Teal Spring in Berlin (IEC 2016 conference preview)

By Aje Adrea Brücken, Tobias Leonhardt, and Hie-suk Yang  and published at Integral European Conference blog

This article gives a taste of the how organizations are going Teal in Berlin, which the authors will present in their workshop at the Integral European Conference. Check here for other IEC previews from Enlivening Edge.

Vibrating, Pioneering and Evolving. The Berlin Teal Scene is growing: companies experiment, collaborative initiatives are starting to bloom and everyone helps everyone. Find out how organizations in Berlin are going teal.

Berlin is driving into a Teal Spring right now. Companies, initiatives, ideas are jumping into a teal scene. Old pioneers such as Ökofrost meet new Teal startups such as Blinkist.

Blinkist takes great works of non-fiction and distills them into powerful, made-for-mobile units. The blinks, 2-minute-reads built around memorable key messages, give you the main concepts of an entire book in 15 minutes. Here is how Blinkist talks about their teal organizational structure (text from Blinkracy, Free e-book):

“At Blinkist, our initial Holacracy experiment in the content team proved so successful that after just a few months, we decided to expand it. Now, the entire company operates our “light” Holacracy. Though we’re still constantly learning and improving, we’ve already seen tremendously positive effects:

  1. We ended up with more meetings, but it was worth it: At Blinkist, one person may well be involved in 3-4 circles, so they attend 3-4 tactical meetings every Monday. The good news is that these meetings are all focused and meaningful, so decisions are made and roadblocks cleared faster than ever. The result? Productivity has skyrocketed.
  2. The absence of a single person no longer halts progress: Before Holacracy, if a team lead got sick or went on vacation, it basically meant that all progress for that team went on pause. The employees were just about able to handle the business-as-usual tasks, but certainly no improvements or innovations were made. Meanwhile the team lead was fretting constantly about everything falling apart in her absence. No more. Thanks to recurring tasks, projects and next actions, everyone knows exactly what needs to be done to both keep the business running and improve, so no-one is indispensable.
  3.  New ideas spring up and are implemented lighting-fast: One element of Holacracy that we found particularly powerful is the bucket list: open agendas for every meeting, whether a tactical, governance meeting or company-wide touch point. This is where everyone at Blinkist can add their ideas, concerns and proposals to be discussed by those present.So far, bucket lists have spawned many innovative ideas, and the best part is that the best ideas can go directly into implementation, as a decision can be made and the relevant circle formed then and there.
  4. Happier employees and a culture of “us”: This is because the system of circles and roles gives employees control and responsibility over their work. They themselves know what their current accountabilities are and whether they’d like to take on something new or give something up. This kind of freedom and trust makes them happier and more productive


Another example of teal organisation is the Evangelishe Schule Berlin Zentrum (ESBZ) which plants and grooms teal mindsets in children and growing adults. In ESBZ  children get more responsibility for their own learning. Here are some examples what makes learning different at ESBZ (text from Q&A with Frederic Laloux on Reinventing Organizations):

The basic premise of traditional education is that a teacher fills student’s head with knowledge. Students are essentially like widgets in a factory, processed and molded by lots of 20 or 30 through a uniform curriculum, with inevitably some units that have a quality defect and get discarded along the way. A great number of schools try to radically break with that industrial mindset.

And that takes the form of having students self-manage their learning to a large degree or even entirely. At the ESBZ every student has a fixed time to talk with his tutor-teacher every week to discuss what she has done in the past week, what she plans for the next week, and any other topic on her mind. Having such a weekly rhythm and such a talk is important, and within that, we can trust children to get on with their own learning.

Results are great on all dimensions: students are much more engaged and energized, learning and grades go up (often the grade system gets a serious overhaul, of course), issues such as violence and drugs almost disappear, etc.

There are many other things that make a school like the ESBZ in Berlin wonderful. For instance, as of age 10, children have a class called “responsibility” every Wednesday afternoon. It’s not really a class at all. In counsel with their tutor-teacher, the children find themselves an activity where they can make a meaningful contribution while learning at the same time.

Paul, a 10-year-old who wanted to overcome his shyness, volunteered to teach chess at his former primary school. The chess class he had loved so much would no longer take place, he had heard, because the teacher was moving to another school.

Paul was sad that other kids wouldn’t enjoy learning chess the way he had. Suddenly it all made sense: Paul could teach chess; standing in front of a group of children fit with Paul’s goal of learning to speak in public―and doing so in front of younger children would be an easier way to practice. All he needed to do now was convince the principal of his former school to let him have a go at it.

Just like Paul, all students find a place that suits them. Some work in retirement homes, while others organize school plays in kindergartens. It all depends on their interests and learning objectives. Children experience what it’s like to take initiative, to be needed, and to make a difference in other people’s lives.

In grades 8, 9, and 10, students have a

class called “Challenge”

(the beautiful German word “Herausforderung” literally means “being called to grow from the inside out”). They are invited to delve into some inner potential that lies dormant.

During the year, they organize and prepare for a special three-week session, where they, alone or in small groups, will challenge themselves to step out of their comfort zone. One group of four students prepared for a three-week survival camp deep in the woods, where they lived in a shelter they built and on food they gathered.

Daniel, a 16-year-old extroverted youngster, found his challenge in a three-week silent meditation in a monastery. Other students biked through Germany together, with little money, having to ask for accommodation and food along the way. The experience is often taxing, but students rave about their accomplishments and the personal growth they experienced, confronting their fears and growing beyond them.

Much of the problems we have in traditional schools comes from the fact that the learning is done to the student, and has no relevance in real life. Students just have so much life in them, and schools try to beat that life out of them. At the ESBZ, children feel that they are valued, that they have things to contribute, that they are trusted to do edgy things. They don’t need to act out, drop out or take drugs to feel alive!

Further teal initiatives:

  • Collaborative initiatives, such as the 21st century organization meetup or the co-creation days aim to connect drivers from the scene and develop things we need together.
  • Leadership coach explores how collective leadership can be lived with.
  • Holacracy club

And there are many more. So dive with IEC presenters Aje Andrea Brücken, Tobias Leonhardt and Hie-suk Yangus into the innovative Berlin scene!


Who is going teal in Berlin?
* Companies
* Ongoing Initiatives
* New Initiatives


Aje Adrea Brücken – My whole life I dreamt about a world beyond right and wrong and felt pretty lonely. Now amazing shifts are happening and I dedicate my life to make myself useful: as a writer, through documentations, as a trainer/ facilitator. I work in the fields of creativity & flow, communication, self-learning, train the trainer and selforganization. I never felt so much part of a movement where the soul is guiding me beyond the limits of my imagination. I’m deeply thankful and learn and grow every day.

As a facilitator & filmmaker I love holding the space between opposites so that diversity unfolds it’s full potential!

Tobias Leonhardt – I have been to a lot of transformations in my life so I can be a guide for others able to stay with them, facing shadows and obstacles on a personal and organisational level. I pass on my knowledge and experience in finding a new, unique way they can go on. Digital and tech companies hire me to improve their collaboration, employee and customer satisfaction. They hire me for my ability to co-create an individual framework based on the insights and standards of the most inspiring organisations.

Personally I strive for wholeness and so do I in my work. I facilitate transformation of organisations and help them implement self-organization.

Hie-suk Yang – I am looking for wholeness in all aspects of my life. Currently I am supporting the Berlin Teal network by co-organizing teal Meetups and a co-creation week to connect teal companies. One of my most fulfilling tasks right now is facilitating self-organization at my workplace, a digital agency in Berlin.