CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM - ISSUES, INSIGHTS AND IMPLEMENTATION
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 marked the end of the defining debate of the 20th century (between communism and socialism on the one hand and democracy and free markets on the other) and launched the search for a better form of freemarket capitalism. Other momentous changes soon followed. In 1990, the median age of adults in the United States crossed 40 for the first time, triggering a new era in which midlife values gradually came to dominate the culture. In 1991, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, the revolutionary communications infrastructure that has ushered in a new age of information democracy, which includes the ability of human beings from all walks of life, and from around the world to connect and interact with each other on an unprecedented scale.
All this, and more, has changed the world dramatically in the past 20 years, but business thought and practice have largely remained static. As a consequence of decades of unfettered pursuit of short-term personal gain, a number of systemic societal crises threaten to overwhelm us. These include vast domains such as healthcare, the environment, education, and security.
It is becoming increasingly urgent that we fundamentally reexamine the theoretical frameworks, managerial mindsets and business models that have brought us to this state of affairs. Conscious Capitalism is a fast-growing movement that is uniting forward-thinking business practitioners, prominent thought leaders, and leading academics around these ideas: businesses can and should exist for a deeper purpose beyond generating profits for shareholders; businesses can create all kinds of wealth—financial, intellectual, social, cultural, cological and spiritual; businesses should be managed for the simultaneous benefit of all key stakeholders; and businesses should be led by conscious leaders who inspire and mentor the people they lead, rather than top down command-and-control leaders motivated primarily by the accumulation of power and personal wealth.
Practitioners of Conscious Capitalism reject a zero-sum, trade-off oriented view of business, and look for creative synergistic win-win approaches that offer multiple kinds of value simultaneously to all stakeholders. Research has shown that a conscious approach to business taps into dormant inner resources of employees, giving them a sense of meaning and purpose that makes their work a calling instead of just a job or a career. It elevates suppliers to true partners who contribute greatly to a company’s success. It is far better for the health and well-being of customers and communities. Rather than diminish financial performance, as a zero-sum mindset would lead one to expect, this approach appears to deliver consistently superior real performance.
In the past 18 months, three major Conscious Capitalism conferences have been held in the United States. These have featured corporate leaders such as John Mackey of Whole Foods, Kip Tindell of The Container Store, Sally Jewell of REI, Terri Kelly of WL Gore, Roy Spence of GSD&M Idea City, Casey Sheehan of Patagonia, George Zimmer of Men's Wearhouse, Chip Conley of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, Doug Rauch of Trader Joe's, and many others. Thought leaders have included Gary Hamel, Ed Freeman, Peter Senge, Deepak Chopra, Sir Ken Robinson, Jag Sheth, Glen Urban, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Mark Albion, Tim Sanders, Joshua Margolis, Jim Post, Sandra Waddock, Phil Mirvis, Craig Smith, Jean Houston, Michael Gelb, and many others.
On May 24 and 25, 2010, the second annual research conference on Conscious Capitalism will be held on the campus of Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, on the outskirts of Boston. Building on the 2009 academic conference titled "Conceptualizing Conscious Capitalism," this year’s gathering will further our understanding of what we know, what we are just learning and what we still need to discover about this complex and fascinating approach to business. We have once again assembled a stellar group of practitioners and thought leaders who will inspire and challenge us to think differently about business. Attendees will include a blend of executives, entrepreneurs, academics and doctoral students. The format is designed to be highly interactive and participatory.