, where no one is more important than anyone else.

This first condition collides with two realities. The first is the fear of those who hold some kind of power within an organization, who feel the natural fear of losing it. In reality, their fear is that they will no longer have everything under control. The main criticism that this type of person makes when self-regulation is proposed to them, whether for an Agile or a sociocratic team, is that it will create a Fuenteovejuna or chaos. To solve it is the second of the conditions: to have a mission.

The second reality is that new generations feel an innate rejection of anything that means power or obligation. This is why they are dedicated to agile methodologies, widely used among IT teams for programming, which advocate self-organized teams. So they embrace any proposal that means working without bosses: they consider them to be traffic lights that slow down their attempt to go faster.

Why does an organization necessarily need a mission

Indeed, those who criticise the fact that if no one element dominates the others, chaos will not be long in coming. To overcome this situation, there is the second of the conditions of dynamic systems: the system must benefit from an external energy source that mobilizes it. In the case of the Earth, that external energy is the Sun, without which plants and Life would cease to exist.

In the case of organizations, this source of mobilizing external energy is the evolutionary purpose. This is not a simple marketing claim at a time when people are asking brands to get involved with society, as well as good (and cheap) products. The evolutionary purpose is the reason why a company or organization wants to change the world. This mobilizing energy comes “from a shared vision, from a common goal that integrates individual visions”, as Gilles Charest points out in his book Democracy is Dead, Long Live Sociocracy!

Failure to meet this condition is the risk of those who adopt parts of the Sociocracy regardless of the necessary importance of having a common vision and mission in an organization or team.

The consequences of not respecting the balance

The corollary of interpreting companies as organic systems is that’if you act in a way that affects the balance of your physical or social environment, sooner or later the effect of your actions will reach you’.

How do these conditions of dynamic systems like Nature affect Teal organizations? How do they affect businesses as organic systems?

For self-organized teams to exist, members cannot control each other. To avoid subsequent chaos, there must be an energy that mobilizes them that must come from a shared vision or common goal that integrates individual visions (evolutionary purpose). By acting in accordance with the internal and external balance, one feels fulfilled. So, the 3 innovative elements of teal companies cannot be given separately, but they are fed back and some are the result of others.

This article is a translation with of the Spanish version published in empresas como sistemas orgánicos.