With the release of John Mackey and Raj Sisodia’s new book Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, we have the best template to date designed for doing business differently and in a more evolved way. I’m a fan of the book, and of conscious business and developing more conscious leaders.
However, I’m currently sitting in a session at a client. The session is entitled ‘Leading the Global Enterprise for Growth’, and it is covering four macroeconomic trends which are making me think about Conscious Capitalism in emerging markets:
- The change in the world economic order (or, Has the Americanisation of the world ended?)
- Changes in economic activity (or, Will emerging economies overtake established markets?)
- Changes in the way we do business (or, Is free market capitalism an answer or a question?), and;
- Changes in consumer behaviour (or, Will global consumerism initiate a global battle for natural resources?)
What’s creating a sense of unease for me is how business is shifting from established to emerging markets, and the term ‘battle for natural resources’. So far, Conscious Capitalism has focused admirably on the American marketplace, with some shoots into the global landscape. Firms of Endearment, Raj Sisodia’s seminal work on conscious businesses from 2007, lists many examples of conscious companies doing conscious business that are based in the US (though some are global). John Mackey, one of the co-founders of Conscious Capitalism, heads up Whole Foods Market, which is a global company but has its feet very firmly planted in the US. All around us we are seeing offshoots of conscious capitalism popping up – Australia, India, the United Kingdom.
However, I am not seeing conscious capitalism popping up in Africa or China…
Having done a great deal of business in Africa over the past four years, I’m not sure how ready the African marketplace is to embrace conscious capitalism. In some ways, the essence of taking the greater good into consideration in doing business fits in very well with African culture, which has tribally based allegiances and a thread of ubunthu running through it, certainly in the South (ubunthu refers to allegiance and relationships to each other, a sort of accountability to the connections between people). However, corruption in power and the worst kinds of crony capitalism abound. In my experience, the distance between the short-term focus on profits and survival, and the delayed gratification necessary for long-term sustainability, is a lengthy one.
Added to that the colonization of Africa by China to secure its natural resources (see: battle for natural resources), and we have two emerging giants of economy potentially far greater and more powerful than the established economies, neither of which has the seeds of conscious capitalism sewn into them. Yet.
My concern is that we can work hard to develop a better form of capitalism in the US, the UK, Europe, Australia and other established marketplaces, and we can be completely engulfed by the ethos of doing business in Africa and China.
What, I wonder, are we doing to spread Conscious Capitalism to the emerging markets?
You raise a fantastic point and I don’t think there is a simple answer. This has been the problem over several worldwide movements. For example, after generations of relentless focus on industrialization at all costs (poor working conditions, destroying the environment, etc.) many of the “developed” nations began to focus more on better working conditions/wages and sustainability. Now that the “developing” nations are going through a similar growth cycle, it is both difficult to explain the rationale for environmentalism and worker’s rights when they have the short term focus of putting food on the table for their families and catching up to the rest of the world, and also difficult to blame them for approaching growth in the same way that we did not all that long ago.
It is impossible for me not to see this through the lens of Richard Barrett’s work on values (which is noted in both Firms of Endearment and Conscious Capitalism). From this perspective (based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs), we must first satisfy our lower level needs of profits, survival, belonging, etc. before we can shift our focus to a more external, holistic view. (See the 7 levels model explained here: http://www.valuescentre.com/uploads/2012-03-15/The%207%20Levels%20of%20Society.pdf)
From that perspective, the question then becomes how can we help the developing nations satisfy their lower level needs as quickly as possible to accelerate their consciousness to a higher level of a more outward and long-term focused view of the world, which would open them up to Conscious Capitalism.
Good to hear from you again and hope all is well.
You raise a good point here – it is difficult to focus on our higher nature beckoning when there is a need to put food on the table and take care of our families. I like your idea of accelerating the pace through these stages and wonder what that looks like….blatant consumerism? Spiritual enlightenment? I wonder whether we’re able to leapfrog these stages at all or do we need to go through them like some rite of passage? No answers to these questions, but your reply made me think about them – thank you.