Teal Operating System: How Backward Compatible is it for Corporations? – Integral European Conference Presentation 2018

 By Moritz Ostwald and Julia Prues for Enlivening Edge Magazine.

Corporate Germany is increasingly debating new strategic directions and visions to position themselves ahead of their competitors. But no longer do they focus only on the WHAT and the WHY (what are we doing and why are we doing it?). They also focus on the organizational HOW. Popular projects like “Agenda 2020” or “Vision 2022” nowadays include the organizational HOW: the organizations’ perspective on their employees and HOW they can support them to live up to their full potential, as a way to achieve competitive success.

The question is HOW can this be achieved?

Many business leaders recognize the competitive success of so-called “Teal Organizations” and approach the HOW by attempting to upgrade their corporate operating systems to reflect the Teal stage of consciousness development. This flow of executives’ energy/commitment exclusively toward the objective and inter-objective systems of business while neglecting the subjective and inter-subjective “consciousness development,” results in failure to gain the success they seek.

The term “Teal Organization” was introduced by Frédéric Laloux in his book Reinventing Organizations. Frédéric emphasizes three main “breakthroughs” that differentiate a Teal business from those reflecting other stages of the development of organizational consciousness: evolutionary purpose, wholeness and self-management.

The Teal approach sees the individual as part of a social system in which the corporate culture is designed to understand itself as a whole. This focus on wholeness offers a solid basis for individuals to find personal purpose and to discover where to “fit in” with all their talents and interests, without being pressured into a specific pre-determined position. This can be a dynamic process, constantly raising individuals’ awareness of their current potential and what is possible in the future. There are no boundaries to creativity.

Most corporations who try to introduce this new Teal approach, to deal with the HOW to support employees to live up to their full potential, fail. Why?

We can differentiate those who succeed in upgrading their Operating Systems and thus transforming into successful Teal organizations from those who fail by looking at Integral Theory’s four quadrant perspectives on consciousness: Individual: subjective and objective (or we might say interior and exterior,) and Collective: Inter-objective and Inter-subjective (shared interiors and exteriors.)

“Agile Mindset”, “Lean Management” and the “VUCA-world” are current buzzwords of many top executives. Their commitment and energy, even as they attempt to support employee development, often exclusively flow towards what we might term inter-objective methods of dealing with such an inter-subjective area of organizational life. Only a few realize the importance of inter-subjective approaches to changing their corporate culture, as well as the mindset and skills of their leaders and employees. That is why their attempts to upgrade to Teal as an operating system often fail; they leave out half of the aspects of human consciousness.

Also, unlike specific organizational frameworks like Holacracy®, whose focus on decentralized management and governance offers a Teal or next-stage worldview only on the inter-objective arena of life, the Teal approach described by Laloux recognizes a more Integral view; the four quadrant perspectives are represented in the three breakthroughs into Teal organizational consciousness: evolutionary purpose, wholeness, and self-management.

Implementing the HOW: Embracing Change and Transformation

Many people don’t want to change because the term itself implies that they need to change in order to fit in. Change often seems to push someone into an unknown direction: What’s the next step? Where do people want me to go? Where am I most useful? “Having to change” seems to say that one is not good (enough) as one is. It suggests that there is a fault that keeps one from being the best version of oneself or the best possible part of the “whole” which therefore cannot work as effectively as it could if the individual would just change.

The Teal organization invites its individuals to pursue personal transformation, taking the existing potential and personality into account, and to create something really good—not primarily for the organization, but for the individual and, only by extension, for the whole. Transformation of the individual within a Teal organization values strengths and flaws equally and recognizes the potential of a leader to grow, fail, and learn—as a leader.

Evolving even further, a successful Teal organization will also begin to address the other dimensions of human life included in Integral Theory: stages of development of consciousness and lines of development such as intelligences and relationships in particular. Leaders will need to ask questions like:

  • What is the most well-represented developmental stage for most of our employees and leaders?
  • What do they need individually to thrive in a Teal organization?
  • Which lines/kinds of intelligence do we need more than others to fulfil our organizational purpose?

These questions contribute to a more holistic understanding of where people in an organization currently are and what motivates them.

Evolving an entire OS

If the gap between the current status quo and how a Teal organization runs effectively is too large, we recommend business leaders take a step back, thoroughly assess the company’s purpose and goals, and decide whether a Teal approach really benefits their clients, employees, and leaders as well as serving the greater good.

We recently saw a couple of large organizations in Germany which were intrigued by the concept of Teal organizations, but were somewhere between Amber and Orange stages of consciousness of their operating systems, and not yet ready to take such a consequential, fundamental leap bypassing two developmental stages.

What we suggest instead is to play with the idea we call the “Road to Teal”: Exploring the pro’s and con’s for all stakeholders, and identifying areas within the organization where certain aspects of Teal operating can be tested, iterated, and eventually deployed to other areas.

This way, even a not-yet-Teal-OS-compatible organization can evolve certain areas before they eventually decide to upgrade/mature their consciousness to probably the most advanced and post-modern Operating System available to date.

Join us on this Road to Teal on 22nd – 27th May 2018 as Allies of Evolution at the 3rd Integral European Conference in Hungary. We will have space to co-create possibilities for all kinds of corporations independent of their main stage of development.

As a corporate trainer, executive coach and integral consultant Moritz is sparring partner for his clients, always on a mission to inspire and empower them to grow-up, wake-up, and show-up, and to help them define their ultimate purpose. In his position as owner and CEO of Alpha Inspiration GmbH he leads 51 European top trainers in their mutual quest to help clients upgrade their mental and organizational Operating Systems. His “addiction” to learn and grow is infectious.





As a linguist and foreign language correspondent Julia has worked for companies in the auditing and legal sector. Finding herself deeply dedicated to strengthen communicative exchange and awareness, it is her passion to look at conversations and dialogues, their cause and effects with an action-theoretical approach, analyzing how speakers and speech acts can be transformed into a more appreciative and effective interaction. In her role as Training Manager at Alpha Inspiration she works on applying a Teal perspective to communication trainings for organizations.