EE Magazine Editorial August 2019 – What’s Evolutionary about Evolutionary Purpose?

By Lia Aurami for Enlivening Edge Magazine

Are you one of the people who “caught fire” when you read Frederic Laloux’s book Reinventing Organizations? It felt so much like “you,” and you’ve been looking for ways to work more aligned with it, since then?

And you pretty much “get” what “self-management” and “wholeness” might be, but the concept of “evolutionary purpose” is perhaps more challenging to really understand? How is it different from previous concepts of organizational purpose?

No final answers offered here, but perhaps you and I can imagine we’re walking in a park and inquiring together. Perhaps we’re both sensing that better understanding would generate some breakthroughs for our organizations. This will be my turn to muse on “evolutionary purpose vs other kinds of purpose” and your turn is in the comments below.

Oh, and even before we talk, I suppose both of us could go read the 141 articles in EE Magazine with the tag evolutionary purpose, but that would delay our chat a long time! Reading even the recent ten articles generated by EE Magazine’s focus on the topic since early July, would offer much food for thought, though.

There are many other useful sources for better understanding “evolutionary purpose,” for example, the full Reinventing Organizations wiki description. Also, some of us at Enlivening Edge are currently excited to learn Tim Kelley’s True Purpose approach to creating an evolutionary purpose.

The evolution of organizational purposes

In the terms used by Laloux to describe stages of development of consciousness expressed in organizations, an Orange statement of purpose might talk about such matters as success, growth, being “the best,” and profitability. After enough experience with that kind of purpose, many people seek an expanded scope of care and concern.

Organizations at a Green stage typically have purpose statements more concerned with longterm environmentally-oriented sustainability, the wellbeing of everyone involved, and greater thriveability for all. For many people, that’s certainly a blessed change in the focus of their organization’s purpose!

Isn’t that kind of purpose the ultimate possible? Who could ask for more?

Yet, given enough experience of the more profound, more concerned kind of purpose, some people come to feel even that is limiting or insufficient for expressing their greatest visions and desires.

These people have created the “next stage of organizational purpose:” Evolutionary Purpose, a concept that makes sense to a Teal organizational consciousness.

An Evolutionary Purpose is about evolution

The Reinventing Organizations Wiki says it this way:

Nature, humankind, relationships: everything evolves, driven by a life force, to adapt, transform and grow. From a Teal perspective, organizations are viewed as an independent energy field with a purpose that transcends its stakeholders.

In this paradigm, we don’t own or run the organization; instead we are stewards, listening to where it needs to go and helping it to do its work in the world.

The wiki continues with this quote:

Like any living system, every organization co-evolves. Its character and capabilities emerge as it plays with possibilities. It messes about with others until a workable system appears. This system has abilities and beliefs no one planned. It accomplishes work in ways no one designed.  It has relationships no one mandated.

“While we worry about designs and structures, tweak procedures and rules, insist on compliance and control, we never succeed in creating an organization by these activities.

“Organization wants to happen. Human organizations emerge from processes that can be comprehended but never controlled.

A Simpler Way, Margaret J. Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers[2]

What is the essential difference between a Green kind of organizational purpose and a Teal Evolutionary Purpose? 

I suggest the difference might be that a purpose toward sustainability, or resilience, toward wellbeing or thriving, on a large, even planetary scale, doesn’t basically convey an intention of creating momentum, of trajectory, of new things emerging dynamically–in short, of “evolution” on a world scale.

It seems that evolution requires wellbeing 

but goes beyond it. 

When you think about the purpose of your organization, what would be different if it were about sustainability yet, going further, also about evolution as well? Could an organization contribute to wellbeing and also contribute to increasing wellbeing on an even larger scale? Would that require more interdependent organizations creating emergent new forms and new kinds of relationships among themselves?

You’re invited to explore further with us about purpose, a concern crucial to organizational success and thriving. Please contribute your reflections in the comments.

How else is an Evolutionary Purpose evolutionary?

An evolutionary purpose evolves on a regular basis using processes compatible with the other primary characteristics of an organization operating in Teal consciousness: Self-management and Wholeness.

Those processes are designed to keep the EP fresh, meaningful, alive, and directly useful for the people in the organization as they make decisions.

The challenging balance in evolving an Evolutionary Purpose is between changing an EP for the sake of change, and changing it because there is a natural emergent evolution of the organization and its EP. The new EP is being sensed, not decided upon or chosen.

We at EE Magazine are far from the only ones who are contributing these ideas to the global conversation about the next stage of organizational purpose:

An Evolutionary Purpose fosters evolution 

and itself evolves. 

If this way of thinking about the purpose of working together appeals to you, then I hope you’ll show up in the global conversation that is indeed helping to evolve the entire concept.

Why not start right here? What’s alive for you in this newly emerging human possibility? Would you like to continue an exploration during an Enlivening Edge Community Conversation?

cropped me at IEC 2016-05-13 at 17.19.30 copy

Lia Aurami: Within Enlivening Edge, I energize a variety of roles to express my sacred life mission: to amplify our human capacity for living, working, and relating within shared higher consciousness. That optimizes the chances of success of transformative changes, by operationalizing collective and spiritual intelligence to help organizations be efficient and effective. I delight in creating and amplifying synergistic connections toward all that! 

Featured Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay