Luc Bretones
September 11, 2023
min read
Spotlight on Practitioners

Why Pebble Invests in Unbossing and Teal Organizations

Nick Van Langendonck is the Founder of Hifluence, a company that helps leaders shape human-centered organizations and develop 21st century skills.

The interview that follows was conducted by Luc Bretones, CEO and Founder of Purpose for Good | Organizer of The NextGen Enterprise Summit

Hello Nick,

Can you introduce us to Hifluence, the Unbossing movement, Pebble and what connects them

Hifluence is a very ambitious scale-up based in Antwerp, Belgium. It is a pioneer in unbossing organisations worldwide. It is our mission to inspire, guide and support leaders in shaping human-centred organisations. Those brave leaders who are convinced of the infinite potential of unbossing, but do not know yet how to approach such a journey, where to start or how to continue.

Pebble Wave is an incubator, investor and private equity fund. We create conscious and purpose-driven organisations. We invest in people, products, companies and ideas with the potential to solve a major global need. We provide an immersive business and life incubation program. Thus, we create an improved and more conscious world in a very organic way.

What connects them? 

1- Purpose & approach: Hifluence & Pebble are very similar in the sense that we want to unleash the potential of people by creating a specific organizational mindset, skills, culture, system and processes.

We just focus on two different target groups: start-ups and SME’s (Pebble) vs Corporates (Hifluence)

2- Hifluence was one of the first companies Pebble invested in. 

What do you cover in your Unbossing podcast series?

The Unbossing Podcast series is a manifestation of a belief within Hifluence that the future of consultancy lies in facilitating customers in learning from each other, next to cultivating knowhow and expertise within the consultancy company itself. Eg peer-2-peer learning.

We do this in many ways. Hifluence itself is a mix of consultants and former CEOs and executives who have unbossed their organisations. And when we work with a specific customer we also invite other customers into their journey to learn from each other. 

The Unbossing Podcast aims to do just that. We invite corporate leaders and entrepreneurs to learn from the breakthroughs of other corporate leaders and global unbossers. 

This dynamic is also reflected in Thomas and myself as the hosts. Thomas Hubbuch, my co host, is best known for his 15 years of CEO at TienseSuiker NV (a famous Belgian sugar company, most successful in Europe). He plays the role of the typical corporate stable leader and, I am myself in the role of the young and dynamic entre/intrapreneur. The synergy between the both of us is simply great. 

These short-format podcast episodes – more or less 30 minutes – are built up around the same central questions for each guest:

  • what is the fundamental breakthrough, the essential insight, how these leaders have unbossed their organization, and
  • what do they want the whole world to know about?

Also, we cover all aspects of business from an unbossed perspective: leadership, hiring, innovation, strategy, etc..

How did you discover shared governance?

My fellow business partners, all are former corporate CEOs, always say that they have learned the value of shared governance through the pain they were experiencing in the organization due to a traditional command & control. They also add that I am born with shared governance in my DNA. :-)

My first business venture was when I was at university and started a successful tennis academy. Looking back on that period, I approached that venture from the start with a shared governance perspective. 

Obviously, I also had to unlearn many convictions about entrepreneurship, leadership and organizations. I had to accept and let go off many fears and insecurities to grow into the roles I’m taking up today.

And most importantly, I’m unlearning and learning every day and will do so for the rest of my life. It’s a never ending journey.

Pebble is a special investment fund. You incubate and invest in companies with teal governance. What is your objective by doing this?

Every person has a subconscious. The subconscious of a person is responsible for 90% of that person’s decisions. During the life of that person, bugs (trauma’s, big and small) are ingrained in his/her subconscious. Those bugs affect his/her decisions. 

Now, we believe that the root cause of all problems humankind faces today is the result of the sum of all the subconscious bugs of every human being on this planet combined and the subsequent decisions they make.

Hence, if we can help fix these subsconscious bugs then people will make other decisions that help solve these problems without or with less new problems created. In other words, the solution to all problems of humankind lies in the rise in consciousness or self-awareness of every human being.  

We experience that we are contributing to this rise of self-awareness by:

  1. helping corporate in their unbossing journeys with Hifluence, and
  2. investing and incubating conscious teal organizations with Pebblewave.

What is a conscious teal organisation?

As you probably already know a teal organisation is defined by 3 characteristics:

  1. Purpose-driven - what does the organisation want to manifest in the world?
  2. Self-managing governance - an organizational model based on trust and decentralized decision making.
  3. Wholeness - creating a context where everyone can be themselves.

Conscious Teal Organizations add a fourth characteristic.

Next to a purpose focused on manifesting something in society and which varies from company to company, we see this as the inner purpose for every organization: to create a context where people can evolve as human beings and become more conscious. 

Is this type of governance a factor of efficiency and if so, in which dimensions? How do you measure it?

We measure it in 2 specific ways.

1. Information & Decision-Making

In a traditional organization, managers have to integrate information to get all the info they need to make a decision. By the time they have all the information, the problem has already escalated. The structures required to integrate this information cost about 10% to 15% of the revenue of the organisation. 

In Teal Governance, decisions are taken by the people facing the problem/challenge and doing the work.

There is far less information integration needed. External information is integrated because they have to ask for advice first before making the decision. We see this integration of information cost reduced to 3% of the revenue. Moreover, decisions are more qualitative and faster.  

2. Connection

WorldWide studies show that in the average traditional organization, about 50% of the employees are not aligned with the direction of the company and 27% are completely disconnected from the organization. 

What we experience in conscious teal organizations is that 10% are not aligned, 0% are disconnected and everyone injects their full potential. So, it’s only logical that these companies are performing better, whichever metric you use. 

Which methods do you recommend? How do you convey them?

I don’t like the word convey. Conscious Teal is all about invitation and intrinsic motivation. You cannot convey or push Teal onto someone. 

Approaches, tools and methods we use are: 

  1. Leadership coaching track focused on consciousness / self-awareness
  2. OKR method for strategy framework and goal setting
  3. Getting Things Done for personal and team productivity
  4. A mix of holacracy, sociocracy 3.0 for collaborative governance
  5. Lean Purpose Start-up = Lean Start-Up focused on operationally bringing the purpose into practice
  6. A number of creativity, curiosity and innovation methods like design thinking and improv techniques

Are you aware of other funds that focus on teal governance organisations like yours?

Although we believe we are very unique, you will find similarities with and

What do you think of the extra-financial rating movement for companies in Europe and around the world?

Extra-financial rating is here to stay. This will have a sustaining and growing impact on all organizations. It will require an extra investment and effort for traditional organizations. For conscious teal organizations, this is part of the DNA. 

Can you tell us about a specific managerial innovation that you have implemented at Hifluence, Pebble or in one of the structures in which you have invested?  What were the main results, the players, its replicability, its difficulties and risks?

An organization is the reflection of its leader. Studies show that 70% of the company culture is determined by the behaviour of its leader. Hence, putting growth in consciousness as the cornerstone of the journey almost immediately has an impact on the organization. 

One of the major results we see are spin offs being created within the organizations we participate in. 

For example: Within an company called Marbles, people launched two new spin offs in 2020: 

  1. Relaxy: 200,000€ revenue, 40,000€ profit 
  2. Kivalo: 40,000€ revenue, 5,000€ profit

Kivalo is growing a lot since the beginning of the corona crisis. 

We foresee strong financial results this year and definitely in 2022. 

Lastly, we get the feedback that the results of unbossing organizations go far beyond the professional. People working in these organizations learn a new mindset and skills which they apply in their personal life as well. 

This is for us the proof that what we do within the companies has an impact far beyond the companies in society. This is how we help society, by creating the organizations it needs!

Difficulties and Risks

There are tons of difficulties, but very few risks. 

Going the traditional way might incur less difficulties because it’s a comfort zone, but the risks are super high:

  • not being able to attract talent,
  • not being able to innovate,
  • impact on human capital in terms of burn and bore out and the subsequent impact on health, medecine, depressions, suicides, etc. 
It has given us a lot of value in the past, but today doing work the traditional way is as unacceptable as denying climate change. 

The goal is to do things better today than yesterday and the difficulties lie in completely re-imagining the way we have structured organizations in the past 300 years and put them into practice: Re-imagine communication, evaluation, budget, legal contracts, R&D, control, management, … everything. 

Challenges one might encounter

Teal = dynamic and create by nature new projects and thus new businesses. People working in these organizations feel space to grow and explore. This doesn’t mean it’s all happening automatically. To be truly successful they also need support and coaching! 

Next to this, the entire journey of self-awareness is very intense. For some in the organization it is even threatening. And so we know that some people will leave the company during the journey.

Revolutionize your way of working now!