Conscious Capitalism
2013-07-05 0:00

From: Organic Connections

In some quar­ters of the com­pet­i­tive busi­ness world, Raj Sisodia’s ideas are prob­a­bly viewed as rad­i­cal or, at best, severely lim­it­ing. Yet this award-winning author, pro­fes­sor and eco­nomic con­sul­tant is, in actu­al­ity, view­ing the busi­ness world in the only way it can be viewed if we are to sur­vive as a cul­ture and as a planet. In his new book Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, co-authored with Whole Foods Market co-CEO John Mackey, Sisodia describes com­pa­nies con­duct­ing them­selves with a higher pur­pose, con­scious lead­er­ship, and an eye to the impact of the com­pany on cus­tomers, employ­ees, the envi­ron­ment and soci­ety in gen­eral. An ever-growing num­ber of com­pa­nies and cor­po­ra­tions are listening.


The eco­nomic mar­ket model of today was actu­ally set in place back in 1776, with the pub­li­ca­tion of a work called An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. The book’s author, Scotsman Adam Smith, is today viewed as the father of mod­ern economics—and Sisodia sees one vital ele­ment miss­ing from his philosophy.

“Adam Smith’s core mes­sage was really that cen­tral­ized plan­ning doesn’t work,” Sisodia pointed out. “You can’t have gov­ern­ment bureau­crats fig­ur­ing out who should make what and how much and what to price it at. He said that indi­vid­u­als make those deci­sions based on their own per­ceived self-interest; but that is far supe­rior to hav­ing some­body sit­ting some­where try­ing to decide all of that, because it essen­tially can­not be done.

“However, what did not hap­pen was the other side of our human per­sona, which is the need to care; it is equally as pow­er­ful as the drive for self-interest. When it came to estab­lish­ing the foun­da­tions of cap­i­tal­ism, peo­ple ignored this dimen­sion, assum­ing that this is some­thing you do out­side of the con­text of work, that you ful­fill your need to care through your fam­ily and through your com­mu­nity, and that busi­ness can only be about self-interest.

“That’s like going into the world of busi­ness with half of your brain or per­sona shut off, the more human half. I think we should have inte­grated those two dimensions—the human need to care with the human drive for self-interest—into the same activ­ity of busi­ness. It would have cre­ated a foun­da­tion for cap­i­tal­ism that was much richer than what we ended up with.”


Change Must Come

“Today what we talk about as Conscious Capitalism and con­scious busi­ness is really the excep­tion,” Sisodia con­cluded. “The norm is busi­ness done with the view to max­i­mize prof­its for share­hold­ers. That is not even ques­tioned. It is gospel in busi­ness school and gospel in many com­pa­nies, espe­cially pub­licly traded com­pa­nies. We’re seen as a sort of alter­na­tive approach.

“We want to get to a point where the default becomes the good option, where this becomes the norm, where peo­ple say, ‘Well, of course busi­ness has to start with pur­pose.’ I taught busi­ness for twenty-five years and never used the word pur­pose, because the pur­pose was given to us: it’s to max­i­mize profit; okay, move on. Now we are say­ing, ‘That’s not enough.’ Profit is the out­come of doing a busi­ness well; profit can never be the pur­pose. If it does become the pur­pose, that busi­ness is headed down­hill in a hurry.

“Right now we have a very toxic nar­ra­tive about busi­ness and cap­i­tal­ism that is based upon greed, exploita­tion and self­ish­ness. It is about enrich­ing the few at the expense of the many.

“The real nar­ra­tive about busi­ness is that busi­ness, when it’s done right, is fun­da­men­tally good. It’s based in value cre­ation. It’s fun­da­men­tally eth­i­cal because it’s based on vol­un­tary exchange, and it is noble because it ele­vates our exis­tence above the level of sub­sis­tence where we can explore what it means to be human. It’s heroic because it lifts peo­ple out of poverty; it enables life to actu­ally flour­ish on this planet.

“It should be this way so that the most ide­al­is­tic of our young peo­ple would not auto­mat­i­cally shun the world of busi­ness, say­ing, ‘If I am ide­al­is­tic I can’t have any­thing to do with busi­ness.’ They would rec­og­nize that busi­ness actu­ally is the way for effect­ing change in soci­ety on a broader scale, in a more sus­tain­able way than work­ing strictly for prof­its.”

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