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"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."
Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki

Conscious Capitalism. They're two words that don't fit comfortably together. But they represent a movement poised to profoundly change business.

According to Conscious Capitalism Inc. President Rand Stagen, Conscious Capitalism is "... a philosophy based on the belief that a more complex form of capitalism is emerging that holds the potential for enhancing corporate performance while simultaneously advancing the quality of life for billions of people."

Stagen may call it a more complex form of capitalism. But it's actually a return to a simpler, emotionally intuitive, and more humane model. A model where the open-minded "learner" can see opportunities the expert"' is blind to.

The tenets of Conscious Capitalism have sparked vociferous debate. Absolutists argue that corporations can't be intuitive, or humane. They are a piece of paper, and their sole responsibility is to make shareholders money.

Proponents, on the other hand, argue that corporations are much more person than paper. In fact, they are the embodiment of the people who work for them. Corporation is, literally translated, 'made into body'. It is a group of individuals voluntarily brought together in a common pursuit. The final proof in the pudding: if all the smart, talented people in a corporation leave, the corporation dies.

Ask and you shall succeed

So what are corporations that subscribe to Conscious Capitalism doing to become more conscious and human? Like Buddhists (or your average 6 year old), they're asking a lot of questions.

As John Marshall Roberts would say, they're asking 'why' questions on corporate purpose, rather than simply 'what' questions on the business at hand.

They're asking questions about what their stakeholders (customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, partners, communities) value most. They're asking about corporate impact on the environment and society. And digging into what conscious leadership actually means.

And what have they discovered? Well, Conscious Capitalism member Patagonia found that employees wanted to mix their workday with play - a revelation which led to schedules that flex for surfing, skiing or family time.

This initiative, alongside other progressive policies, has helped Patagonia grow impressively—even through the recession.

Examine any of the companies in the Conscious Capitalism movement—from Whole Foods to Seventh Generation to ours—and you see groups of people questioning the status quo in similar fashion, trying to elevate both humanity and profitability.

Your road to Conscious Capitalism

So what can your corporation learn from Conscious Capitalism?

1. Look at your operation with a beginner's mind. See it as an uninitiated outsider would, and ask tough questions like why your company exists—apart from the obvious 'to make money'. Articulating the real value of your existence and your contribution is what drives loyalty, commitment, and discretionary effort—it is essential for you to have a purpose driven company.

2. Think holistically. Your company is a system, with many levels of interconnection. Consider how your actions impact both your value chain, and stakeholders outside your immediate circle. Mutually beneficial stakeholder outcomes will quickly appear, creating a rising tide that floats all your boats.

3. Measure. The best argument against absolutist thinking is profitability. When your company makes more money by treating people, partners and the environment better, make sure everyone knows it.

Conscious Capitalism is a movement that is gathering momentum. Its embrace of concepts like beginner's mind, purpose-driven leadership and mutually beneficial behavior promises to make it a powerful path to long term competitive advantage.