evolutionary purpose


Evolutionary purpose is one of three remarkable principles Frederic Laloux has brought to a viral discussion about how pioneering organizations around the globe are operating already on a next level, what he calls Teal level, by mainly “operating from the inside”. 1)

With the other two self-management and wholeness being pretty much on their way 2), I find the outlook evolutionary purpose is engaging us with to be far more challenging. Especially for those of us with several decades of training in how we come together, work and create and are being successful in this world.

And as if looking at “the how” all anew were not enough, the principle of evolutionary purpose ask us to simultaneously take a new attempt on “the why” as well. 3)

Let us take the good news up here first: When the “why” is at stake, transformation and a leap in consciousness is within reach.

Supposing this is something we want to invite.

This same stage of essential re-inventing, trans- and re-forming could come with some serious commitments on our side, as well as with repeated intention, in the sense of:

A commitment for discipline. The discipline of keep practicing, exploring and finally sticking with new ways of being together.

A commitment for knowledge and understanding. Of ourselves, human growth and evolution of consciousness.

A commitment for choosing love over fear. Every time it’ll get too tight along the process.

Intention being to serve something wider then us and – as I’m suggesting here – to play an active role in bringing forth conscious interdependency through us.

Yes, and sometimes it comes with unstoppable excitement and fun.

Turns out evolution is about constant growth. Growing in complexity. 4)

No wonder we tend to be overwhelmed. Especially when we bring with us on a psychological level the assumptions – explicitly or implicitly – of not being “good enough”, “loved enough” or “having enough”. In that case the call for life, a call for growth, can become pretty intimidating and even terrifying at times.

Some of us might even wonder whether evolution should care for our psychological growth. I’d suggest a “yes”, in the sense of being empathically connected. In the sense of “evolution having to stop its progress and wait until we humans are ready to complete our psychological growth”, probably not.

To understand better, I find it helpful to look at how Richard Barrett is bringing light onto the context of psychological and evolutionary growth. 5)

In order for evolution on all levels to progress, there are, what he calls, universal conditions. These conditions are to establish internal stability and external equilibrium with every level of growth and complexity.

By analogy with an atom having to enter some sort of internal stability and external equilibrium in order to successfully bond and form a next entity, what would be a molecule, an individual human being is invited by evolution itself to grow (physically, psychologically, intellectually) and establish internal stability and external equilibrium in order to bond on a level of independence and viability and build mutual beneficial relationships, families etc.

And similar as only stable and balanced organisms, on a next level of complexity, can collaborate in such ways as to form creatures like animals or a human being, – only stable and balanced relationships, families, nations and organizations are able to collaborate in such ways as to create a platform for next level entities to emerge.

This means in reverse, that entities of higher complexity are dependent on the stability and equilibrium of the next lower entity.

Here is where the psychological growth of us human beings comes into play with evolution : if we are capable of establishing internal stability and outer equilibrium on a individual and a relational level, it could be us indeed, who can create the possibility for next level entities to emerge.

Now, listening and creating on interdependency and responding to what wants to emerge is a very different dimension and a far more complex “why” for coming together, than the need to be together out of what we call the social dimension.

On the social dimension we are coming together with the purpose of satisfying our needs of being safe, having enough, belonging and being seen in what makes us special. And, to not leave anybody behind, as long as “they” belong to our social entity.

And somehow we seem to always create an “us and them” by doing what we do on these social terms.

The evolutionary level of interdependent connectedness invites us to go one step further and entering, what I would call, the unconditional We.

Here we ask ourselves, what is the living organism being created through our coming together ? What is the next level entity, that is more complex than the sum of us being together ? What is the exponential, non-linear potential that enters the room with us ? And how can we serve it ?

This way of following an evolutionary purpose starts with listening. Not with knowing. It starts with intention not with a goal. It leaves us responsible for our inner stability and outer equilibrium in order to be able to sense and respond to something that is not just us – individually and collectively – asking for our attention.

Listening deeply or sensing into the field, as Otto Scharmer is describing it, is that type of interaction with no talking up-front, with our minds still and hearts open and connected. 6)

Practicing the act of listening deeply when coming together could be our short cut to cope with evolution.

Seems it is not an easy task in our reality. It is against our current social behaviours of being together to satisfy our deficiency needs of having enough, belonging and being seen and heard. And we have being incredible creative in inventing all sorts of dependent and independent behaviours that are reflecting and re-producing just these very needs in a very high intensity.

There is definitely a time to speak, express or “making noise” in the process of approaching evolutionary purpose. But it comes after the repeatedly listening, after the tuning in. That is what we mean by “operating from the inside” in practice.

Whether we come together as an organization, a professional peer group, a circle of friends, a virtual community space, or an ad hoc bumping-into-each-other, in order to serve an evolutionary purpose we can start asking ourselves questions such us:

If evolution comes knocking on our door, are we ready to let it in ? Are we coming together for “us” and for an unconditional we? Mainly for the interest of the parts or the bigger whole?


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1) Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations, A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness. If you do not have the time to read the book – although it is highly recommended – you find presentations, videos and wiki here.

2) While the principle of self-management is comprehensible in the current framework of thinking, there are already well elaborated tools and methods to bring it into your organization. The most popular being Holacracy. See for example how Zappo is adapting to the self-management system. Whilst “the revolution of wholeness”, as Lauri Feinsod, CEO of Graphic Dimensions Ltd is calling it, is taking place on all levels of society.

3) Simon Sinek’s TED talk “Start with Why – how great leaders inspire”, gives a perfect framework of the why, the how, and the what dimension in business and beyond.

4) Mihaly Csikzentsmihalyi puts it more precisely in ‘The evolving Self’ : “complexity is not necessarily the direction in which evolution inevitably progresses, but it is the direction in which it must move in order to secure us a livable future”.

5) Richard Barrett in his book “Evolutionary Coaching”. And here with an elaborated slide deck.

6) Very practical approach on having a better conversation with listening first, come from the radio host Celeste Headlee in her TED talk. Otto Scharmers models and terminology are very well documented here.


image: Katharina Fritsch, Kind mit Pudeln (child with poodles), 1995-1996, MOMA San Francisco

2 thoughts on “evolutionary purpose”

  1. Dear Monika,
    Thanks for this sharing. Your article refers to far more than evolutionary purpose but as this is the headline and the container let me refer to this.
    I think I already sent you Tom Nixon’s article related to Teal, Laloux, Source?
    Since Tom’s article was written my colleagues and I been taking the logic a step further and deeply questioning whether organisations really have evolutionary purposes, souls etc. like people. Examining the consequences ;-( of this intellectual extrapolation/presumption/belief. Our conclusion or preference is ‘no they don’t’ but realise this is likely to upset one hell of a lot of people who unthinkingly assume the contrary, needs to be treated sensitively and carefully, step by step.
    Won’t go further into this here or now, just leave it for open examination of anyone who cares to give it thought, the consequences are potentially far-reaching…
    Love to you and all.

    1. Dear Peter
      I hear you bringing another well rounded perspective into these reflections and appreciate very much that you keep the conversation open and going.
      My creativity is stimulated with tuning into the possibility of life being able to manifest in so many different forms and entities, linked, interlinked, but not totallly dependet from us human beings. And than also, human beings are able to bring forth new life through conception and birth, individually. What if our collective potential as well had this power? What could it look like?

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