A Conscious Business

Conscious businesses have two distinct differences from business-as-usual: they are in touch with their higher purpose beyond the motive of making a profit; and they take responsibility for their impact in the world by looking to maximize the benefits not only for themselves but for all their stakeholders. These include their employees, customers, shareholders, suppliers, the community in which they operate, the greater society and the planet.

Conscious businesses are unapologetically in favour of free enterprise and are pro-profit – just not at the expense of everything else. The game is about creating balance and enhancement of the whole system, thinking collectively not separately, and creating win-win solutions for all stakeholders, not playing a zero-sum game to the detriment of the other players.

It brings excitement, inspiration and energy to doing business
in a way that merely increasing profits for shareholders simply doesn’t.

Conscious businesses need conscious leaders to shape them and help co-create the conscious culture in which everyone can flourish.
In these emerging forms of organisations, lately referred to as Teal organisations, even the role of the positional leader is beginning to fall away as these organisations experiment with self-management and distributed leadership, continually evolving and morphing in service of the organisation’s higher purpose.

Profit?

Findings suggest that conscious businesses produce higher long-term returns than businesses that focus on profit alone. In his book, Firms of EndearmentRaj Sisodia, Professor of Global Business at Babson College, outlined how conscious and purpose-led companies outperformed their more profit-only orientated peers on returns by 10 to 14 times.

In many ways, this makes perfect sense. Although it seems a paradox that not focussing on profit can, in fact, lead to more of it, the ways in which conscious businesses operate can tap into the enormous human capacity for energy, contribution and innovation, and can lead to great stories in the marketplace, all of which add to these companies becoming preferred suppliers enjoying enhanced growth.

Consequently, the qualities of conscious businesses include a high level of transparency  (even financial transparency), distributing leadership  throughout the organisation, a completely different model of leadership, looking at long-term sustainability rather than short-term gain, and a mindset of trust and abundance, rather than control, fear and scarcity.

The star-shaped graphic above gathers together some of these qualities as featured in the book Firms of Endearment by Professor Raj Sisodia.

Qualities of a Conscious Business

Conscious businesses demonstrate several features that are distinctly different from their less conscious counterparts.

Perhaps the most significant of these is that the founders and leaders of conscious organisations view their organisation as a living system, an interconnected whole, that needs to be tended, respected and tuned into. It has a life of its own; it is not simply an empty box of parts to be moved around by the force of our egoic will. There is wisdom in the life force of our organisations, if we choose to listen to it.

Three qualities of conscious organisations that we can pay attention to have been identified by Frederic Laloux in his book Reinventing Organisations:

  • Conscious organisations are self-managing, based on peer-to-peer relationships and decision-making, rather than hierarchical, based on leadership from the top down.
  • Conscious organisations encourage us to bring our whole selves to work, not just our rational ‘work-faces’. Wholeness includes our values, our purpose, our aspirations – in short, our authenticity. Wholeness also reflects that the organisation recognises it is itself a part of a larger whole – the world we live in – which demands that we stay conscious of the impact of our decisions.
  • In conscious organisations, everyone supports and brings to life the bigger purpose of the organisation. As we’ve seen, purpose is not just about profit; it’s about the reason for existing in the world in the first place, what we are here to do.
“We are conscious of every decision we make and the impact of this – both internally and externally.”

Neal Gandhi, angel investor and conscious leader