Enlivening Edge Magazine Special Collection #1: Answers to “What is Teal?”

By Lia Aurami for Enlivening Edge Magazine


This article introduces a whole new way to use and benefit from the free online library of now 1382 articles that Enlivening Edge Magazine has published since July 2015. We’ve noticed that even people who read articles don’t realize that within our library are answers to their questions, guidance for their work, and explorations for their curiosities.  And that there are many ways to go about finding whatever articles might be relevant to their current inquiry. We have summarized those ways here.

This article provides you with a new benefit of EE Magazine: a new way of finding useful information in our huge library of articles. Every so often, in this numbered series, we’ll collect several articles on a theme or topic (distinct from our topics/tags.) We’ll republish one and provide links to several others. The collections will be useful, but by no means complete listings of the articles relevant to the theme. For that, you’ll need to use other search approaches.

Future collections might be around subjects like Teal-relevant networks and recurring events, or definitions of self-management, or the relationship of Teal and sustainability. Want to suggest one? Just comment on this article.

Click on the title of any article to read it.


At some time or other, you’ve been asked for (or wanted) a quick description of what Laloux’s organizational stage of “Teal” is. What do you say? What resources for answers can you point your inquirer to?

While Enlivening Edge Magazine has 131 articles with the tag “Teal” only a few of them would serve well as first introductions to the topic. Here are a few of the best of those articles. We do not guarantee that everything said about Teal in all these articles is actually a true description; understandings and interpretations vary a great deal.

The best articles make two points commonly forgotten in discussions of Teal: That it is a stage of maturation, not a simple choice anyone can make, and that it is an entire worldview of a person, not a new management paradigm. More about that in Special Collection #2 coming up soon. Also, this Collection #1 is not about GOING Teal, which could be another future Special Collection.

These foundational descriptions in non-jargon language explain the concept. They are not in any particular order. Neither are they all the past articles that might have been included in this Special Collection. They are just some of the best.

Click on the title of each article, to read it.

Learn from Frederick Laloux about what a Teal organization is. He’s the author who started it all.

Frederic Laloux Responds to “Bursting the Bubble – Teal Ain’t Real”

Meet Laloux on video describing Teal as an invention by many at the same time, a leap forward for humanity, in management, applying principles from nature to deal with complexity. His description is vivid and specific.

29 minutes. If you want just the essence, start at 12 minutes in. Well worth your time, in understanding what Teal means for organizations.

Laloux Speaks of the Evolution of Organizations towards Teal

Leida Schuringa from the Netherlands, an expert on developmental stages, describes the Teal worldview using ideas from the Spiral Dynamics Integral framework that Laloux was drawing on.

The Transition from Green to Yellow/Teal – Part 4 – What is the Teal Perspective? – Integral European Conference 2018 Presentation

Rod Collins does a great job of describing Teal as both a worldview held by individuals and the way people with that worldview express it in their organizations.

Reinventing Management, Part 1: What Color Is Your Organization?

Jon Freeman from the UK has lived and breathed the Spiral Dynamics Integral framework from which the concept of Teal is taken, and he explains it in a simple way as part of a journey.

So How Does Orange Get to Be Teal? (IEC 2016 Preview)

This one isn’t an article; it is a page on our site. It has not only descriptions, it also has links to other introductory educational resources.

Understanding Teal

This 1-hour podcast by Charlie Efford from the UK is a good overview in personal terms easy to relate to.

What Teal Means to Me

This by Timm Urshinger from Switzerland is a simple, no-jargon, practical, down-to-earth look at the characteristics that make an organization Teal.

Teal as the Future Organizational Model? – Part 2a: Translating Paradigm to Practices

And here in full is our favorite introductory article. In simple words Monica Giannobile puts the concept of Teal into its proper context as a stage of development of consciousness and thus of organizations. She offers a thumbnail sketch of each stage. We like it especially as she lists the positive breakthroughs related to organizations made possible as consciousness matures into each stage.

What is a Teal Organization?

By originally published by Workology

Introduction by Enlivening Edge Magazine:

Many of our readers are looking for a simple introduction to “Teal Organizations” to share with their curious friends and this article might serve that purpose admirably.

A few months ago, at the 2018 ATD Austin Applied Learning Summit, a panelist, Dr. Ryan Schoenbeck, asked the audience whether anyone had heard of Frederic Laloux’s research on Teal organizations. I hadn’t. He went on to make comments that positioned the world of work as so exciting that, by the end of the panel, I wanted to know: What’s a Teal organization?

As it turns out, Teal organizations are the topic of Frederic Laloux’s 2014 book, Reinventing Organizations, which is based on three years of researching the ways in which twelve pioneering organizations operate. Laloux found that the organizations he studied use a set of uncommon management practices and principles.

Characterized by self-management, wholeness, and a deeper sense of purpose, these organizations – which he describes as “Teal” – operate largely without organization charts, management hierarchies, quarterly goals or other traditional management strategies. Instead, they’re characterized by features like self-managed teams, intuitive reasoning and decentralized decision-making. Because these practices are so new, the conversation around what they are and how to implement them is ongoing.  As a student of workplace culture and learning, I’m fascinated by the Teal conversation and wanted to better understand what Teal really means.

Teal: The Fifth Stage

Why are these companies called “Teal” and not, say, “Sapphire”? In Reinventing Organizations: An Illustrated Invitation to Join the Conversation on Next-Stage Organizations, Laloux describes humanity as evolving in sudden leaps, or steps. Drawing from the philosopher Ken Wilber’s color-based description of these steps, he describes five initial stages of human consciousness, and posits that organizations have evolved in line with them. They are:

Red (impulsive) – Characterized by establishing and enforcing authority through power. Examples of red organizations: Mafia, street gangs.

Amber (conformist) – Views of what is right are internalized according to a belief common to the group. Self-discipline is exercised to adhere to these views, and shame and guilt are used to enforce them. Examples of amber organizations: Army, Catholic church.

Orange (achievement) – The world is seen as a machine: predictable, and able to be scientifically understood and controlled to achieve a desired outcome. Examples of orange organizations: Wall Street banks, most MBA programs.

Green (pluralistic) – Characterized by a sense of inclusion, and a drive to view and treat all people as equal. A common metaphor used for relationships is that of a family. Examples of green organizations: Southwest Airlines, many nonprofits and NGOs.

Teal (evolutionary) – The world is seen as neither fixed nor machine-like. Instead, it’s viewed as a place where everyone is called by an inner voice to contribute based on their unique potential. Examples of Teal organizations: Patagonia, Holacracy.

Human Relations Breakthroughs at Every Stage

For Laloux, each of the above steps is characterized by breakthroughs in the ways people collaborate in order to get things done.

Red breakthroughs – Division of labor, top-down authority.

Amber breakthroughs – Replicable processes, a stable organization chart.

Orange breakthroughs – Innovation, accountability, meritocracy.

Green breakthroughs – Empowerment, values-driven culture, stakeholder value.

Teal breakthroughs – Self-management, wholeness, evolutionary purpose.

Most of us have probably experienced organizations that operate according to red, amber, orange and green worldviews, The Teal breakthroughs are more radical. Here is a little more about how Laloux describes them:

Self-management – Rigid hierarchical management structures are replaced by distributed authority and collective intelligence, in which natural hierarchies emerge and dissipate depending on situational context.

Wholeness – Individuals “drop the mask,” and bring all of whom they are to work, not just the characteristics deemed to be professional.

Evolutionary purpose – The organization has a purpose of its own. Instead of attempting to predict and control the direction of the organization, members strive to listen and understand where the organization is naturally drawn to go.

For a more comprehensive summary of these characteristics – and Teal organizations in general – Laloux’s 2015 article in Strategy + Business is a great resource: The Future of Management is Teal.

Republished with permission.

Featured Image/graphic link by Workology.

Which articles in this Special Collection #1 on Introductions to Teal are your favorite on this theme? Leave a comment below.

Featured Image by alto2 from Pixabay