Frederic Laloux at #RO2015 organised by 'Het Eerste Huis'

“There is something in the air” — Report on the RO conference in the Netherlands

By Stefan Groenendal for Enlivening Edge

On November 26th, the Dutch consultancy organisation – and publisher of the Dutch version of Frederic Laloux’s book Reinventing Organizations – ‘Het Eerste Huis’ (The First House) hosted a unique conference on reinventing organisations. There was triple the expected  visitors, from 250 to 700 – an enthusiastic and active crowd. The hashtag of the conference #RO2015 became a trending topic that day. Besides Laloux, Het Eerste Huis had Dutch Professor Jan Rotmans, Teal entrepreneur Jos de Blok, and innovator Brian Robertson from Holacracy® as speakers.

After a chi warming up-exercise, Professor Rotmans gave us his vision, that we are not living in a time of merely fast change but in a transition of era.

Dutch 'scientivist' Jan Rotmans at #RO2015
Dutch ‘scientivist’ Jan Rotmans at #RO2015

A transition professor for 25 years, he demonstrated this with cases in every single sector of the Dutch economy. Coincidentally, that very same morning Dutch Minister of Education Jet Bussemaker reported that schools of more than 5000 students will not be allowed anymore. A turning point.

Rotmans labels himself a ‘scientivist:’ a scientist and an activist. He called for a Ministry of Demolition to stimulate transitions. He sees civilians self-managing society, and government scaled down to its most essential. In the insurance sector, Rotmans pointed to the fast growth of so-called bread funds, self-employed professionals taking care of each other in case of disability. There are more than 160 groups of these self-organised funds totalling more than 600 people.

The next speaker was Jos de Blok, founder of Dutch organisation Buurtzorg, probably the most researched organisation in Laloux’s book. Buurtzorg is a distributed health care organisation. It is district nursing in a Teal way. De Blok and Rotmans are also business partners. Just a few days earlier, both announced they will start a new health care insurance company. De Blok and all the people at Buurtzorg have grown to a distributed organisation of around 8000 professionals and approximately 850 million Euros in annual revenues. According to de Blok, the most challenging issue has been and still is, negotiating with insurance companies. Buurtzorg once missed 10 million Euros in income from an insurance company. Now de Blok and Rotmans are setting up a new health care insurance company in which the patient will have a real voice, there will be more focus on prevention, and overhead costs will be substantially lower.

Jos de Blok, founder of Buurtzorg.
Jos de Blok, founder of Buurtzorg.

De Blok’s talk was very much down to earth with a lot of humor. Striking in de Blok’s story is his indication of the exponential interest the global health care sector has in Teal-healthcare. Jos de Blok started Buurtzorg from scratch. Buurtzorg has received the prize for best employer of the year in the Netherlands for several years in a row. ( Effectory (HRM Consultants) and Intermediair (publisher of a paper on the job market) have 200.000 people judge a list of 300 employers.) And currently Buurtzorg is receiving interest from as far away as Japan.

A Japanese manager once asked Jos de Blok from Buurtzorg So what do you do when a local nursing cluster does not operate well? To surprise of the manager, de Blok replied You may want to ask the local nursing cluster if you can be of assistance.

The third speaker was Brian Robertson from Holacracy. He happily surprised the audience, giving a different angle on reinventing organisations from the angles Rotmans, de Blok, and Laloux gave. Robertson stated that the internet has changed everything but the way we organise. Through trial and error, Robertson with others has developed what he calls a social operating system. It is a system on which to build an organisation. It even comes with dedicated software to support the emerging living structure: a meta-system tool to get to Teal. An estimated 350 organisations are using it, even large governmental organisations. Getting started with Holacracy is simple. Start with tensions in your organisation and hold meetings that just discuss one or several of these tensions. Why, you might ask? Well, tensions point to structural organisational issues which could be organised differently.

Brian Robertson, founder of Holacracy.
Brian Robertson, founder of Holacracy.

Last but not least Fredric Laloux was on stage. In his usual calm yet enthusiastic style of presenting, Frederic set out the evolution of reinventing organisations. He cleverly opened his presentation by saying “There is something in the air” thereby paying tribute to the presentations of Rotmans and de Blok, and underlining the fact that several sectors in Dutch society are in real transition.

Laloux used a beautiful metaphor for clarifying the difference between Orange and Teal organisations. When riding a bicycle from A to B in the Orange paradigm, one would make a detailed plan of how to get from A to B. When executing the plan, one would close one’s eyes, and cycle. When changes along the route occur, problems arise and the plan needs adapting. In reality, changes occur every day, and plans would need adaption after adaption.

The Orange characteristic of predict and control can keep an organisation away from doing what it is supposed to be doing. Cycling from A to B in a Teal world would mean having a rough idea of where B is, trusting one’s cycle, keeping eyes wide open, and knowing the world will not be the same as yesterday. One would simply sense and respond whilst focusing on what needs to be done. It is much more effective as trust replaces fear.

Het Eerste Huis organised a unique conference with an amazing change-minded audience of 700 professionals. It was a very energising event, and an important contribution to transition in the Netherlands, Belgium, Europe, and the world.

The presentations from the conference can be downloaded here. And an impression of the conference by its organiser, ‘Het Eerste Huis,’ can be viewed here.

12143249_10203809759443690_6498782174737744588_nStefan Groenendal, BSc, MBA, is an independent researcher and action consultant working and living in The Benelux. Fields of interest are, amongst others, organisational development, collaboration development, technology, information technology, value modelling. Sectors of interest are air traffic management, security, automotive, traffic management, marine, harbours. Follow me on Twitter @sgroenendal. Connect with me on Linkedin