The evolution of human consciousness as studied and documented by a great number of people - from historians, to anthropologists, philosophers, mystics, psychologists and neuroscientists - has been found to develop in stages. Organisations, as an expression of the same human consciousness, have evolved over time too and correlate with each stage of consciousness.
Gaining familiarity with the different stages of evolution of organisations is helpful to understand the main drives behind every type of organisation, the culture and the type of consciousness of its leaders.
Belgian practitioner Frederic Laloux wrote his Reinventing Organisations following in-depth research within current companies, and came to discernible breakthroughs that underpin the companies that are the most evolved, and wildly successful, too.
What this implies is that evolution can be orchestrated by creating the right structure, and given the necessary conditions: leadership at the highest developmental stage and ownership support.
It is important to remember when working by developmental stages, that an organisation being of a ‘higher’ developmental stage than another is no indication of superiority in any way, but merely of further development.
In the same way that it would be unfair to say a toddler was not as developed as an adolescent, as they are incomparable situations that one would expect to see developmental differences between. It all comes down to how good a fit for the organisation the developmental stage is. Ask yourself, What is our task at hand as humans? What is the task of our organisations at this particular moment? How much complexity is asked of us to handle?
Depending on stage of development, these questions will be answered differently. Each developmental stage is characterised by several key features, which are outlined below.
Formal hierarchy structure in which upward movement is complex
Long term focus with future intended to repeat success of the past
Stability is a key focus
An ‘Us versus Them’ mentality in which social and corporate lives intertwine
Examples include: the military and public schools
Slick, machine-like inner workings driven by money and recognition
Driven by innovation, accountability and meritocracy
Marred by inequality and corruption
Examples include: global corporations such as Arcadia Group
Employee empowerment and advancement
Organisation viewed as a family
Social concerns at core, looking beyond profits
Examples include: Ben & Jerry’s and Southwest Airlines
Driven by its evolutionary purpose
Organization as a living system
Examples include: Patagonia, Buurtzorg, AES (Applied Energy Services)
Whether or not you were familiar with Diversity & Inclusion work prior to this article or if you are considering embarking on such, you now have a wider lens through which to consider the scope of these efforts, by asking yourself such questions as:
What is the stage of development of my organisation?
What would it mean to evolve?
What would make this possible at an individual and collective level?
What would make it possible for the world?
In practice, if you decide to go for it, be ready to walk the talk, role-modelling all that is learned, as well as to hold space, create and sustain structures for evolution.
Both D&I and evolution take practice and commitment. Successful companies take it on as onboarding workshops as they build internal capacities to deliver it, and periodically offer it to existing employees to keep growing, keep deepening in the knowledge of our biases, of the lenses we see the world through, and the impact this has in our work, in the business and in our lives.
These are exciting times to live in, high complexity, huge challenges, with increasing awareness and loads of support. From my experience, I cannot but encourage you in this ride.
More and more business leaders are engaging in D&I efforts. By considering the big picture of organisational evolution, as a leader you can engage in a deeper way and support it more intentionally.
Yes, it’s the right thing to do; yes, it’s good for the business, but more importantly, it has the potential to support the organisation and its individuals to evolve; and as a result, equip it to handle higher levels of complexity and positive impact in the world.