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A home for the Conscious Business community in the UK

What a week

5 Comments

What a week that was.

Momentous change in Egypt, people power in action – again. The process that Ghandi helped start in India in the 1920 to 40s, that continued in the U.S. Deep South in the 1950s and 60s, continues today. And, it seems, enabled by ever faster, more democratic media to be, if anything accelerating. Despite the fears of a surveillance culture, centralised control and so forth, we seem (at least to this optimist) to be moving slowly in the right direction.

And on another front it was pleasing to read and hear Michael Porter, the eminent business guru, apparently joining the bandwagon of “democratic business” (WorldBlu?), “social business” (Yunus?), “sustainable business” (Anderson?) and “conscious capitalism” (Mackey?) – all things related to what we might call Conscious Business.

Pleasing as it demonstrates how mainstream these ideas are becoming.

But beyond that it is also interesting to ask “how are we to ensure that this innovation, once underway, continues?”. Many, many forces are able to kill off good ideas long before they really get established. Indeed, does entering the mainstream always represent a good thing?

Two very familiar phenomena are backlash and whitewash.

Examples of backlash are all too common – everyone is watching Egypt with concern, for example. Will the “uprising” cause a backlash from the “system” that initially appears to allow it?

Whitewash, while less violent, is perhaps more worrying. And it is equally common when change “threatens”: for example, we all recognise “greenwash” in relation to the response of mainstream business to environmental concerns. As this new type of conscious business emerges, as my friend and colleague Tom Nixon asks: “how many of, say, the FTSE 100 or the Fortune 500 have made it real?”

In response, I’d like to quote Hunter Lovins: “Hypocrisy is the first step to real change.” His point is that once somebody says something, then we can hold them to account for it.

So let’s listen to what Porter and the gurus have to say. Then see whether corporate America and corporate UK actually change. Or if they just pretend to.

And then, personally, we need to hold the line. Hold on to our own beliefs and hold others to account for what they are saying. To make sure their actions follow their words.

Of course, that requires awareness, self-knowledge and, most of all, personal strength and courage. It’s all too easy to want throw in the towel when faced by force and threat or by duplicity and pretence. Easier to give in – especially when the power of the “establishment” seems overwhelming.

For me, overcoming those desires is what Conscious Business is really about – not the big trends, not what happens in the world, not what others say and do – but what goes on inside me, the choices I make, and what I do as a result. Exploring that, in the context of business, is “the road less travelled”. But also the route to momentous change.

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Author: Pete Burden

Asking good questions in a complex world to help people navigate, learn & grow #Coaching #Leadership #ActionLearning #OD Projects & businesses with #SocialValue

5 thoughts on “What a week

  1. The point I always get stuck on when I think about large companies is that whilst their leaders may believe that there is a better way, the markets in which their shares are traded are driven by short-term gain with no regard to the long-term damage to the environment, people and communities.

    In the podcast you linked to, Michael Porter suggests that part of the solution could be to change capital gains taxes to reward returns made over 3, 4 or more years rather than just over one year. This would give large companies the breathing space to think and plan long-term where issues like sustainability become incredibly important, and also new opportunities are presented.

    Have you heard any of the major political parties suggesting this kind of change? I can’t recall it.

  2. In regard to the recent and now expanding news across the Middle East – this quote from Carl Jung seems appropriate.

    “No one can flatter himself that he is immune to the spirit of his own epoch, or even that he possesses a full understanding of it. Irrespective of our conscious convictions, each one of us, without exception, being a particle of the general mass, is somewhere attached to, coloured by, or even undermined by the spirit which goes through the mass. Freedom stretches only as far as the limits of our consciousness.”

    I am shamed; but also positively challenged by your optimism Mr Burden. More power to you…

  3. Great quote Richard – thank you.

    Pete

  4. He Guys,

    I really like your argument about the importance to talk about what Conscious Business really is. And making sure the momentum grows with integrity. For this reason, we are starting the an online teleseminar, with exactely that topic.
    http://www.wakinguptheworkplace.com
    I hope you like it,

    Take care,
    Jeroen Maes

  5. Pingback: Enough is enough « Conscious Business

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