Talk at Reinventing Organizations Berlin


My friend Sebastian invited me to a talk by Frederic Laloux on the next paradigm for workplaces/ organizations.

Here’s a YouTube video of one of his talks:

Key takeaways:

High complexity environments require distributed self-management; hierarchies cannot use traditional command and control.

Hierarchies do emerge even in what Laloux calls “teal” organizations – his prescriptive version of a decentralized organization where individuals are empowered – but they’re situational, suited to those particular circumstances.

Organizations should make room for the whole individual, not just their ego driven, aggressive, assertive and rational sides.

Company leaders should be a bit more humble and stop trying to force the future. Should perhaps try to listen and enable the evolutionary purpose of the organization.

Afterwards there was a discussion about how to spread these new modes of organizational behavior.


In my mind, when organizations that deploy holacracy or some similar self-management mode begin to succeed in the marketplace, show results and demonstrate that such an organizational structure is a competitive advantage, then it will spread.

I think the message should be that individual empowerment is a powerful competitive advantage, and while I haven’t read it, I believe Laloux shares some such examples in his book, Reinventing Organizations.

Holacracy basically dictates that the individual or team tasked with leading a domain in an organizations should have the ultimate ability to determine policy in that particular area. A necessary corollary to that is that you hire the right people – experts that you trust – to make decisions in that domain. Otherwise you retain a veneer of meritocracy and self management but the wise men at the C level retain ultimate veto.

Ultimately, the talk was valuable but it was tinged by a lot of feelings-y discussion and almost ignored the creation of business value entirely. It almost treated this paradigm of work as an end in and of itself rather than a superior way to organize institutions in order to create more value. In a way it felt cult-y. Will have to look into it more – especially “non-violent communication,” which came up a lot in the discussion.

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