- Conscious Capitalism 2015: Day 1 Review [Part 1]
- Conscious Capitalism 2015: Day 1 Review [Part 2]
- Conscious Capitalism 2015: Day 1 Review [Part 3]
- Conscious Capitalism 2015: Day 2 Review [Part 1]
- Conscious Capitalism 2015: Day 2 Review [Part 2]
- Conscious Capitalism 2015: Day 3 Review [Part 1]
- Conscious Capitalism 2015: Day 3 Review [Part 2]
Somewhere in middle America I’m sitting on a train slowly winding my way home from a most amazing conference, Conscious Capitalism 2015. Designed mainly for executives and their teams, the conference focuses on empowering leaders to enact the Four Principles of Conscious Capitalism in their company’s day-to-day operations.
Instead of explaining the nuances (something to be saved for a later day), I want to share some of the things said and taught at the conference. While it’s difficult to condense my many pages of notes down to simple, digestible nuggets, my main goal is to give you a sense of what the conference offered with the hope you will consider adding it to your schedule next year. It is worth it.
We’ll look at some of the highlights on a day-by-day basis. These are neither my raw notes or a transcript, but instead a narrative (hopefully) faithful in content.
Tuesday, April 7th
Day 1 was a series of keynote addresses.
Conscious Capitalism 101
This session was a primer on Conscious Capitalism, a subject Raj has talked about many times in the past (and I expect will many times in the future). Even though the vast majority of the audience were familiar with the topic, they stayed to listen to Raj reiterate the basic ideas and tenants. He is a very eloquent and entertaining speaker.
He started out comparing the way people think about capitalism to the beautiful and magic transformation that happens to a caterpillar as it metamorphoses into a stunning butterfly. In the beginning, the caterpillar is nothing more than a consumer. It eats and eats, giving very little back to the rest of the ecosystem. Eventually, it enters the metamorphosis phase, in a sense “dying” and leaving its old life it goes through the transformation process. When it breaks free from its cocoon, it is now a butterfly, the great pollinator ranging through the environment providing an essential service.
There are a number of ways we can take this analogy. For example, we see the butterfly also receives benefit for the pollinating actions it performs. But lest we overanalyze, let’s get to Raj’s point. He said in our world today, there are societal pressures that attempt to keep all of us in the perpetual “consumer” phase. We, unlike the caterpillar, have the ability to choose whether or not to go through metamorphosis.
As it won’t just happen naturally or by accident, we need to consciously choose change.
We have reached such explosive levels of freedom that we are now in charge of our own mutation.
~ Peter Koestenbaum
Even though humans are natural “value” creators, capitalism, as it exists today, is a relatively recent invention, its roots only going back several hundred years. One of the important reasons for this is the systematic spreading of freedom throughout the world.
And, freedom has had a great impact.
Even with all of its problems and downfalls, capitalism has been steadily working to reduce poverty throughout the world, and it has been succeeding. If current trends continue, we may see the end of extreme poverty within the next 30 years. Now, that’s not to say we won’t have the poor among us at that point. There’s far more work to do in order to help everyone rise.
However, capitalism can play a great role in doing so. From the point of view of a conscious capitalist, business, in its pure form, is NOT about selfishness, greed and exploitation. Instead, business is:
- Ethical – It is based on voluntary exchange.
- Noble – It can elevate our existence.
- Heroic – It lifts people out of poverty.
Unfortunately, selfishness, greed and exploitation have once again reared their ugly heads, as many over the last 30 years have bought or were indoctrinated into the idea of shareholder-only value creation, or in other words, “Anything that doesn’t increase shareholder value is theft.”
This insipid idea has provided justification for many immoral and unethical acts under the pretense of “It’s just business.”
The world has changed drastically over the last 30 years. We’ve seen the fall of the Iron Curtain and the spreading of democracy through many parts of the world. The Internet and the World Wide Web have now created an environment of connection that has never before existed in the history of humanity. Information and ideas are accessible throughout the world by the simple touch of a few buttons.
Consequently, business has become evermore transparent in nature. The ability to be one thing and say another is quickly disappearing as every act becomes a matter of “public” record. Education is slowing extending to people throughout the world. The creation of MOOCs and other educational delivery methods may hold the answers to how we will educate the masses of the future.
In general, people are becoming more conscious of their part in the overall system, and are learning to:
- Be more mindful and awake
- Understand the consequences of actions
- Have a greater commitment to the truth
- Have a finer sense of right and wrong
- Reject violence
- Be more inclusive
- Live in harmony with nature
The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present … As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.
~ Abraham Lincoln
We want to create a virtuous cycle in business that benefits not just the shareholders, but all of the stakeholders. This starts with a noble purpose. This purpose needs to be created holistically, but it does not necessarily need to be product-centered. A people-centered purpose can be a noble purpose in and of itself. To put this in place requires conscious leaders.
— Trev Harmon (@trev_harmon) April 7, 2015
Unfortunately, most companies are not run in this way. Instead, they are run on fear and stress. The “Carrot and Stick” system is employed to manipulate or beat employees into submission. Needless to say, this isn’t particularly healthy for anyone involved.
It also leads to disheartening statistics such as there only being a 30% employee engagement rate in the United States. Raj eloquently described this as being in a boat with run people where three are rowing, five are only pretending to row with their oars just skimming the water, and the remaining two banging the others over the head with their oars. Unfortunately, this is the Dilbert-esque dystopia many experience in their day-to-day labors.
At this point, some may be inclined to simply dismiss all of this as hippy-Marxism, anti-capitalistic rhetoric. But, again this is capitalism. Making money isn’t a problem. In fact, everyone involved wants to make money—preferably lots of money. In fact, business must have money to survive. Making money is an imperative.
But, and this is a big “but”, it also matters how one makes that money.
We have come to realize, through (sometimes sad) experience, we are all interrelated—interconnected. What we do individually does matter and effect others near and far. There is a realization that:
- Humanity is one spirit—interconnected
- Our natural resources are limited
- Our inner capabilities are infinite
Human beings are not a resource!
~ Raj Sisodia
When we treat humans as resources, we burnt them out, just as we do the coal and oil we take from the earth. Instead, we need to treat humans as sources, like the sun, that have the ability to constantly be giving. However, unlike the sun, humans need nurturing in order to do this. Then, if nurtured, there is a near infinite capacity.
Those of us alive today can choose to lead the most meaningful lives humans have ever lived.
~ adapted from Lynne Twist
Let us not allow the music of a single soul to die within them unheard through are action or inaction