Organizations are undergoing constant change. A core task of the modern manager is to carry out changes together with employees and to actively involve them. Especially in times of skill shortages and constantly changing market conditions, it is important to align a company in a sustainable way. This is what Frederic Laloux did in his book Reinventing Organizations, which showed the organizational development of the last 100,000 (!) years of detail and provide clues as to where modern organisations should go.

Reinventing Organizations

Going Teal
Own presentation based on Laloux

In his book, Laloux gives an insight into his research on organizational development. The author even moves back up to 100,000 years. He assigned a color to each of the epochs and characterized it precisely. This is how we start our journey through time from more than 100,000 years of organizational development. I will only briefly mention the various stages of development in the text, because I do not want to reveal too much of the actual content of the book.

Development levels of organizations

It all started 100,000 years ago. We put ourselves in the position of the people at this time. The world was ruled by powerful tribes and chiefs. Laloux refers to such strains as impulsive organizations and gives them the color red. This scenario is comparable to the structures of the mafia or street gangs. Command authority and constant exercise of power were the order of the day. A tribal chief taint or alpha wolf in the wolf pack had to hold his own daily and fight his adversaries and give clear instructions.

Let’s go on for a few years and go back only 1000 years. The world is dominated by the church and the military. Laloux defines these as conformist organizations and assigns them the color amber. Formalized roles in the form of a pyramid and stability were the highest value. This epoch was marked by group norms and community rules.

Again a few centuries later we reach the industrial revolution and the time of the first real enterprises. We are experiencing the first profitable organizations as we know them today. Innovation and reliability were the order of the day. You had to be better than the competition. Employees were given the first freedom to complete tasks.

But what comes next? Where do modern companies go? What qualities will modern organizations have to bring? According to Laloux, this will affect the color “green or teal”: so-called pluralistic organizations, comparable to a family. Values, involvement of all stakeholders and orientation towards a culture describe this new form.

Conclusion and colours

If you look closely at the diagram of Laloux “Reinventing Organizations”, you can see how quickly organizations are changing. Whereas it used to be several centuries, it is now only a few years until the next stage of evolution. Let’s regroup the development with the colors.

  • Red: Give me what I want
  • Bernstein: Rules and Standards of the Group
  • Orange: Success and Innovation (Knowledge)
  • Green: Togetherness and Harmony (Values)
  • Teal: purpose of organization, service to the world, identification

And what comes next?

Laloux goes even further and hints at the next color of teal. He calls such organizations “evolutionary.” According to the colour theory, the colour teal has a calming and powerful effect at the same time. However, Laloux has not yet revealed further information.

Is green or petrol equal to holacracy, sociocracy or democracy?

So does one of these last two colors stand for the concept of Robertson and Co.? I have already written extensively about holacracy, democracy or sociocracy in another article and must summarize that basically each of the models can be the color petrol in Laloux’s model. This is reflected in the strong focus on the purpose of organizations. But also the commonality with biology on the basis of the case studies of molecules and atoms sound to me exactly this evolutionary form of enterprise. So have we reached the next stage? This is supposed to be a topic of the roundtable on agility, as we cannot be sure at the moment whether these model companies can really make evolutionary or whether the change actually depends on other factors.

Genderhinweis: Ich habe zur leichteren Lesbarkeit die männliche Form verwendet. Sofern keine explizite Unterscheidung getroffen wird, sind daher stets sowohl Frauen, Diverse als auch Männer sowie Menschen jeder Herkunft und Nation gemeint. Lesen Sie mehr dazu.

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Verwendete Quellen anzeigen

Laloux, F. (2015). Reinventing Organisations. Munich: Vahlen Verlag.


I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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