Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business (2013)
A New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller
By John Mackey and Raj Sisodia
Reviewed by Bob Moore
Have you noticed the emerging trend that is shifting the emphasis of corporate strategy away from maximizing profits at the expense of customers, employees, the environment and other stakeholders? I heard John Mackey speak in 2013 and was given an autographed copy of Conscious Capitalism which reads, “Bob, liberate your heroic spirit.” I didn’t really know exactly what that meant until I recently reread the book – with a highlighter in hand. Here are some of my discoveries that I hope you will find valuable.
The book is meticulously organized and well-documented, including 14 pages of notes and appendices.
I will begin with some definitions. The word “conscious” is defined as being mindful and awake, seeing reality as it is rather than as we wish it to be, recognizing and being accountable for all the consequences of our actions, having a better sense of what is right and what is wrong, and being in harmony with nature.
The word “capitalism” was coined by Karl Marx, its harshest critic, around 1850. Enter “define capitalism” into Google’s search box and one of the first entries is “An economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit.”
According to the authors, when these terms are combined, “Conscious Capitalism” refers to a way of thinking about capitalism and business that better reflects where we are in the human journey, the state of our world today, and the innate potential of business to make a positive impact on the world. Conscious Capitalism builds on the foundations of Capitalism – voluntary exchange, entrepreneurship, competition, freedom to trade and the rule of law. These are essential to a healthy functioning economy, as are other elements of Conscious Capitalism, which includes trust, compassion, collaboration and value creation.
John recounts some of his “awakenings” beginning in his early working years when he made a lifelong commitment to follow his heart. He describes this as a wonderful journey of adventure, purpose, creativity, growth and love. His coauthor, Raj Sisodia, has gone through his own journey of seeking deeper truths about business over his twenty-eight years as a professor, author and consultant.
Early in the book, the authors make the point that entrepreneurs are the true heroes in the free enterprise system, driving progress in business, society and the world. Next, there is the segue to “Imagining” where the authors ask the reader to picture a business built on love and care rather than stress and fear, whose team members are passionate and committed to their work. Imagine a business that exercises great care in whom it hires, where hardly anyone ever leaves once he or she joins. And, businesses with fewer managers, a business that is self- managing, self-motivating, self-organizing, and self-healing.
The essence of how to accomplish this is set out in the four tenants of Conscious Capitalism beginning with Higher Purpose and Core Values. This first tenant is explored in depth in Part One which opens with the question, “What are the two most important days of your life? The obvious answer to the first day is the day you were born. The second, not so obvious, is not the day you die; but according to author Richard Leider, it is the day you realize why you were born.
Part Two, The Second Tenant: Stakeholder Integration is about including all the people who impact or are impacted by a business. Then, the authors proceed by elaborating on each stakeholder category which you may find particularly enlightening ranging from customers to suppliers, the community, and even the government.
Part Three, The Third Tenant: Conscious Leadership is perhaps the most important element in Conscious Capitalism. The authors make the point that without conscious leadership, little else matters. The finest, most conscious corporation can be led badly astray and even destroyed if it hires or promotes the wrong kind of leader. I found the chapter on the qualities of conscious leader particularly insightful and I suspect all business thought leaders will also.
Part Four, The Fourth Tenant: Conscious Culture and Management opens with a quote by Edgar Schein, considered the father of organizational culture research. He said at the Academy of Management Conference in Montreal in 2010, “Culture is the biggest persuader in society; if you do not conform to cultural norms, you could get locked up in jail or put into a mental hospital.” Peter Drucker, one of the pioneering conscious-management thinkers is credited with the expression, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Drucker was not suggesting that strategy doesn’t matter; it does and always will.
However, a great strategy without a compelling purpose will not lead people to anywhere they want to go. Also, the best conceived, purpose-motivated strategy can be useless if the culture is incompatible with it or is infused with fear, distrust, and hostility.
The final chapters, Becoming a Conscious Business and the Power and Beauty of Conscious Capitalism include sections on Starting a Conscious Business, Transforming to a Conscious Business, The Great Transformation, The Road Ahead, and Liberating Our Heroic Spirit. The finale, just before the Appendices is The Conscious Capitalism Credo.
The concluding paragraph is a powerful summary statement. Conscious Capitalism can help evolve our world in such a way that billions of people can flourish, leading lives infused with passion, purpose, love and creativity—a world of freedom, prosperity and compassion.
To learn more, visit www.consciouscapitalism.org.
About the Authors
John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, a $11.7 billion Fortune 300 company. In 2012, Esquire magazine named him one of the “Most Inspiring CEOs” and FORTUNE named him one of the “12 Greatest Entrepreneurs of Our Time.” John is co-founder of the Conscious Capitalism Movement to challenge business leaders to rethink why their organizations exist and to acknowledge their important roles in creating value for all of their stakeholders in the interdependent global marketplace.
Raj Sisodia, a global thought leader of the Conscious Capitalism movement, co-Founder and Co-Chairman of Conscious Capitalism Inc., has published nine books and over 100 academic articles. Roj has an MBA from the Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, a Ph. D. in Marketing from Columbia University, and has consulted with numerous companies, including AT&T, Nokia, Whole Foods Market, Tata, Siemens, Sprint, Volvo, IBM, Walmart, McDonalds and Southern California Edison.
Click here to order Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business (368 pages) from Amazon.