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Article

The Path towards Evolutionary—Teal Organizations: A Relationship Trigger on Collaborative Platforms

1
Department of Organization Engineering, Business Administration and Statistics, High Technical School of Industrial Engineers, Polytechnic University of Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
2
Organizational Design and Behaviour, Management Development Institute, 122 007 Gurgaon, India
3
Research Group on Sustainable Organizations, Polytechnic University of Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2020, 12(23), 9817; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12239817
Received: 13 October 2020 / Revised: 12 November 2020 / Accepted: 19 November 2020 / Published: 24 November 2020

Abstract

:
The technological challenges of the so-called fourth industrial revolution, innovative inter-organizational network relations, integration in corporate strategies of sustainability challenges, or unsatisfactory levels of staff commitment stemming from complexity and related uncertainty are some of the main key issues that organizations have to face in the near future. In this context, the appearance of the ‘evolutionary organization’ model marks an important milestone in terms of a renewed identification of fundamental principles for organizations, arguably as an update or revision of systemic thinking. This model allows organizations, functioning as living beings, to be more agile and humanistic and better prepared to establish agile and trustworthy inter-organizational relationships. Collaborative platforms are possible from that ability to add value between organizations while also being closely aligned with the principles and values of evolutionary organizations. The purpose of this paper is to provide insights into how these (teal) organizations work with respect to their common principles of wholeness, evolutionary purpose, and self-management. In the end, the study intends to highlight relevant practical organizational aspects that can better facilitate the management of current and increasing complexity, as well as the transition to more humanistic-oriented organizations.

1. Introduction

“Modernity is a miracle of systems”—Bill Gates
Organizational research has been at the forefront of efforts, both in academia and in the business sector, to tackle the challenges brought about by complexity. It appears, however, that the inspiring theories about systemic thinking and complexity theory that emerged around the middle of the past century have been largely overlooked. This can be mainly because it has not been until now that organizations realized they are confronting unassailable challenges with traditional systems, heavily laden with hierarchical structures and planning schemes.
Technological advances leading to the fourth industrial revolution [1], inter-organizational network relations and new business models [2], integration in corporate strategies of sustainability challenges [3], or low levels of staff commitment stemming from complexity and related uncertainty [4] are only some of the new challenging issues faced by organizations.
In this context, the appearance of the ‘evolutionary organization’ model from Frederic Laloux (Laloux uses the term ‘evolutionary/Teal’ organization, as he labels different stages of organizational models that appear over time using a key attribute of the various organizational types together with an identifying color, e.g., ‘impulsive-Red’, ‘conformist-Amber’, ‘results-based/Orange’ or ‘pluralist/Green’) [5], together with other lines of inquiry related to concepts like the ‘Humanist Company’ [6], the ‘Growth Culture’ and the ‘Deliberately Developmental Organization’ or DDO [7], the ‘Holacracy’ [8], or the ‘New Relationships’ style [9], marks an important milestone in terms of a renewed identification of fundamental principles for organizations, arguably as an update or revision of systemic thinking.
Laloux’s evolutionary or ‘Teal’ model [5] is based on three organizational breakthroughs, namely (i) self-managed teams, (ii) wholeness (for staff members), and (iii) evolutionary purpose. DDOs and Humanist companies, on the other hand, delve mostly into the wholeness principle, while the New Relationships and Holacracy models are more concerned with self-management processes.
These disruptive models account today for a tiny minority in organizational environments, where this vision is considered as largely utopian by upper management. However, there is an interesting trend of emerging organizations of various sizes and sectors, which share as a common trait the integration of one or more of the above principles in their organizational frameworks. Still, while reviewing scores of organizations prior to this article, the evidence shows that it is difficult to find organizations that reflect all three of Laloux’s breakthroughs—in fact, it is difficult to pinpoint one organization that can be affirmed to have fully developed any of the three. Nevertheless, there are solid indications pointing to innovative trends that incorporate this new Teal operational approach. Self-organization and self-management practices described by Laloux seem to be inspiring an increasing number of entrepreneurs to change the way they manage their companies [10].
The above considerations point to the relevance for more closely examining some of these pioneering organizations in some depth previous to attempting to understand (i) how they operate internally, (ii) what challenges they face, and (iii) what cultural barriers they have to overcome. To this end, the specific objective of this study is to identify levers of change, daily institutional practices, and instruments, which can facilitate the transition towards organizational models that can eventually adapt better to the complexity, challenges, and demands of today’s context, such as the strengthening relations between different participants in collaborative platforms. The collaborative economy is one of the most characteristic organizational changes on which some key transformations of sustainable development are based. Therefore, this study ultimately attempts to provide some reflections on the need for horizontal organizations to overcome some fundamental challenges related to sustainability.
The article is structured as follows: Section 2 provides a literature review of the leading system thinking theories from the previous century, agile organizational trends, and the already mentioned evolutive models. Section 3 introduces the methodology selected. Section 4 describes the development of the case study, including the main findings, while Section 5 presents the discussion of the results. Finally, conclusions, limitations, and future lines of research are explained in Section 6.

2. Literature Review on Organizational Innovation and Complexity

Aiming to understand and model the behavior of complex organizational systems is not a new endeavor. An exploration of the work of the most significant authors in the emergence of systems thinking [11] indicates that there is a common origin in cybernetics, general systems theory, systems dynamics, learning systems, and complexity theory, all of which have had practical applications to organizational theory. Being consistent with the guiding principles proposed by those pioneers has not been an easy task in a predominant business environment in which control indicators and fragmented processes are not conducive for maintaining a holistic or comprehensive vision.
The study of organizations from a systems perspective relates to the concerns in exploring interactions between the organization of work and the behavior of individuals at the start of the 50′s when the new concept of ‘socio-technical System’ appeared [12]. The Tavistock Institute undertook research that led it to conclude that organizational design needs to consider social factors and not just technological ones, as well as the interactions among them [13]. The Institute already anticipated that mechanistically structured organizations based on control schemes would have to evolve towards long-term planning and organic, networked structures in the post-industrial era [11].
From a different perspective, Ackoff [14,15] was among the first to consider the interactions between technological and social systems not only within an organization but also to external viewpoints, exhibiting diversity represented by the ‘stakeholders’. This requires organizations to be capable of operating with ‘mess management’ styles via participatory processes and interactive planning. Meadows [16] additionally introduced a human perspective whereby organizational change should lead towards a road of compassion unfurled by human energy.
Luhmann [17] also developed a very original organization theory based on the systems approach, which he applied to the study of social phenomena to build a unified theory of social systems. Although his works, very influential in sociology, did not receive much attention from organization theorists, they are increasingly attracting interest in organization studies [18].
In the field of systems thinking, Senge [19] exerted significant influence in conveying the principles that facilitate the understanding and managing of complexity in organizational settings, pointing to limitations derived from deconstructing complex tasks into fragmented pieces. He later proposed changes in management approaches that focus more on the source of events/objects than on the events or objects themselves as a way to identify the so-called ‘generative processes’ [20].
Perhaps the main challenge is how to bring these ideas over to the day-to-day of the professional activity of each worker and each manager. If one starts from traditional corporate governance schemes, i.e., (i) strategic planning, (ii) hierarchical structures, (iii) process-based management, and (iv) basic human resource policies, it does not seem easy to advance towards models that are open, flexible, organic, as well as efficient. Innovative attributes incorporated into products, services, or business models often seem largely absent from internal organizational paradigms. The digital era requires new organizational paradigms.
Laloux [5] provides an interpretative framework to understand what, how, and at what pace is organizational innovation implemented. For doing so, this author builds on the spiral dynamics concept developed by Beck and Cowan [21], based on the works of Graves [22], and on its adaptation in Wilber’s integral theory [23,24]. He uses evolutionary theories drawn from other thematic disciplines and applies them to organizations. The author considers that such a categorization helps to understand organizational evolution and adapts it to produce the evolutionary stages, inspired by the levels used in spiral dynamics and integral theory, shown in Table 1:
Laloux [5] also describes the next stage in organizational evolution, the ‘evolutionary’ (Teal) organizations, whose guiding metaphor is the living system. Operating under the Teal paradigm, organizations become more agile as they can adapt quickly to their environment, thanks to the capabilities of their members for self-organizing and more humanistic as the human dimension is a key element of the Teal guiding principles. This new Teal stage is based on three pillars of organizational innovation, brought about by three disruptive advances.
The first pillar is the evolutionary purpose. As compared with traditional strategic planning, “Teal Organizations are seen as having a life and a sense of direction of their own. Instead of trying to predict and control the future, members of the organization are invited to listen in and understand what the organization wants to become, what purpose it wants to serve.” This pillar fits with relative ease in the reality of most tech companies, in startups, and in those from sectors where the level of technological innovation turns strategies rapidly obsolete [25].
At the same time, the driving force of purpose helps to look beyond the organization itself, being more open to joining forces with other organizations through collaboration platforms to pursue common goals. This is especially relevant in the case of sustainability goals, as this breakthrough could contribute to aligning organizations with a higher purpose connected with the sustainability agenda. Movements as conscious capitalism [26] foster organizational change and strategy alignments guided by a more human, positive, and sustainable way of doing business.
The second pillar is the concept of wholeness. Teal organizations allow their staff to reclaim individual integrity and work as whole selves, not as an isolated portion of their being. “Organizations have always been places that encourage people to show up with a narrow “professional” self and to check other parts of the self at the door. They often require us to show a masculine resolve, to display determination and strength, and to hide doubts and vulnerability. Rationality rules as king, while the emotional, intuitive, and spiritual parts of ourselves often feel unwelcome, out of place. Teal Organizations have developed a consistent set of practices that invite us to reclaim our inner wholeness and bring all of who we are to work.” [5].
Human resources and talent management schools based on these pillars are growing. Gurt [6] indicated that human leadership starts with the individual and is then applied and inclusive of all persons in the organization, regardless of the role of each individual. He referred to wholeness as a way to be oneself in spaces of security and recognition. “Helping to know oneself and understand the diversity of people with whom we interact at work and in personal lives helps to generate empathy, and that helps us to minimize conflicts, creating more united and powerful teams.”
The so-called DDOs or Deliberately Developmental Organizations, modeled by Kegan and Laskow [7], seek to promote personal growth by offering an environment of trust where individuals can display their weaknesses and are helped and supported by their peers.
The third pillar is self-management, which combines innovative structures and processes: autonomous teams, absence of bosses and organigrams, distributed decision-making, and free information circulation [27]. Laloux [5] finds that “Teal Organizations have found the key to operate effectively, even at a large scale, with a system based on peer relationships, without the need for either hierarchy or consensus.” Self-management is possibly the most challenging to comprehend in large organizations, given present organizational governance structures.
Kirkpatrick [28] shared the experience of the company Morningstar and showed how self-management is a way to add value to projects because the person who knows the most about each step in a process is the one responsible for it. Saratxaga [9] described an operational model of a number of industrial companies using self-management in Spain’s Basque Country. Aretxabala [29] discussed structures that allow people not only to apply their physical effort but also their intelligence and passion in the organization, in the space of personal freedom and with deep purpose: “Organizations need to get rid of hierarchical rigidities and procedures, clearing the way for self-management and collective intelligence, which are tools much more powerful and efficient in volatile, complex environments like the present ones.”
The limitations of the managerial hierarchy have been long recognized both by scholars and practitioners, leading to varied efforts to organize companies in a less hierarchical way, as Lee and Edmondson pointed out [30]. Among these efforts, we can highlight high-trust institutional forms [31], post-bureaucratic organizations [32], participative decision-making [33], or workplace democracy [34]. However, Lee and Edmondson [30] argued that not all initiatives to create more horizontal or flatter organizations could qualify as self-management. In that sense, they proposed a definition of self-managing organizations (SMO), which is based on three features: (1) radical decentralization of authority, (2) a formal system, and (3) being organization-wide [30].
There are many examples of pioneering organizations that operate on Teal principles. The real cases described in the books of Laloux, Kiekpatrick, Saratxaga, among others, allow for close examination of internal processes, human resource policies, and routine practices that move an organization towards its maximum maturity levels. The paths taken by this new form of organizational functioning, whose most apt metaphor is the live organism, opens the door to a vision embodying a coherent response to the present challenges of a network society and of knowledge workers within it [35].
The leadership style requires new approaches to foster and hold these new models. The ‘U theory’, developed by Scharmer and Kaufer [36], is a good example of the competencies needed to provide value and lead in changing, unstable environments (Figure 1).
The authors discussed ‘leadership mechanisms 4.0′ that allow responding to key present challenges from where change emerges, to begin with (‘the source’). They claimed that the dominant leadership style is ego-system based, while the economic system is based on interdependent global ecosystems.
Some organizational theories try to integrate all these tendencies in management paradigms that are more inclusive and holistic. Nandram [37] theorized about the ‘integration of simplicity’ for organizational innovation—its name itself refers to the proposed key for success. The integration of simplicity is based on three principles: (i) the ‘needing’ principle, which permits a critical analysis of functional patterns in the organization; (ii) the ‘re-thinking’ principle, which demands leaving spaces open for new ideas; (iii) the ‘common sensing’ principle, emerging from the design and implementation of tasks from the perspective of a new reality.
In summary, the complexity of the digital era needs new organizational frameworks. What was defined in the systems theory origins is now flourishing with new theories as evolutionary/Teal organizations, Deliberately Developmental Organizations, or humanistic leadership. The guiding breakthroughs to drive change are ‘evolutionary purpose’, ‘wholeness’, and ‘self-management’.

3. Materials and Methods

From the reflections produced by the above literature review, the research question is: How can the evolutionary model be disaggregated into smaller pieces that are useful to organizations to both resolve present challenges and advance towards the ‘Teal’ stage?
To arrive at a proper response to such a question, it is necessary to take a close look at some of these organizations to identify and describe the foundations of these emerging models in which some evolutionary principles are being applied. For this purpose, one organization has been selected among the more than thirty organizations studied by the authors to date: Infojobs–Schibsted Spain.
The selection criteria for this case study is both strategic and operational. From a strategic point of view, Infojobs is a company of the digital economy, and the Teal principle they have strongly developed is wholeness, aligned with human resource policies. From an operational perspective, Infojobs has gone through a ten-year period of organizational evolution, and the commitment of the CEO to our university has allowed us to access information and insights not easily available for research purposes.
Infojobs’ case analysis shows that behind some very good nominal human resources practices, there are very innovative daily practices that are very much in line with the principle of wholeness, such as the regular use of gratitude, the generalized use of the meditation room, etc.
The justification is also based on the access the authors had to the company’s main executives, as well as the intention of the company to continue with the transition towards an evolutionary organizational model.
The organizational framework for the case study draws from two basic foundations. The first one is the methodology, proposed by Laloux [5], of analysis of primary and secondary information, with a script structured along with the concepts of (i) structure, (ii) main organizational processes, (iii) human resources, (iv) routine practices, and (v) leadership. The resulting case files are then analyzed for alignment with the three Teal principles of wholeness, evolutionary purpose, and self-management, complemented with the perspective of the leadership style(s) at play. This is labeled ‘analysis 3 + 1′ (Table 2). These case files of information (secondary and primary resources) provide the inputs with which to complete the Laloux framework (see Appendix A).
Leadership is considered as an enabling factor, difficult to analyze systematically, yet important enough to be factored in. According to Laloux, the essential prerequisite for an organization to be integrative and evolutionary is that its highest-ranking leader embodies that level of personal evolution (‘integrated/transpersonal’ in Wilber’s model [23,24]) and that it is fully supported by ownership that is 100% aligned with the Teal approach.
The second foundation of the case study seeks to understand the novelty of the Teal stage from the traditional concepts of organization and human resources. For this purpose, a conceptual model based on previous studies [38] is used, which compares, in a simplified and schematic fashion, the most relevant issues that differentiate ‘pluralistic’ (Green) from ‘evolutionary’ organizations (Figure 2).
In this model, the vertical axis represents aspects with macro (organization-wide) or micro (person/individual) attributes. This perspective is important because it establishes a boundary between culture, linked to the organization, and behavior, linked to the individual. The horizontal axis, on the other hand, points to the explicit or implicit nature of certain aspects, i.e., in terms of whether they can be perceived objectively or with more subtlety.
In Teal organizations, the purpose emanates from the core as the engine driving the system, and contrasts with the often cliché-prone vision and mission statements. Strategic planning and associated control mechanisms are substituted by the capacity to ‘feel and respond’ embedded in the main processes. Moreover, a new element is incorporated into the analysis: the so-called ‘daily (routine) practices’, which takes up relevance for Teal organizations because it is those small practices, spread over the organizational domain, that effectively incorporate new values and policies daily. They ultimately allow all the pieces of the corporate mechanism to function in-synch and for the Teal characteristics to permeate into the entire organization. Thus, in this analytical model, those ‘routine practices’ stand out as the differentiating element.
The differences between Teal and Green organizations are not always obvious. The best way to characterize the difference is through an in-depth internal analysis, seeking to identify truly humanistic practices, or others with a more traditional approach.
Drawing on these methodological aspects, the detailed analysis of the organization is presented next.

4. Results—Case Study: Infojobs–Schibsted Spain

As previously mentioned, Infojobs was chosen for a case study based on three criteria: (i) the identification of Teal practices in its operations, particularly those related to wholeness; (ii) the interest of the firm to research its internal organizational trends; (iii) a basis of trust on which to investigate from inside.
The information sources used to complete the characterization of Infojobs and Schibsted Spain with Laloux’s methodology (structure, processes, human resources, and routine practices) included primary (interviews, focal group meetings, and observation in the firm’s sites) and secondary ones (public information and internal documents). Secondary sources (Table 3) included newspapers, conferences related to Infojobs, web sites, and documents provided by InfoJobs and Schibsted. The interviews carried out to complete the information (Appendix A files) are listed in Table 4.
The gathering of primary information was completed with participant observation by the research team to add direct witnessing and contrasting to the exercise. Specifically, a junior member of the research team participated in a similar experience as that of an intern while he was carrying out his Master’s thesis work. During the visits, the observation focused on (i) daily practices, (ii) work environment, and (iii) the integration of Infojobs in the larger Schibsted corporate group. This in-site activity helped find answers to those questions that were not covered in the interviews, as well as to corroborate if the existing policies were actually applied in the day-to-day practices.
Lastly, three interviews were held with Jaume Gurt, Infojobs’ CEO, when it was an independent company, and Director of Human Development and Organization at Schibsted Spain, to study leadership styles. The interviews, following Laloux’s suggested scripts, intended to probe into the motivations, culture, and values driving the company’s leader.
The research was undertaken in 2016 and 2017, at a time when Infojobs, with some 200 workers, had the mission to extend its most innovative practices to the rest of the Schibsted Group in Spain (700 workers in total). This allowed us to observe the evolution from Green to Teal of Schibsted Spain, supported by a unit that was already implementing Teal practices related to employees’ wholeness.
The objectives set for the case study research were:
  • To study organizational solutions to introduce novel practices both at the corporate level as well as in human resources policies such that they provide greater employee satisfaction and increase the firm’s productivity.
  • To model the company according to Laloux’s Teal evolutionary organization concept, applying the methodology suggested by him in this case of a Spanish company.
  • To identify good practices in Infojobs, inserted into the Teal framework, and analyze its suitability for transferring knowledge to the rest of the Schibsted Group in order to accelerate its transition from the pluralist/Green model to the Teal one.

4.1. The Company

Infojobs.net was founded in 1998. It is an online job-search portal that until 2008 had 250 employees in Barcelona. It was then acquired by the Norwegian group Schibsted, who entered Spain with the goal of becoming the largest digital marketplace. To that effect, Schibsted Spain bought other companies like Fotocasa (real estate), Coches.net (automotive), Milanuncios (private ads), and Vibbo (ads mostly for second-hand items, including apartments, cars, etc.)
Infojobs is a technology-based knowledge enterprise. As a company first and a brand later, it maintains its initial mission as part of its identity and source of inspiration: “To find the best possible job for all people”. In recent years, what sets Infojobs apart from most other firms is its humanist character, with values, a culture, and a leadership style that seeks its employees’ happiness.
Human resource policies and practices, organizational processes, the day-to-day operations, and the corporate culture were drawing near the three evolutionary principles in Laloux’s Teal model, as is shown in this section. The most firmly instituted Teal principle was wholeness, but Infojobs was also advanced in terms of evolutionary purpose.
The shift towards Teal started in 2009 when Jaume was named CEO. In the midst of a severe economic crisis in Spain, Infojobs found itself in a dire situation. Facing competitive threats like those from LinkedIn, it was a matter of resurging or dying. Jaume’s capacity to obtain good results for the company was the springboard of trust on which he assumed his post. The first stage of transformation was with the management team, and it took a year and a half to get them to buy into a humanist business approach. At first, it was conceptually accepted but not truly understood. The key to that humanist transformation was to avoid imposition, advancing it instead through teamwork, listening, and empowerment.
From 2012 until 2017, Infojobs achieved a high level of development of human resources policies, placing employee happiness at their core. The set of practices for personnel management was aligned with the Teal principle of wholeness. Schibsted Spain, the Norwegian parent company, also featured advanced human resources policies, but they were more traditional, closer to the Green pluralist model.

4.2. Findings: Characterization of the Organization

In the 3 + 1 analysis of the Teal principles (wholeness, self-management, evolutionary principle plus leadership), the one found to be furthest implanted was wholeness, as mentioned above. This is due to the numerous practices aiming to care for the employees, such as (i) the ‘Hall of Happiness’, (ii) self-awareness tools (DISC assessments, which measure people’s behavior and emotions according to four personality dimensions: dominance (D), influence (I), security (S), and compliance (C); and SAT (‘seekers after truth’), Infojob’s application of the enneagram personality model) and other personality and behavioral archetype models, (iii) team or corporate outings, and (iv) ways to respond to failure (e.g., the Orange award for best practices and Lemon for failures, etc.). Some of these practices are explained by Infojobs’ CEO Jaume Gurt:
“InfoJobs offers different types of services to its employees. They work under the motto: ‘When I feel happy, I work better-”
“In the ‘[email protected] Day’, only celebrated at Infojobs, the company used to be closed, and everyone went out to have a good time, seeking leisure activities and to disconnect from work. It was a day organized by the employees, which brought people together. These days were theme-based, and there were teams of people that normally wouldn’t be together at the firm.”
Organizational values are present in the day-to-day of the employees, who act according to them.
“The ‘on-boarding’ sessions, in which corporate values are presented, are rather important. On-boarding takes place during a one week stretch in Barcelona. There is a 3-day training session where the incoming workers are rotated through each department to see how their peers function. They are introduced to the rest of the employees and get invited to absorb the Infojobs culture. Moreover, each new employee is assigned a mentor who accompanies her during the first months. (…) The entry of each employee is carefully monitored, and at the 90-day mark, they are asked for feedback on their first three months and whether they need anything.”
The firm is working on its evolutionary purpose, trying to bring it closer to each employee. This purpose is closely linked to the human resources policies, and its basic definition is “to seek the happiness of the workers”. According to Jaume Gurt:
“People first, business is the consequence”
In addition, an ulterior purpose is sought for each brand. This supports the equilibrium between an evolutionary purpose centered on people across the organization and an operational purpose that serves to make strategic decisions as well as day-to-day business decisions. Jaume Gurt describes it in this way:
“The purpose of Infojobs is to find the best possible job for everyone. I’m not going to sell; I’m going to help”
About self-management, there are indications that the group is making an effort to introduce it, but they are presently far from applying as considered in the Teal model. The organizational structure is clearly defined, with a defined hierarchy and fixed work positions, but they are flexibly interpreted, and people in the organization are listened to. There is a fair degree of employee empowerment: they can negotiate with their manager about objectives, work hours, and the option of teleworking, as Jaume Gurt explains:
“In Infojobs, at least in the Sales Dept., we have a set of objectives. You negotiate with your boss, but if you can’t reach them, you aren´t penalized. We use the ‘RAC’ tool. Every 15 days, there is a team meeting where decisions are made; someone in the team is responsible for setting the agenda points that should be available on the previous Thursday (this task is rotated).”
Lastly, leadership is a key point. Jaume agrees with Laloux that one of the indispensable requisites for an evolutionary organization is that the top manager has an evolutionary leadership style. Jaume is a telecommunications engineer, but he has also studied enneagram, neurolinguistic programming (NLP), gestalt, and coaching. He offers these resources to the staff, which helps to spread a common language. His leadership style is aligned with Teal’s attributes. He expresses that the start of the transformation requires some guts and a lot of teamwork:
“When we launched the model, these values were complemented with a ‘follow what you feel’ approach, based on the trust I was receiving, and aided by the freedom of not being attached to the job.”
The key to his motivation as a leader is the small things that happen every day, particularly the things that happen to his staff. That requires the creation of spaces for sharing time with them. Externally, Jaume is supported by a network of leaders with the same motivations and who meet periodically. He also stays in touch with other leaders who share a humanist upbringing/training.
“The individuals are the key to harvesting the energy required to lead transformational processes.”
In a simplified manner, the analysis of the Teal principles is reflected in Table 5.

5. Discussion

To present the discussion of the Infojobs case, the conceptual model proposed by the authors based on previous studies is used to compare the most relevant and innovative aspects that distinguish Green (pluralist) and Teal (evolutionary) organizations (Figure 2).
In Teal organizations, the purpose is at the core, powering the life of the system, as compared with the so often bland vision and mission statements of Green companies. Strategic planning and related control mechanisms are substituted for the capacity to ‘sense and respond’ embedded in the main processes. A new construct—daily (or routine) practices—has gained significant relevance in this framework.
‘Daily practices’ can be considered as a novel organizational block that facilitates the identification of (and focus on) explicit actions linked to employee behavior in Teal companies. These are functional ways related to the little things, which help to permeate the day-to-day stage of organizational life. As human resources values and politics traditionally tend to remain as good intentions, in Infojobs, ‘daily practices’ become the most distinct differentiating element.
According to this model and the approach proposed in the case study, Infojobs would respond to the Teal profile and Schibsted Spain to the Green one (Figure 2). During the case study, information was also accessed about Schibsted Spain to enable a comparison with Infojobs and the determination of organizational models for both. Despite a prior expectation to find more Green attributes in Schibsted Spain, the inquiry led us to conclude that all published and observed is the same for both organizations. Since the acquisition of Infojobs, both organizations share, at least formally (i.e., in writing), human resources policies, organizational and structural aspects, the definition of strategy, purpose, values, etc.
Given that Infojobs is now a brand within Schibsted Spain, we are able to confirm what is expected, i.e., all the macro (organizational) variables are common. No difference is detected in the main processes, nor in the organizational structure. In those fields, Infojobs is closer to the pluralist, Green model, as well as the rest of the Schibsted Spain brands.
The potential differences would then lie in the micro domain, related to the management of staff. If we examine the explicit/micro quadrant, where human resources variables lie, it is found that consolidated functions in human resources policies suitable for Green coincide with corresponding functions in companies closer to the evolutionary models. The difference in both models refers to the organizational structure of such function, which, in Green, has a clearly centralized staff department, while, in Teal, is delegated or decentralized to work team (Figure 3).
While the human resources policies of Schibsted Spain are common to all its brands, including Infojobs, it is the implication of Infojobs professionals in seeking employees’ happiness, which makes their implementation more autonomous and sophisticated. In other words, good Green human resources policies with the proper level of flexibility and delegation can lead towards Teal spots related to wholeness. To enable this, the basis would be found in routine practices, which, according to the GIOS (Grupo de Investigación en Organizaciones Sostenibles – Research Group on Sustainable Organizations) model [39], make it easier to observe and distinguish Green models that are moving towards Teal ones.
Indeed, the organizational variables included by Laloux in the domain of routine practices are the ones that establish the difference in organizational models between Infojobs and Schibsted Spain. Though nominally based on the same definitions, the maturity level in the kind of routine practices and their reflection in the values, team spirit, or accompaniment to professional development is different.
These routine practices in Figure 4 are associated with each of the Teal principles. Those linked by Laloux with the wholeness principle are meetings, trust-building, reflexive spaces, value alignment, and community building.
A number of daily practices are identified in the case of Infojobs, which corresponds with these, and additional ones are noticed related to self-awareness and gratitude:
  • Value alignment: meeting rooms have the names of the company’s values. When a meeting is planned, the convener tries to reserve the room whose name is the value that best represents the objective/context of the meeting.
  • Community building: the ‘Clock Plaza’ is a place in Infojobs’ Barcelona offices where all kinds of communiqués are made. Whenever there is an occasion to celebrate, some food is brought in (generally pizza), and they meet in this plaza to spend a pleasant time.
  • Trust building: ‘Open Office’ is a monthly space where anyone in the company can sit with the CEO and talk about any issue. The purpose is to strengthen a model of active listening.
  • Reflection spaces: the employees have a meditation room, with some programmed activities and for open use the remainder of the time.
  • Meetings: the greeting in most of the meetings is a hug. There are four types of hugs, and they are part of the internal language.
  • Self-awareness: SAT (‘seekers after truth’) is used as a mechanism of personality discovery provided by Fundación Claudio Naranjo, where the enneagram is applied, in a complementary way to DISC.
  • Gratitude: a practice as simple as thanking on a daily basis is a powerful tool. It underscores the comradeship existing in the company and is part of how the firm tries to instill a culture of appreciation and gratitude.
Together with these practices, it is also important to highlight the role that collaboration platforms play in Infojobs as tools supporting Teal principles and values. In fact, the wide use of such platforms as a way of ensuring that information is properly transmitted, in a transparent way without distortions or losses, is a distinctive feature of Teal self-managing organizations. In the case of Infojobs, the main platforms are PeoplePlace, the tool supporting human resources processes, and Arena, the corporate intranet, where people can interact with each other and access corporate information.

6. Conclusions

This research has attempted to answer how the evolutionary organizational model could be disaggregated into smaller pieces that are useful to organizations to both resolve present challenges and advance towards the ‘Teal’ stage.
More specifically, the study has also focused on the convenience of moving towards these kinds of “horizontal organizations” at a time of disruptive transformations, such as digitalization, the rise of collaborative platforms, and global sustainability challenges.
In this context, the Infojobs–Schibsted Spain case study has allowed examining a company, Infojobs, that partly responds to the evolutionary/Teal model, and one, Schibsted Spain, that is transitioning to a pluralist, Green model. The special circumstances derived from their fusion have generated a privileged research context in which to identify the opportunities and barriers to moving from Green to Teal.
Summarizing the research objectives to model Infojobs as a Teal company has been the first challenge. Since 2009, the company has worked with humanistic principles; so, at the time of the study, the internal practices had a significant maturity level resulting from over 8 years of implementation. The application of the Laloux analysis model, recommended for organizations with over 100 workers and more than 5 years using Teal principles, has proved to be apt for the study and of significant interest to Infojobs’ upper management.
The case study has shown that the company (i) is firmly aligned with the wholeness principle, (ii) has established the challenge of functioning based on its purpose, and (iii) is trying to expand delegation to work teams and reduce traditional hierarchical schemes. The leadership of the transformational process responds to the Teal leadership profile, with a CEO who himself serves as a model and supports the new environment (hold the space). Hence, in regard to the proposed 3 + 1 analysis, it is concluded that Infojobs stands as a ‘2 + 1′ firm.
The analysis of parallel primary and secondary information of Schibsted Spain (or, more precisely, of the brands of Schibsted Spain other than Infojobs plus its corporate services) allows labeling the company as pluralist/Green. Some of the brands are visibly results-based, which introduces some heterogeneity in management styles that influences the transitional process from Green to Teal.
The decision to transfer the Infojobs culture to the rest of Schibsted Spain was at the time (2016) introducing tensions in the staff of the company, who felt a noticeable setback in practices and values that were already consolidated. This was also the case in Schibsted Spain, who considered the incorporation of Infojobs policies as strategic but did not have the necessary impulse to handle change management challenges.
In that sense, the fact that Infojobs was already implementing Teal practices helped the organization to better prepared internally to cope with challenges posed by the fusion by establishing trustworthy and agile inter-organization relationships. Despite the unavoidable tensions between organizations that merged, people at Schibsted Spain now feel that Infojobs has really helped the group to move forward towards a more humanistic working model, with more productive and happier employees.
One of the most complex barriers identified in the case study is the inherent difficulty in understanding the depth of the changes related to values and human behavior more generally. It is a common mistake for an organization to feel sufficiently advanced when the new ideas are intellectually accepted while undervaluing the whole extent of change involved. As mentioned in various interviews, it is one thing for an executive to decide to move towards a leader-coach style, and quite another to reach the personal/professional maturity to do it well. The rhythms of evolution are slow, the advances are gradual, and this goes against the pressures and the speed of day-to-day business actions.
Lastly, the organizational analysis, contrasting Infojobs and Schbisted Spain, confirms the relevance of daily practices as instruments that help transit and entrench evolutionary/Teal cultures. The study of Infojobs has identified not just routine practices referred to by Laloux but other novel ones focused on self-awareness and a culture of gratitude.
The opportunity to study pioneer companies in the implementation of novel organizational evolutionary principles, such as Infojobs, has allowed us to contribute towards a greater understanding of the implementation of these principles, namely evolutionary purpose, wholeness, and self-management. The limitations derived from the lack of fully evolved organizations to the Teal stage can be overcome by constructing the whole picture with good practices in each of the breakthroughs separately. The transition from pluralistic-Green to evolutionary-Teal can be understood as a long innovation process that offers practical solutions to some of the challenges that organizations face in the digital era.
With regard to the aspects of generalization of the results and limitations of the study, it is clear that the above reflections correspond only to a very particular and unique context. Nevertheless, following F. Laloux’s reasoning, the appearance of similar cases in different geographical contexts, circumstances, productive sectors, and associations of organizations, such as collaborative platforms, has led the authors of this research to make visible some specific particularities that can shed some light on the different transitions of companies towards less hierarchical, more self-managed, and more people-oriented organizational models. In particular, the in-depth analysis of the daily practices of this case study is the most outstanding contribution that can be contrasted with other similar analyses, with the ultimate aim of better complementing the theoretical-practical framework of this type of emerging organization.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, A.M.R. and A.K.J.; Methodology, A.M.R. and Á.U.; Supervision, A.M.R.; Writing—original draft, A.M.R.; Writing—review and editing, Á.U., M.A.R., and C.F.G.M. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

Funding

This research received no external funding.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Appendix A. Infojobs Questionnaire: Laloux Methodology Questions

Assessment (1 to 5)QuestionAnswer
Main organizational processes
1. Purpose and strategy
2. Innovation (product development, process development, R&D dept.)
3. Sales
4. Marketing and price-setting
5. Purchases and vendors’ management
6. Operations (production, manufacturing, administrative…)
7. Ecological footprint
8. Information technologies
9. Post-sales
10. Learning and change in the organization
11. Budget and control
12. Investments
13. Financing and subsidies
14. Reporting and earnings claims
15. Executive committee and governing board
Human Resources
16. Organizational structure
17. Project teams and other work bodies
18. Recruitment
19. Incorporation (entry)
20. Training
21. Coaching and orientation
22. Teams and trust-building
23. Feedback, evaluations, and performance management
24. Planning of handovers, promotions, and job rotations
25. Flexibility
26. Work titles and job descriptions
27. Goal setting
28. Compensation, incentives, and benefits
29. Non-financial recognition
30. Firings and massive firings
31. Exiting the organization
Daily life
32. Office space
33. Working hours and work-life integration
34. Community building
35. Meetings
36. Decision-making
37. Conflict resolution
38. Coping with failure
39. Leadership and management style
40. Employee alignment
41. Internal communication
42. External communication
43. Culture and values
44. Rituals, retirements, and celebrations
Others
45. Other significant practices or processes not mentioned above
Comments
The assessment of 1 to 5 has a different interpretation for each of the three blocks in the questionnaire:
  • Main organizational processes: This block assesses the internal knowledge of the information/processes linked to each organizational item.
  • Human resources: This block assesses the maturity of the policy/actions, which we can understand as the proximity between written policies and their implementation.
  • Daily life: This block assesses the clarity and habitual use of the identified issues/practices.

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Figure 1. U theory model—capacities to lead.
Figure 1. U theory model—capacities to lead.
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Figure 2. Comparison of organizational and human resources factors for Laloux’s Green and Teal organizational stages.
Figure 2. Comparison of organizational and human resources factors for Laloux’s Green and Teal organizational stages.
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Figure 3. Human resources’ functional characteristics for Green and Teal organizations (based on Laloux postulates).
Figure 3. Human resources’ functional characteristics for Green and Teal organizations (based on Laloux postulates).
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Figure 4. Routine practices’ functional characteristics for Teal organizations (based on Laloux postulates).
Figure 4. Routine practices’ functional characteristics for Teal organizations (based on Laloux postulates).
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Table 1. Evolutionary stages in organizations.
Table 1. Evolutionary stages in organizations.
Organizational TypesExamplesDisruptive AdvancesMetaphor
Impulsive (Red) The Mafia
Street gangs
Labor division
Commanding authority
A wolf pack
Conformist (Amber)The Catholic Church
Armed forces
Government systems
Public education
Formal, regular functions
Processes
An army
Results-based (Orange)Multinational companies
Subsidized private schools
Innovation
Accountability
Meritocracy
A machine
Pluralist (Green)NGOs (social, development-oriented)
Cultural/arts related organizations
Empowerment
Value-based organizational culture
Stakeholder models
A family
Table 2. Case file structure.
Table 2. Case file structure.
File/Name
Organization
Organizational purpose
Why is it relevant?
Relation to Laloux model
Information
Analysis 3 + 1Self-management:
Wholeness:
Evolutionary purpose:
Leadership:
Link
Table 3. Infojobs’ secondary information.
Table 3. Infojobs’ secondary information.
Public InformationInterview to Frode Nordseth, CEO of Schibsted; El País (leading daily in Spain)
Conference of the Infojobs’ CEO (at the time) in the Faculty of Industrial Engineering, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
Schibsted Spain web site https://www.schibsted.es/
Jaume Gurt’s book ‘Design Your Future’
Internal DocumentsActivities for self-awareness and personal/professional development
‘Circle of Trust’ model
Eneatypes personal character questionnaires
Detailed organizational structure
Human resources policies for quality of life
On-boarding program
Structure of the monitoring and evaluation of the ‘RAC’ tool
Table 4. Interviews for the Infojobs case study.
Table 4. Interviews for the Infojobs case study.
IntervieweePurpose/Angle of the Interview
Key Account Manager InfojobsHolistic corporate vision. Questionnaire part 1
Product Owner InfojobsBusiness model
Sales Manager SchibstedGlobal vision from Schibsted. Comparison among its brands
Key Account Manager SchibstedGlobal vision from other brands: Coches.net (cars.net)
Internal Communication ManagerCommunication aspects. Internal language
Training and Development ManagerTraining and self-awareness aspects
Table 5. 3 + 1 analysis in InfoJobs.
Table 5. 3 + 1 analysis in InfoJobs.
WholenessEvolutionary PurposeSelf-ManagementLeadership
The core of Infojobs activityPurpose and mission well-definedHigh level of empowerment, values coherent with self-managementTop manager operates from Teal conscience levels
Consolidated practices: self-awareness, recognition/appreciation, physical contact, happiness hall, etc.Search of an ulterior purpose for each of the group’s brands‘RAC’ as a tool to monitor objectives and for self-awarenessMaturity-levels of managers and support from shareholders
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Moreno Romero, A.; Uruburu, Á.; Jain, A.K.; Acevedo Ruiz, M.; Gómez Muñoz, C.F. The Path towards Evolutionary—Teal Organizations: A Relationship Trigger on Collaborative Platforms. Sustainability 2020, 12, 9817. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12239817

AMA Style

Moreno Romero A, Uruburu Á, Jain AK, Acevedo Ruiz M, Gómez Muñoz CF. The Path towards Evolutionary—Teal Organizations: A Relationship Trigger on Collaborative Platforms. Sustainability. 2020; 12(23):9817. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12239817

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Moreno Romero, Ana, Ángel Uruburu, Ajay K. Jain, Manuel Acevedo Ruiz, and Carlos F. Gómez Muñoz. 2020. "The Path towards Evolutionary—Teal Organizations: A Relationship Trigger on Collaborative Platforms" Sustainability 12, no. 23: 9817. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12239817

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