“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
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
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
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
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
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.