What is Teal?
Teal is a color in between blue and green, named after a bird. It is also the name of an emerging new paradigm, or model for sense-making.
An organisation is in essence a group of people that together can perform tasks and achieve results that individuals can’t manage by themselves. In our history as humans we have gone through six paradigms of sense-making, highly connected with the development of self or ego in individuals. The first two (described below in the picture as Infrared and Magenta) are reactive and cannot be considered as task organisations. In the Infrared stage scientists don’t even think we had developed a real sense of self.
So, what we usually discuss in the organisational context are the levels from Red to Teal – Teal being the new, 7th paradigm emerging now. Although these stages of development have evolved throughout history, we can still see all levels from Red to Teal in action today. Red is for example typical for Mafia-like organisations, Amber is common in the military and churches, as well as in large institutions and companies (that can have aspects of all levels Amber to Green). Orange is the level that emerged with the Industrial revolution, like e.g. with Taylor’s Scientific Management.
As society changed and went in to what we call the Information society the organisations started to change as well, entering the Green stage. More people were educated (not only top-management) and more people could access information needed for decision-making. Companies started realizing the value of motivated and loyal employees, which led to empowerment programs, and working more with values and company culture. But the basis is still in many ways the Tayloristic model, although with the egalitarian thinking added.
The Teal organisational stage
More and more people feel unhappy or suffer from mental health issues related to their work. Almost everyone feels that something is wrong with the way we are managing work today. And how we manage countries, and global challenges as well. It seems the systems designed for the Industrial age has passed their expiry date.
And they have. They were designed to handle complicated problems in a very slowly changing environment, and the machine metaphor and production logic became the basis for all system design. In a complicated system there’s always a right way to do things and everything can get better with more analysis and corrective actions. But our world today is more complex than complicated. In a complex, fast changing world we need to have another logic, one where we continuously conduct experiments that are safe to fail, then measure results and learn as we go along.
The emerging paradigm has a new metaphor – the living organism. An organism can be seen as a network of smaller parts that are always probing, sensing and adapting to their environment. There is no boss to tell cells in your body how to react to different stimuli. And that is not necessary in an organisation either.
The Teal stage has three important principles; 1) the evolutionary purpose, 2) wholeness and 3) self-management.
Evolutionary purpose is somewhat like a vision or mission statement that takes the value-creation for the customers, society and coworkers into account, but it may be easier to understand it like a concept of it’s own, since it usually goes deeper than the ordinary mission statement. The purpose is the guide for all actions in the organisation. The members of the organisation describes the purpose together, which means it is highly aligned with the members own values and works as a driving force for continuous engagement in the daily work.
Wholeness means being able to bring the whole self to work, to be allowed to be fully human. It requires humbleness and empathy to be woven into the fabric of the organisation. This can be done through different practices.
I once met a preschool principal who had been a good leader – she took the preschool to better results and happier employees – but I remember reacting to one of the principles she said she talked with the employees about often. And that was “putting on” your work role (almost like putting on a coat) as soon as you entered the building, leaving whatever personal problems you might have on the door step. In some way it makes sense, since you are working with kids and can’t risk making them feel responsible for your feelings, but in a Teal model it would be thought of, and talked about, in other ways. /Sarah
In Teal we recognise the need of feeling accepted for all of who you are. It strengthens connection and teamwork, it reduces stress, it releases creativity and it fuels personal development.
Self-management is the third principle. Some believe Teal is “only” self management, probably because this principle is the most visible from outside the organisation. Self management means no one can command and control any other member of the organisation, not even the CEO. Everyone needs to be able to make their own decisions responsibly, by consulting with people affected by the decision, and sometimes experts. The roles are not fixed, instead the needs of the organisation is matched with individuals interests and competence dynamically. In larger organisations roles are organised in teams, with decision-making processes that includes consulting with other teams.
A Teal School
Following the principles described above, a Teal school is different from a traditional school in many ways. Both regarding how teachers work together, and how education is organised and performed. For example the division in subjects and age-groups are a part of an old paradigm, as well as grades and the formal, hierarchical leadership roles.
Still there are many ways a school can be Teal, or take steps toward becoming Teal, and that is what we aim to explore with this website and the Teal School Network.
Join us and co-create solutions based on the emerging Teal paradigm!