Notes on “Reinventing Organizations”

Below are my notes from watching Frederic Laloux’s wonderful talk, to act as kind of a TL;DR for the ideas he shared.

Ways of structuring organizations

There have been several major technological breakthroughs throughout history, each resulting in a fundamental change to how organizations are structured and to what they value.

Each leap in ways of organizations had it’s own characteristics, but one thing that remains consistent is that each time, the newer orgs radically outperformed their predecessors.

Teal organizations- this is where we look for to find new emerging patterns in how orgs are ran
  1. Wolfpack — 1 leader, based on fear (tribes, mafia)
  2. Army — 1 supreme leader, a lot of hierarchy (Church)
  3. Machine — All are “cogs” with few “visionaries” (Traditional corporates)
  4. An emerging kind (Teal): Family (SW airlines, Starbucks…)

La nouvelle vague

We can extract 3 distinct patterns from observing how these organizations run.

A list of 12 organizations that show the characteristics of this new wave of organizations

Self management

Yes, we need structure, but we don’t need bosses.

Hierarchy is great when you have less complexity, but it also stacks as a pyramid and pushes all the complexity to the top of the organization, and there’s only so much they can carry.

Decision Making — Traditionally we would choose by either Consensus or Hierarchical Decision making. A third way emerged amongst these new organizations.

  1. Consult with an expert.
  2. Consult with someone who’d be impacted by your decision.

We call this the Advice Process. The important thing is that, at the end of the day, the person who started the process may either accept or ignore any advice received.

e.g Salaries — If there’s no boss, who dictates salaries? All salaries are public, you use the Advice Process, and decide for yourself how you compare to your peers.

The process relies on the fact that you’d not last long in the org if you consistently ignore advice and underperform.

Wholeness

We all have both an ego, and a deeper spiritual side, but we’re expected to expose our ego when we’re having a discussion or as we show up to a meeting.

We’re also expected to show our Masculine sides, even women. Not to appear vulnerable, or to have doubts.

We’re also encouraged to abandon the Spiritual, the Emotional and Intuitive in favor of the Rational.

The new org will encourage you to fully show up, knowing that when you do, you act with more passion, you’re more creative and more productive.

In order to get there, you must provide a safe place for people to really expose themselves.

Evolutionary Purpose

All organizations say they have a purpose, but we often find it’s just making more money. These new organizations are dedicated to a clear goal .

Traditional organizations all have a leader that dictates a vision, who would also lay out a plan to execute it. This kind of thinking makes sense if you look at your org as a senseless machine that needs “programming” in order to function.

In new organizations, the role of leadership transitions from “steering the ship”, to listening to where the org naturally wants to go.

If we try to predict the future and set things in the ground, we would loose sight of what is happening now. Instead, have a clear intent while keeping an active listen.

Conclusion

These ideas appeal to me personally, since they make a lot of sense for the process of building a product.

It may not touch how I design, but building complex products often involves working with a group of people, and navigating these dynamics can be F’ing hard.

A process that focuses on empowering individuals to make decisions can really push your team’s ability to execute, and build an environment you want to be a part of.


If these ideas are foreign to you, I hope I was able to get you interested; If they aren’t, I hope I made sense 😅.

This is just me sharing my experience exploring these ideas.

Thanks for reading!