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Frederic Laloux on Soulful Organisations

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  • Employment
  • Behaviour change
  • Health & wellbeing

RSA Spotlights – taking you straight to the heart of the event, highlighting our favourite moments and key talking points.

In this excerpt from the event Frederic Laloux discusses the historical evolution of management thinking, and shares how extraordinary pioneering organisations in very different sectors are already operating from the next stage of management

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  • The evolutionary framework is a Whig theory of history as progress to higher and higher levels of achievement. The talk of wholeness and soul really doesn't help us come to grips with the central problem in modern management; the instrumental Cartesian mindset that has dominated the Western world for the last 50+ years. This is not a situation where "we" can change "our" mindsets without us ending up in an infinite (Cartesian) regress. We have to have a framework that can deal with the role of rationality and power in organizations and recognizes that power is the ability, not only to settle disputes but to control agenda and determine the intellectual foundations on which they will be based. Knowledge may be power but power is also knowledge.

    Instead of framing "teal' organizations as an evolutionary advance they should be understood as part of an ecological dynamic. Enterprises are conceived in passion, born in communities of trust, grow through the application of reason and mature in power. Here they tend to get stuck, which sets them up for crisis and destruction but with the possibility of renewal (it's a very old story). In other words, enterprises start their lives as "teal" become "green" (stakeholder oriented) then "orange" (predict and control)  and "brown" (formal hierarchy) and end up "red" (structures of arbitrary power). The colours are less levels of consciousness than stages of development in which we are mostly immersed participants rather than detached observers. So what changes our "mindsets"? It has to be an experience, something outside of ourselves. So the $64,000 question is "What kind of experience would change our Cartesian mindsets?" Global warming is clearly one but it may be too slow and lead to the "boiled frog" syndrome. What are the other candidates that might work faster while still giving us time to change? Rough beasts like Donald Trump?

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