The Teal paradigm refers to the next stage in the evolution of human consciousness. When applied to organizations, this new paradigm views the organization as an independent force with its own purpose, and not merely as a vehicle for achieving management's objectives. Teal organizations are characterized by self-organization and self-management. The hierarchical "predict and control" pyramid of our current system is replaced with a decentralized structure consisting of small teams that take responsibility for their own governance and for how they interact with other parts of the organization. Assigned positions and job descriptions are replaced with a multiplicity of roles, often self-selected and fluid. People’s actions are guided not by orders from someone up the chain of command but by becoming aware of the organization’s purpose. The organizational structure in TEAL is characterized by rapid change and adaptation, as adjustments are continuously made to better serve the organization's purpose.

Breakthroughs and characteristics

Like earlier organizational paradigms, Teal can be credited with bringing about certain fundamental breakthroughs in how humans collaborate:

1: Self-Management
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. (See Self-Management).

2: Wholeness
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. (See Wholeness).

3: Evolutionary Purpose
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 become aware of and understand what the organization wants to become, i.e. what purpose it wants to serve (see Evolutionary Purpose).

4. Teal metaphor: organizations as living systems

Teal organizations have a useful metaphor for the workplaces they aspire to create. Whereas Achievement-Orange organizations think of themselves operating like machines, and Pluralistic-Green organizations uses the metaphor of families whereas Teal organizations refer to themselves as living organisms or living systems that are far more complex and adaptive systems. Life, in all its evolutionary wisdom, manages ecosystems of unfathomable beauty, ever evolving toward more wholeness, complexity, and consciousness. Change in nature happens everywhere, all the time, in a self-organizing urge that comes from every cell and every organism, with no need for central command and control to give orders or pull the levers and they have survived and adapted very effectively for hundreds of millions of years and will continue to do so unless humankind put a stop to it by destroying the environment upon which all life depends!

An Evolutionary-Teal organization exhibits many properties of a Complex Adaptive System

  • It has a purpose of its own, distinct from the purposes or objectives of its members

  • ​It consists of a number of elements (members or teams),

  • The elements interact, in a non-linear way, to achieve the purpose of the system

  • The interaction and relationships between elements are based on a few simple rules or guiding principles

  • The nature of the relationships and number of interactions between the elements result in emergent behavior - the behavior of    the system is not the sum of the behaviors of the elements

  • The elements produce and use signals and information (sensing) from both external and internal environments and react accordingly

  • There is no central control, bosses or hierarchy

  • The elements self-organize, that is, change the relationships between themselves to adapt to changes in the environment

  • The elements learn from history, and from the environment, and adapt accordingly to ensure the survival of the system.

Teal organizations are run by self-managing teams. These teams consist of workers who each fulfill certain roles, including functional and managerial duties. All decisions are made using a simple advice process and/or a conflict resolution process when appropriate. There is no centralized control. Values are no longer given perfunctory attention but are actually lived in how people behave in the organization. Everyone becomes aware of the organization’s purpose and takes action accordingly while sensing for changes in the environment. Out of these collective actions, the behavior of the organization emerges.