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Evolution of Organisational Consciousness

The model of the seven levels of organisational consciousness describes the existential needs of organisations and how organisations grow and develop. 

The model applies to all types of organisations—corporations, government departments, municipal agencies, institutions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and educational establishments.

The only differences between these organisations are the way they are financed or funded, and the way they distribute their products and/or services. These are easily accommodated in the model. In all other respects the model is exactly the same. For the purposes of explaining and understanding the model, I am going to focus on the needs of a corporation.

While the model is a reflection of the needs of the organisation, different levels of consciousness focus on the needs of specific stakeholders. At the first level of consciousness there is a focus on the needs of investors and employees; at the second, third, fourth and fifth levels, on the needs of employees and customers; at the sixth level, on needs of employees, customers, partners, and the local community, and at the seventh level, there is a focus on employees, partners and society.

Ultimately, no matter what type of organisation you consider, it is always the employees’ experience of the organisation that is the fundamental factor in determining the organisation’s success. If your employees are not happy, your customers will not be happy. The key factor in determining the employees’ experience is the culture of the organisation—the levels of consciousness from which the organisation operates. The culture of the organisation is a reflection of the values, beliefs and behaviours of the leaders.

The seven stages in the development and growth of the consciousness of an organisation are summarized in the following table.  (Click table to enlarge)

Seven Levels of Organisational Consciousness
 The “lower” needs—levels of consciousness 1 to 3—focus on the basic needs of business: the pursuit of profit or financial stability; building employee and customer loyalty; and high performance systems and processes.  Abraham Maslow referred to the needs of these three levels of consciousness as “deficiency” needs. An organisation gains no sense of lasting satisfaction from being able to meet these needs, but the leaders feel a sense of anxiety if these basic needs are not being met.

The focus of the fourth level of consciousness is on transformation—a shift from rigid, authoritarian hierarchies to more open, inclusive, adaptive systems of governance that empower employees to operate with responsible freedom (accountability).

The “higher” needs—levels of consciousness 5 to 7—focus on cultural cohesion and alignment; building mutually beneficial alliances and partnerships; and long-term sustainability and social responsibility. Abraham Maslow referred to these needs as “growth” needs. When these needs are met they do not go away. They engender deeper levels of commitment and motivation.

Organisations that focus exclusively on the satisfaction of the lower needs are not usually market leaders. They can achieve some success financially, but in general they are too internally focused and self-absorbed, or too rigid, bureaucratic or hierarchical to be at the top of their game. They are unable to accommodate changes in market conditions because they are not adaptable, and do not empower employees. Consequently, there is little enthusiasm among the work force and there is little innovation and creativity. These organisations are often ruled by fear, and are not healthy places to work. Employees often feel frustrated, and complain about stress.

Organisations that focus exclusively on the satisfaction of the higher needs lack the basic business skills and capabilities necessary to operate effectively. They are ineffectual and impractical when it comes to financial matters. They are not customer oriented, and they lack the systems and processes necessary for high performance. They are simply not grounded in the reality of business. These characteristics are sometimes found in non-governmental and not-for-profit organisations.

The most successful organisations are those that have mastered both their “deficiency” needs and their “growth” needs. They operate from full spectrum consciousness. They create a climate of trust, have the ability to manage complexity, and can respond or rapidly adapt to all situations.  Full spectrum organisations display all the positive attributes of the seven levels of organisational consciousness.

  • They master survival consciousness by focusing on profit, financial stability, and the health and safety of employees.
  • They master relationship consciousness by focusing on open communication, employee recognition, and customer satisfaction.
  • They master self-esteem consciousness by focusing on performance, results, quality, excellence, and best practices.
  • They master transformation consciousness by focusing on adaptability, innovation, employee empowerment, employee participation, and continuous learning.
  • They master internal cohesion consciousness by developing a culture based on shared values, and a shared vision that engenders an organisation-wide climate of trust.
  • They master making a difference consciousness by creating strategic alliances and partnerships with other organisations and the local community, as well as developing mentoring, coaching and leadership development programmes for employees.
  • They master service consciousness by focusing on social responsibility, ethics, and sustainability, and keeping a long-term perspective on their business and its impact on future generations, as well as embracing compassion, humility and forgiveness.


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