Overcoming the Fear of Teal

By Ken Kopelson for Enlivening Edge


While there is much more to be said about overcoming the fear that naturally goes along with major changes in life, some key insights for overcoming the fears that can attack an owner considering the switch to Teal are as follows:

Realize that your company will change in a very fundamental and beneficial way, transforming from a static machine to a dynamic and living organism. Think about how much more adaptable and capable a living organism is over a statically-designed machine.

… What Teal unlocks is the collective intelligence present in your human workforce.

Trust your people to be human. One of the chief tenets of Teal is that entire human beings come to work, not just the partial people that show up in traditional Orange companies. What Teal unlocks is the collective intelligence present in your human workforce. Instead of just a few brains at the top, you get a collective brain through every part of the company.

Read the excellent books on Teal to gain a solid understanding. Knowledge is power, and power leads to the elimination of fear. Also, hire consultants when making the transition, to help answer questions, work out issues, and give general peace of mind.

When analyzing the fears surrounding the evolution to Teal, it’s important to break the fears down into specifics so they can effectively be dealt with. General fears are very hard to eliminate, while specific ones are much easier.

fear of teal image


“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself. — Franklin D. Roosevelt”

The other day I heard of an Austrian company that is run by a father and daughter team, where both hold the title of CEO. As they both looked into the possibility of evolving to a Teal operating model, things looked promising at first. After all, they have to do something to increase employee engagement and Teal is all about helping people engage at work. Teal offers a whole new way of doing things, and “new” is exciting and thrilling, isn’t it?

Sure it is, until you start thinking about it. In this case, papa-CEO started tossing in bed I’m sure, thinking about all the reasons Teal will simply not work at his company. In fact, the more he thought about it the more he realized it will not work in Austria at all! The daughter, on the other hand, firmly believes it will work, in Austria and at their company. So it seems that two heads are not always better than one, or are they? Perhaps the father’s fears are an indicator that more foundational work needs to be done. After all, evolution takes time, doesn’t it?

So far, there have been several suggestions by various people for how they might handle the impasse. One idea was to split the company in two so that dad runs one and daughter runs the other. The thinking was that dad’s employees will want to transfer to daughter’s company once they see all the benefits of going Teal. Others who tried to help were sure that dad would never go for it. After all, he’s the one who built the company years ago. Why would he risk 50% of his company if he really believes Teal will not work? The more I thought about it the more I realized that the only answer is to win the father over by helping him overcome his fear of Teal.

This isn’t the only case I’ve seen, either, where fear stops people in their tracks. The fact is, if Teal is going to take off like many of us know it will, we need ways to help people move forward with confidence. Here then are four key Teal insights to help tackle the paralyzing effects of fear.


From Machine to Organism

Within traditional Orange organizations, there is probably no other subject that generates more fear, worry, and discussion than those two words “Change Management.” Interestingly, this term is never mentioned within true Teal organizations because the concept is foreign to the mindset of Teal. This is due to the way that these two organization types differ at a fundamental “DNA” level.

Orange organizations operate like statically-designed machines, where each person functions as a cog, crank, or lever, providing their fixed role to the whole mechanism. This analogy helps us realize why change is so painful in Orange companies. Imagine having to change the design of a complex machine! Of course parts of the machine would have to be shut down while they underwent the “surgery” and that means loss of efficiency and/or profits. The entire process would require a great deal of planning and preparation. The risk is high that something would be forgotten, overlooked, or just done incorrectly.

Unlike Orange organization “machines”, a Teal organization operates like a living organism where each person is like an individual cell providing their autonomous services to the whole organism in a fluid and adaptive way. Change is constantly happening at a micro-scale, where all the cells respond to the particular needs of the moment.

To eliminate fear, it’s important to think about Teal organizations by using a Teal mindset….

To eliminate fear, it’s important to think about Teal organizations by using a Teal mindset, and not try to envision Teal implementation by looking through Orange-colored glasses. The differences between the two mentalities are quite profound. While Orange organizations (machines) rely on a highly-tuned, centrally-managed, well-thought out set of roles, plans, and managerial direction, Teal organizations (organisms) rely on a set of well-specified processes for people to communicate, make decisions, make business improvements, get rewarded, handle discipline, and resolve conflicts.

Once the people in a company learn each Teal process, they can begin to operate according to it. Instead of top-level leaders having to manage a change process for “going Teal,” the people are first taught the processes one at a time, and then they are released to operate according to them. With this approach, the people all through the company will make the change to Teal happen from within the trenches.

Returning to the analogy of the machine that needs to be redesigned, it will be as if all the cogs, wheels, and levers all came alive and were able to morph themselves into the new shapes and positions required. Instead of outside engineers having to move them, they move themselves. This can happen at the speed that everyone is comfortable with, since it isn’t being driven from above but is occurring from within every part of the company.


Trust Your People to Be Human

One of the first thoughts that many owners may have when thinking about going Teal is “can my people actually do this? After all, they haven’t shown they are able to manage themselves before, so how can I know if they are able to do it?“ The thing to remember is, the only reason they have not demonstrated they can self-manage before is because they have not been given the chance to do it. The fact is, every single employee within a company generally manages their own life, juggling the myriad of balls they encounter, and making the decisions they must for both the short term and long term. The profound realization is that within society people already operate according to Teal thinking and methods!

 The profound realization is that within society people already operate according to Teal thinking and methods!

On a larger scale, the economy also operates on the basis of self-management, where each person is a self-directed cell within the larger organisms of cities, states, and countries. In fact, if you look at the entire situation, it is really only within the workplace that most human beings are asked to leave their innate human abilities at the door, and to instead take on the persona of a static machine part.


Read the Books or Hire a Consultant

Few would disagree with the idea that in order to make sound business decisions for the direction of a company it’s important to have a sufficient amount of the right information. Given the gravity of making a decision to evolve towards Teal, it’s important to not try to decide things hastily. There is often no better way of alleviating the fear of going Teal than to gain a good understanding of how it works, and to read the many accounts of how it has been successful for decades in all sizes of companies from small to very large. Fortunately, to help with this there are some excellent books on the subject, as well as YouTube videos. Some of the top books are:

  • Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux
  • Responsible Entrepreneurship by Carol Sanford
  • Leading from the Emerging Future by Otto Scharmer.

In addition to reading books, when it comes to actually launching a Teal initiative, it will likely be helpful to hire a consultant who is familiar with the intricacies of Teal thinking and methods.   Oftentimes fears can be removed by simply voicing them to someone who can share an applicable story, anecdote, or explanation.


Get Specific with Fear

All too often people lump their fears into a big huge ball, making the whole thing seem quite daunting. This type of amalgamated fear-glob is nearly impossible to eradicate unless it is dissected and each smaller fear is dealt with separately. For example, an owner might initially say “Teal just won’t work in my company,” and when asked why, he might say something like “because my people aren’t used to it and it would be way too disruptive.” If this large general fear is broken down, however, it might appear less daunting than it seems. Upon closer inspection this overwhelming obstacle could actually consist of the following specifics:

  • The employees are very used to doing things a certain way and I’m afraid they won’t be happy about a drastic change.
  • While they are getting used to the new way of operating there may be a lot of confusion since people will make more mistakes.
  • If productivity and quality suffer as a result of the inevitable confusion, the customers will complain and business may suffer significantly.

By breaking the fears down into specifics, it then becomes possible to address each one, dispelling the concerns associated with each. This is best done by showing how specific Teal thinking and methods are designed to handle each potential difficulty.


Ken Kopelson, from Wellington, New Zealand, is a seasoned software engineer, visionary, writer, screenwriter, poet, philosopher, Ken CEO Small Croppedspeaker, composer/pianist, and startup entrepreneur with a huge passion for helping to make the world a better place. He has worked on various visionary projects, including 20+ years as anartificial intelligence researcher, as well as a new economic system called “Value-based Economy” designed to unlock human potential and advancement.  Once he learned about Teal organizations, he never looked back and is now committed to help get the word out for the betterment of all.