People sometimes ask me why am I involved with Conscious Business?
I have been involved in business for over 30 years. During that time I have worked with some marvellous people, and in some marvellous groups and companies. And we’ve done some great things.
So the business bit is easy – business is, in my view, simply the best and most powerful way to get good things done.
But why ‘conscious’?
I’ve often noticed that the things that seemed to work really well in those successful groups weren’t the stuff of conventional business or management. It was as if I was operating in a parallel world – that, to me, seemed very different from the conventional one outside.
About 10 years ago I moved to Brighton and helped create the MDhub, a collaboration of local MDs. Working with this group I realised that a lot of them wanted to do things in more innovative, more collaborative, more successful ways, but that they too could only find the one business and management book – the conventional one.
So I started working with some of them to do things in slightly different ways from how they are usually done. Business, but different.
Digging this up is a bit like archaelogy. It is only through uncovering artefacts I can date certain of these activities and things that I started to do differently.
For example, I know it was it 1987 that I learnt some of my first lessons about self-responsibility at work. On my first day of work in my new job at DEC, I was left to my own devices. On the next day too. And the next. It took a while for me to realise that I was meant to figure out what I was meant to do – for myself. Without instruction.
I know that it was during 1997 that I started doing stand-up meetings with teams, because I know that is the year that BBC News Online launched. And I remember the first large team meetings – held in an abandoned studio that had no chairs. Hence it was a “Stand-Up”.
I know it was in early 2007 that I started measuring happiness in my favourite organisation – my family. I got the idea from Paddi Lund – an Australian dentist – and my wife, kids and I measured our happiness daily for some months. I know because I still have the spreadsheets.
Having prototyped (!) the approach the only sensible thing to do was to start trying it out with the businesses I worked with.
The financial crash of 2008 certainly isn’t too far back to remember. The crash accelerated the number of MDs, and people from other fields, calling out for different, more effective ways to do business and management. The trend was already clear by then, and it wasn’t just financial. Bigger social trends such as the feminisation of the workplace were already well underway.
So working with my partners we’ve continued to develop and deliver new and different ways of doing business.
But why consciousness? Looking back the key to change in all the outfits I have worked in has always been a change in the level of consciousness, first with individuals, and then with the group.
By a change in level I don’t meant anything esoteric. Or spiritual.
I mean something quite simple to understand. But hard to achieve in practice. I mean a change in my assumptions, a shift of paradigm.
I don’t know how many levels there are.
But I do know that my experiences of 1987, 1997, and 2007 were all about increasing my consciousness and those of others.
In 1987 I learned first-hand that business worked better when I and others chose what to do.
In 1997, standing up, I and others learned that meetings weren’t the be-all and end-all of getting things done.
And in 2007 I realised that measuring happiness every day – paying attention to it – actually seemed to change my level of happiness.
There are many ways to ‘do’ change in organisations. Change is often approached like a technical problem, as if a company was a machine that could be prodded and pushed into action. Much is ‘technological’, believing that new technologies will somehow drive changes in behaviour. Some change is ‘structural’ – change what is connected to what and things will get better.
In my view all of these work to some extent. But the thing that makes most sense to me is increasing consciousness. To me changing, and developing and growing, in fact, maturing, seems to me to be the only thing that really changes things sustainably and reliably.
I am not saying it is easy. It has taken me these three decades to make even a few real steps forward. And I often step backwards too.
But, personally, I find the process of growing my consciousness terrifying and fascinating in turns, and ultimately deeply rewarding. We get better things done, and it is more enjoyable.
That is why I choose to work in Conscious Business.