Book review by
Jo-Ann Alexandra Hamilton, London
Consciousness can be defined as awareness. Within a business context, according to John Mackey and Raj Sisodia authors of Conscious Capitalism, Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, consciousness is similar to the transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly. In this state we transform business into agents of creation and collaboration, thus creating multiple forms of value.
The authors, one being the founder of the American health food behemoth Whole Foods and the other an academic make compelling arguments for Capitalism as a driving force for change ameliorating society and at the same time creating shareholder value.
The book firstly sets out to dispel the myths about capitalism being a self serving tool to savour greedy appetites. The remaining sections of the book delve into the four tenets of conscious capitalism which are:
- Higher Purpose
- Stakeholder Integration
- Conscious Leadership
- Conscious Culture and Management
Finding purpose and meaning in business. This may conflict with general management subjects such as a vision and mission. The purpose, according to the authors must exist before the strategy.
In an FT article dated 12 March 2008, HCL Technologies a $6 Billion global technology company based in India has reaped the rewards of acting with a higher purpose. CEO Vineet Nayar stated, “Management teams need to create a cultural transformation and to do that they need to understand their core business and differentiate it within the interface between employees and customers.” He continues, “We need to understand that we are in a perfect storm, employees of today are no longer slave to a company’s vision. They are disenchanted with employers.” Nayer’s statements further supports the authors reasoning behind finding a higher purpose.
Stakeholder integration is illustrated in the book by a diagram, which includes all entities that are impacted by the business: employees, investors, the communities in which they operate, customers and vendors/suppliers.
Leadership is topical within business circles. We are constantly bombarded with views on what makes a leader. Do we really understand what it means to be a leader and does everyone have to be a leader? Perhaps some of us are better at following and others facilitating. The book outlines the qualities of a conscious leader, a few being possessing different types of intelligence and integrity.
Stefano Pessina, Executive Chairman of Alliance Boots once described leadership as the following.
“Leadership is about developing a business with vision, passion and integrity. Entrepreneurship is the creativity to break established patterns. And to excel, it is also vital to grow in partnership with all stakeholders, especially team and customers.” This quote from a leader within business further establishes that leadership in business should be about integrity and intelligence but also about changing the game, which Conscious Capitalism aims to do.
Conscious culture and management the final pillar, is one which perhaps has the most salient effect on the day to day running of the business. Company culture can create success or lead to it’s demise. The book defines the qualities of conscious cultures as TACTILE. Trust, accountability, caring transparency, integrity, loyalty and egalitarianism.
In terms of management the authors tell the reader that this role is limited to creating, sustaining and strengthening conditions which allow for motivation.
The book aims to inspire the creation of conscious business and concludes with a few case studies.
Leaders should “cut to the chase”, state their value and then embrace them through their actions. Walk the Talk as the saying goes.
Conscious Capitalism should be read now more than ever as many businesses’ have experienced financial famine since the downturn of 2008. The concept is unequivocally believable as it taps to the core of what it means to be human with a desire to survive. It is devoid of jargon and connects the material to the individual first and next the business. It’s unquestionably one for entrepreneurs, managers and the curious amongst us.