Teal is Real

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Since Teal is part of our brand name, I feel compelled to comment on the “Teal Ain’t Real” article from the Corporate Rebels.

We agree with them. Teal doesn’t exist in the real world.

As they point out in the article, Laloux is misinterpreted or maybe over-interpreted. He never intended it to be any more than a direction.

reality is more nuanced than the way it’s being interpreted. Laloux himself warns: “Let’s be careful not to oversimplify! […] No organization is ever a pure breed.”

Now their article is being treated in the same way: quoted as saying something it didn’t. The “Bursting the Bubble” is popping the illusion that Teal is an operating model already in existence. They’re not popping the concept of Teal itself, but the article is cited as if they did. The only real critique of Teal in the CR article is that it is too hippy for them. They suggest Ken Wilbur is too far out. I love a skeptic, and I’ve chucked the same “stoner” rocks in the past, but not here. I’m not a spiritual guy at all, but Spiral Dynamics still makes sense to me. I can see the arc of future human spiritual evolution it tries to project. Nor is Wilbur alone: Spiral Dynamics arises from a network of thinkers all exploring possible future states. So CR are entitled to their dismissive opinion but that’s all it is. For the rest of the article, they go after the misconceptions about Teal, not the idea itself.

Let’s be clear. Teal is a navigational star, distant, shining, aspirational. Maybe humans will get to the stars in future generations but right now their purpose is to inspire, and to set direction.

trying to change culture in an organisation is no different to trying to change culture in a society. We have an aspiration to make our society more democratic but just telling people to be more democratic will achieve nothing.
In all the incremental improvements that we make to society, we ask ourselves whether we are moving towards that navigational star or away from it. But those improvements will be much more targeted than “more democratic”, and may or may not result in a more democratic society. There is only one way to find out.

It’s not a criticism of Teal to say nobody is “really” doing it, that all case studies fall short of the star. Laloux in his book says all the case studies are imperfect. No real world example is ever a perfect fit to any model. It’s always compromised (pragmatism) and flawed (learning).

Nor do organisations stay static in time. Look at all the fuss over changes at Zappos. They’re all experimenting and exploring. Moving towards Teal. Nor do they need to head directly towards Teal.  It’s one reference star amongst many. But if they are making genuine progress towards Theory Y, Game B, Beta, whatever you want to call the future, they sure as hell won’t be sailing away from Teal.  It’s all in the same general part of the sky, they’re all guiding stars to go that way.

We love Teal: it’s a humanistic message of wholeness, of the reunification of truth, beauty, and goodness. It’s a far off star that we can gaze at in thoughtful moments, and set a course by.