Frederic Laloux

Here is a wonderful interview with Frederic Laloux. He has been a huge influence on us at Teal Unicorn (it’s in our name: the concept of “teal” comes from  Laloux’s book Reinventing Organizations, a must read for the 2020s).

I summarise some of the key points of the interview in this post.

We worry about a virus that kills 1% of the population but the human race is destroying about 1% of everything every year. We come to accept that it is an extractive economy, or that companies pay little or no tax. Laloux challenged a group of CEOs about whether they believe they are acting with integrity.

It stimulates an interesting conversation when bosses realise that they feel powerless, that they don’t have the answers to acting with integrity. For a senior executive that is deeply challenging – they realise they’re not as mighty as they think they are. He then asked them what their plan B was, if for some reason they lost their job; so that they realised that they would be fine anyway, there is no real risk to someone in that position. It is all ego that makes them fear doing something outside the system that would have greater integrity.

Then he talked about owners who are acting with integrity, such as the carpet company Interface, the world’s largest carpet maker, now on a journey to eliminate their environmental impact.

He talked about creating the safety to acknowledge that we don’t know the answers, that we are all living with things such as generating garbage that we are not comfortable with.

If an organisation can start addressing the issue of how to act with integrity, it makes the mission of the organisation much more interesting, and the challenges that we deal with much more juicy.

The luxury of a plan B is a form of privilege, but people in middle and worker positions can still be activist within their organisations. He used the example of the sneaker company Decathlon, where people feel empowered to make change and be activist.

Storytelling is powerful and it gives us hope. The ground is more fertile for change than we realise. It is  possible that things can be better.

“there’s a lot more ground that has been prepared as a lot more people are getting to the end of tolerating this cognitive dissonance, and they’re just waiting for the social permission to start talking about it. Just like we’ve had the social permission now around race in the United States.”

Laloux thinks we are nearing a tipping point where conversations about integrity in business will explode. People will give each other the permission to speak out and to experiment.

It will be driven by truth telling, which is what Teal Unicorn do now, inspired by people like Laloux, Gary Hamel, Michele Zanini, or Dan Price.

Laloux asks “What are you no longer okay with and what are you really yearning for?”

Then there is a long bit about one’s personal journey, mostly about less environmental impact.

He then mentions K2K doing organisational change in the Basque Country, who sound interesting.  I will learn more. He cites fellow Kiwi Susan Basterfield, for practical advice on change. And Liberating Structures. He talks about Wilbur’s Integral Model, difficult conversations, and tensions.

He mentions that he has made 130 videos on his site (!!!).  Who is going to watch 130? Surely that needs to be another book.

He ends by talking again about hoping the tipping point is soon, and how maybe COVID and remote working will tip it.

Excellent interview, well worth the read. (Yes, it’s mercifully a transcript. Much appreciated.)