Frederic Laloux deals in this book with the challenges of a new evolutionary organizational model.
This should do justice to people’s longing for a form of organisation in which they:

  • follow their vocation and
  • can fully develop their potential,
  • where trust prevails
  • and the evolutionary sense is shared by all.

The central question is how it is possible to make more of the human potential accessible and what organisations that promote it might look like.

Chapter 1

Laloux gives here a historical overview of how organisational models have developed over thousands of years. Each transition to a new paradigm has had an enormous impact on organisational models.

In tribal organizations,

in which cohesion is only guaranteed through the exercise of fear and power, the focus was exclusively on the present. They were able to react quickly to events, but did not yet have the ability to plan strategically.

The Traditionally Conformist Paradigm

(perceived by the Newton’sche perspective). For the first time, cause and effect were understood and applied to events: Now a future perspective became possible and long-term projects could be pursued. At this level of consciousness one identified oneself through roles: In formal hierarchies, planning and execution were strictly separated (thinking = management level – doing = at the bottom of the pyramid). People were seen as interchangeable resources, regardless of personal talents and needs.

In the modern performance-oriented paradigm

effectiveness and competitiveness are the driving forces. The modern view of the world is materialistic and life is geared towards pursuing one goal after another in the hope that it will bring great happiness. For this purpose, effective structures are created in which far more extensive results can be achieved: Actual states are questioned, analysed and improved. Innovations become possible, the performance principle is in the foreground, processes and projects form the central elements in modern organisations, create effective processes and ensure good results, great successes and high profits.

In the postmodern pluralistic paradigm

different perspectives are respected, fairness, equality, harmony, cooperation and consensus are the focus of the relationships. Postmodern organizations repeatedly reach their limits when it comes to power and hierarchies, as they would like to avoid both. A major breakthrough in this stage of development is empowerment. Much of the decision-making process is delegated to employees and workers. At the heart of this paradigm is the organisation’s focus on shared values and culture and its commitment to social responsibility.

Chapter 2

Frederic Laloux examines twelve evolutionary companies and uses examples to show which structures, practices, processes and cultures are lived in these organisations. The companies come from different business areas, have different business sizes and different cultural backgrounds. One factor that applies to all companies is that all companies have been operating very successfully for years.
For Laloux, there are three crucial core elements in evolutionary organizations:

  • self-management
  • the wholeness
  • the evolutionary sense

Self-management

means that organizations function completely without hierarchies of power and, like complex adaptive systems in nature, constantly adapt to new conditions. Management tasks, such as setting direction and objectives, planning, guidance, control and evaluation, are no longer tied to specific management roles. And although no one has power over anyone else, it makes the organization much more powerful. There are a variety of practices that are used to ensure the method of self-management. At Buurtzorg, for example, there is a consulting process that is applied in every decision making process: Any employee can make a decision as long as he/she obtains technical expertise and discusses the decision with everyone affected by the decision.

Wholeness

Usually organisations are places where people put on their professional masks and act accordingly (uniforms, business suits, white coats etc.). The feminine aspect of the self, for example, is often denied or avoided for fear. Yet we know that people are capable of extraordinary things if they could express their whole self in work. For this purpose, it is necessary to create a safe space in which there is no risk of showing and living one’s whole self.

Evolutionary sense

For evolutionary organizations, the purpose that led to the foundation of the organization is more important than the goal of survival. From this, the actions can be derived which the meaning of the company demands: In contrast to the modern performance-oriented perspective, in which extrinsically motivated success is measured according to money, profit and status, people on the evolutionary level act according to intrinsic motivation, i.e. according to their inner values and basic assumptions.

Chapter 3

focuses on the necessary prerequisites that are necessary for the implementation of the evolutionary organizational form.

In order to build an organization according to integral evolutionary principles, structures, practices and cultures, it is necessary that the management and the owners are at an evolutionary level of consciousness and live it.

Neither the purpose of the economic activity, the size of the organisation, the geographical location nor the cultural background are important from Laloux’s point of view – the only decisive factor is the world view from which the management acts.

The role of the new managing director has changed accordingly: On the one hand, it is necessary for the manager to be able to create and maintain a space in which the evolutionary processes can unfold and, on the other hand, he assumes an essential role model for his behaviour, which goes hand in hand with an evolutionary perspective.

In addition to founding an evolutionary organization, this chapter also focuses on the change processes in existing organizations with the appropriate methods that enable successful implementation.

This book offers useful suggestions for turning organizations into vibrant, innovative places where employees can enjoy themselves and unfold their full potential: Success is a wonderful consequence of a meaningful task, but paradoxically the organization is not focused on success.

Frederic Laloux is at the pulse of time and captures the urgency of the process of change towards wholeness in a fascinating way. In this book he gives many impulses in a respectful way and thus opens the view to new perspectives. I can recommend the book to anyone who wants to deal with holistic, meaningful, sustainable organizational models.