Last week, I participated in a two-day conference on Conscious Capitalism, a term describing both a business philosophy and a way of operating that goes beyond the narrow financial focus of historical Capitalism.
The conference, held at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, featured numerous authors, consultants, business professors and business leaders, including John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods.
As defined by the conference conveners, “conscious capitalism has three key elements:
• companies have a purpose that transcends profit maximization;
• companies are managed for the benefit of all stakeholders in their ecosystem, not just shareholders; and
• companies are led by spiritually evolved, self-effacing servant leaders.”
The phrase “conscious capitalism” derives from the work of Fred Kofman, author of the book CONSCIOUS BUSINESS: How to Build Value through Values – see http://www.axialent.com/eng/publications_details.asp?codigo=29
The definition builds on the “multiple stakeholders” approach – and work by many to bring a greater sense of purpose and values into the business model, and also those who have espoused “servant leadership” for over a decade.
I remember actually an earlier appearance of the term “Conscious Capitalism” by David Schwerin, who wrote a book by that name in the mid 1990’s, and then interestingly was invited by the Chinese to come lecture and meet with leaders in China to discuss Conscious Capitalism with them.
All the conference presenters provided perspective on what conscious capitalism means to them and also delved into particular aspects that they are focusing on – marketing, leadership, organization, economics, etc.
One of the books that exemplify the conscious capitalism movement is Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit from Purpose and Passion (2007) by Raj Sisodia, Jag Sheth and David B. Wolfe, each of whom presented at the conference. See http://www.amazon.com/Firms-Endearment-World-Class-Companies-Passion/dp/0131873725.
As I listened to the presenters and watched the slides going by, I marveled at how so many people from diverse backgrounds were coming together under one banner with a sense of urgency to rethink the “business model” – so that it becomes more in step with the times to serve not just financial shareholders, but all stakeholders – and so that it operates in a way that respects and honors all those involved in – and affected by the company.
My own work for years has also been about rethinking the business model, including delving into “human economics” nearly ten years ago, and setting up a website to provide a more humanistic view of economics – see www.humaneconomics.org.
Even before that, I began developing the concept of “spiritual capital” – speaking about it and developing a booklet on it.
NOBLE ENTERPRISE: The Commonsense Guide to Uplifting People and Profits (2008) incorporates that “human economics” thinking and is my contribution to envisioning a new business model that is built on five pillars, the first of which is Greater Purpose (than merely profit maximization), and which are led by Noble Leaders. My good fortune was to meet such a noble CEO, who had just transformed a near-death company – thus whose story is told in NOBLE ENTERPRISE. (We now collaborate in providing seminars on the Noble Enterprise approach for leading – and revitalizing companies.)
Congratulations to Bentley University for hosting this conference, and to the organizers, such as Raj Sisodia for planning and running such an informative and inspiring conference.