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Conscious Capitalism

April 4, 2013

There seems to be a big movement towards businesses being more “compassionate,” “conscious,” and/or “triple bottom line oriented.” Maybe it’s the chaotic times causing everyone to be looking for meaning. I’m sure there are many, many books out there on the subject of developing meaning in chaotic times. A few have crossed my desk in the last couple of years: Triple Bottom Line by Andrew Savitz, Conscious Business by Fred Kofman, Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey, Be the Solution by Michael Strong, Firms of Endearment by Rajendra Sisodia, It’s Just Good Business by Keff Klein, The Living Organization by Norman Wolfe, etc. The list seems endless. What should we make of this accelerating trend?

Triple Bottom LineThis trend fits right in with so many others that I’ve notice on a personal and a business level. In my coaching business, there’s much discussion about finding that magical “work/life balance.” There is consternation over integrating women into the executive suite and making sure they are treated equally, paid equally and respected equally with their male counterparts. The “balance” at home means sharing the household chores and not leaving them all up to one person when both have demanding careers. And for the business, the “work/life balance” becomes the “business/social balance” or, Conscious Capitalism. In his book The Practice of Management, Peter Drucker declares there is only one purpose of a business: to create a customer. The question always is “How do we create a customer?”

The times they are a-changin’. Simon Sinek tells us that people don’t buy what we do, but rather why we do it. Daniel Pink shows us that knowledge workers want autonomy, mastery and purpose. That’s what really motivates them. The dots need connecting – people are demanding more than jobs — they want to have meaning and purpose in their personal and their business lives. They want to do business with people they trust and they want to do business with and work for companies that are practicing real conscious capitalism, not just the hot pursuit of profits.

Looking at this trend in its entirety, from the personal, business and political angles, a lot becomes clear about why things are going the way they are going. If you don’t mind, I’ll skip the political angle and let you noodle on that. I’m focused on what I see happening in our businesses and our people. We have been “complaining” lately that there is chaos. Our business models don’t work any morel. Consumers aren’t buying like they used to and our whole economy is based on consumers (I’m told 70% of GDP is consumption.) My observation is that the companies moving fast to be in that sweet spot of “sustainability” in the graphic above are doing quite well. They have employee engagement, market engagement, stakeholder engagement and profitability. This trend also explains why “sell” has become a four letter word – meaning that since consumers are trying not to go back to profligate ways, they are more immune to and even annoyed by the usual sales tactics and advertisements. They resist any attempt to manipulate them or convince them when it comes to purchases of goods and services.

I see no easy way out of this situation. We all need to move to the Conscious Capitalism camp and begin truly transforming our businesses. As technology puts downward pressures on job creation and pay, people will increase their search for meaning and purpose. Oh, one more trend I see exacerbating this movement: Generation “Y” (those born between 1977 and 1995) are a bigger cohort than the baby boomers – 79.5 million versus 77.7 million. They are demanding these very changes and just like the boomers in our time, they will be changing our world!

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