After reading Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business by the Co-CEOs of Whole Foods Market, John Mackey and Raj Sisodia, I am left with a reaffirming confidence in what business really can be and, in many cases, is. In the past decade or so, it seems many businesses have lost their way – getting off purpose, shedding trust, and focusing on immediacy only.
Conscious Capitalism highlights how businesses can be profitable and purpose-filled. It isn’t an either/or option, as there is great value when the two are tightly intertwined.
Conscious Capitalism is not new.
Some may think this is some “new age” look at business. It is not. Here is an interesting fact from the book. Many will know of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, but how many know of his earlier book? My guess would be not many of us. His earlier book was entitled The Theory of Moral Sentiments. “In his earlier book, he outlined an ethics based on our ability to empathize with others and to care about their opinions.” (page 16)
By combining Adam Smith’s two works we gain a complementary relationship between ethics and economics. Simply stated, it isn’t all about self-interest. Mutual interest provides a check-and-balance to our economic approach.
If you need further proof this is not “new age,” review the list of companies below who exhibit the attributes of this model:
Whole Foods Market, The Container Store, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Costco, Twitter, REI, UPS, and there are others. (page 32)
These companies are mostly traditional businesses in well-established markets.
Former Medtronic CEO and a Harvard Business School professor, Bill George, states it clearly:
“Some people may interpret the phrase Conscious Capitalism to be soft. But it is not soft at all. It is tough; it is challenging. You’ve got to do both. You have to perform, and you perform for a purpose. It’s like a sports team. You really care about working together as a team, but at the end of the game, you still want to win.” (page 36)
This is the renewed challenge for capitalism and businesses.
What is Conscious Capitalism?
Mackey and Sisodia outline four tenets of Conscious Capitalism:
- Higher purpose and core values – why the business exists
- Stakeholder integration – all those that impact or are impacted by the business
- Conscious leadership – motivated by the firm’s higher purpose and creating value for all stakeholders
- Conscious culture and management – the source of strength and stability of a business
Together, these four elements represent a business philosophy to embrace. Purpose is at the center and it radiates through each of the other tenets. Purpose is active.
Why is this important?
There are many reasons why Conscious Capitalism is vital.
Respect Renewed. It is a way forward for capitalism to regain respect and purpose in what it can do. Trust in all – customers, team members, partners, and suppliers – is essential and invigorating. Trust empowers greater work to be done as it builds mutual respect and purpose, and it extends into our surrounding communities. Confidence is restored in the good works a business can do and the principles that are exemplified.
Generational Change. Generation Y or Millennials will demand it. They realize how essential purpose is, along with a new way to lead, develop culture, and work with people. This generation may be the next great one when it comes to re-making business in a spirited, soulful way. Conscious Capitalism provides a proven model to embrace.
Meaningful Work. Every generation needs to work; it is a necessary part of life. Work isn’t about 30-40 year careers in a company, plugging away, just to be ignored or run over later on. There is a desire to do more and in a more meaningful way. With Conscious Capitalism, matching purpose with work ignites a new level of engagement.
Economic Spark. Our economic system needs it. Leading the world in how a business can be a catalyst in positive culture development and systematic change is possible. There is an empowering creativity that resides within each team member and within each business; we need to tap into this innovative capability. Conscious Capitalism promotes an alignment across the spectrum of people and has the potential to move us to a new level of meaningful performance.
Conscious Capitalism is a solid book of outlining a better way to build and lead a business while delivering insightful stories from organizations embracing this approach. It is East meets West – a great mix of capitalism, mindfulness, and collaboration.
More than an economic and business renewal, a spiritual one is possible, too. This was a great read going into Wisdom 2.o.
What do you believe needs to happen to center organizations around purpose and ignite a positive change?