What does a flexible, harmonious, and organic organisation look like? How can we create cultures that make work productive, fulfilling, and meaningful?
These were some of the juicy convening questions that enticed 45 people to St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in London for a heartwarming evening of discussion, exploration, and learning about the new organisational possibilities emerging today. This participatory event was part of “No Wealth But Life” – a series of events put on by St Ethelburga’s to strengthen peace-building initiatives by linking them to new economic models so as to create change in a deeper, more systemic way.
Facilitated by Amrita Bhohi and Justine Huxley on Wednesday 13th January 2016, the evening kicked off with a moment of mindful silence before participants shared in pairs what they’d like to get out of the event. People expressed a desire to resolve thorny questions like How do we engage in reinventing traditional companies without frightening them? Or how does a transition of culture take place so that everyone embraces it?
The attendees were then invited to create a physical constellation representing the extent to which their own organisations implemented Laloux’s breakthrough Teal principles of Evolutionary Purpose, Wholeness and Self-Management. Sally McCutchion of Evolving Organisations shared with everyone how her company was truly walking the talk and creating a very fulfilling working situation that she described as life-changing.
The main part of the event came after a breakout session in groups discussing what mattered the most to people about the three breakthrough principles. Amrita, Justine, and the participants interviewed the evening’s storyteller George Pór, evolutionary mentor and founder of Enlivening Edge, so that he could share his in-depth experience in what it takes to reinvent an organisation.
His story began in Hungary in the 1960’s with involvement in the student protests, meditation, and following a spiritual path that for a long while remained painfully separated from his professional life. From the 80’s onwards his pioneering work in the field of collective intelligence as an organisational consultant could only be accepted under the assurance of “saving companies’ money.”
However he told us how his mentoring changed definitively after reading Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organisations which prompted him to establish Enlivening Edge and to let go of traditional consultancy opportunities directed towards serving the bottom line alone.
In answering questions from the audience, George gave tips to working with the constraints of conventional structures, explaining that even conventional organisations are living systems which should be approached in that way, and that fellow “co-conspirators” and change agents can be found in all kinds of businesses and at different levels within them. He suggested employee-run “Reinventing Organizations” reading circles, introducing managers to videos of Laloux, creating non-threatening small scale pilots and experiments, and learning from them.
Since many of the participants were new to the ideas of Reinventing Organizations and had not read Laloux’s work, George gave an incredibly succinct explanation of what this new buzzword “Teal” actually means. He came up with the following definition:
Sensing, thinking, and acting beyond the “small self,” with increasing frequency.
George also pointed to the fact that this evolutionary, holistic, self-management movement has the potential to transform not just businesses but every social system from education to healthcare, transport, government etc. He suggested that this is not an impossibility since there is a whole ecosystem of changemakers in every field, motivated to make it happen.
After the break the participants split up into 3 groups. Those that were new to the ideas being shared got together for a mini-“masterclass” and Q&A with George. And the other 2 groups got to work on real-life “case clinics” using the group’s collective intelligence and knowledge to help one participant in her quest to transform a grass-roots social network and online community into an organisation, and another in making a local co-production mental health initiative truly effective and participatory for the service users. Despite the short amount of time to spend on these issues, the groups did come up with points to edge these projects forward.
Participants commented on having enjoyed the evening and its well-designed mixture of participation and information. Justine brought the engaging evening to a heartwarming close by encouraging everyone to practice the principle of showing up as a whole human being by turning to one’s neighbour and giving them a hug, which everyone happily did!
Andy Paice is a London-based Coach, Facilitator, Mindfulness Trainer, and Community Builder. Twitter @andypaice Website andypaice.net