A home for the Conscious Business community in the UK

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Pragmatic Strategy – links to conscious capitalism and conscious business

The practice and ideas of conscious capitalism are not restricted to a few high-profile names; one of the joys of the subject is to look for ideas elsewhere and make connections. With this in mind Pragmatic Strategy – Eastern Wisdom, Global Success makes for an interesting and highly relevant read. The book is written by the knowledge management guru, Ikujiro Nonaka, and UK-based management scholar Zhichang Zhu (Nonaka & Zhu, 2012).

At its intellectual root is a weaving together of Eastern thought and ideas from the US philosophical tradition of Pragmatism, which is both convincing and relevant. The highlight of the book for me was towards the end in Part IV, Think When We Learn.  Here the authors explore, with convincing examples, why our current paradigms of strategy are failing and go on to offer a radically different perspective.  This is based upon:

  • The hazard of focusing only on profits and shareholder value, exploring this from a variety of novel perspectives
  • The problems and hidden assumptions that accompany traditional views of strategy, for example one person’s advantage coming with another’s loss
  • How we extend this to how we treat people as assets with little or no stake in the organisation who can be owned, utilised, discarded or replaced.

In itself this is a clear illustration of the problems we face, but it is in the response to this that they offer something substantial. This can be summarised as being less of a ‘God’s eye view of strategy’ and more that we are all participants in the process in which we all have a stake. In other words we are not mindless parts of a machine subject to the levers, pistons and pulleys of other’s intentions.

Here they argue that we all have at least some influence and control as part of an interconnected world, not in terms of grand abstract plans but rather in a contextually rich reality of everyday life. For both the pragmatists and Eastern way of thought there is a focus on:

  • Practical knowledge, rich in context
  • An iterative process of knowing based upon experience and reflection
  • Attention being given to both the head and the heart of organisational life.

This means however that there can be no certainty, that of the ‘magic bullet’, or the perfect ‘model’. Such an approach would be a contradiction, meaning that we would not have to do the very task demanded of us – to think, pay attention and to act with awareness into the moment.

Nonaka, I., & Zhu, Z. (2012). Pragmatic Strategy – Eastern Wisdom, Global Success. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


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Collecting our thoughts around conscious business for eO&P

As people show an interest in writing for the Winter edition of eO&P on Conscious Business it is striking how many different angles there are to the subject.  They are all important in their own way.

This poses both a risk and an opportunity.

On the one hand conscious business could mean anything to anyone – becoming buried in its own fuzzy well meaning. On the other, the number of avenues offers the possibility of making real sustainable change: change that we can look back on and say ‘this is the difference we have all made’.

A quick look at our list today includes subjects such as:

  • The role of the law in building and sustaining relationships in conscious business.
  • The impact that an enlightened approach to human resources can have.
  • Consciousness within capitalism.
  • Moving from straightforward management models to paying attention to long term sustaining ‘communities of influence’ to bring about change.
  • The role of forgiveness in how we manage to work together.

 There needs to be some centralising theme around which these different paths consciousness business can develop.  For us, in this edition of eO&P, this needs to be the interaction between ideas of conscious business and what happens on the ground to make this happen; in other words a ‘groundedness’ to consciousness business.  We especially want to hear what goes well and what doesn’t as people struggle with making an abstract ideal to a practical reality.

However, these are our thoughts today as we start the process of sourcing articles and editing eO&P, a process that will take several months.  In those months to come we will be sharing with you our consciousness as we work with these ideas and make sense of them with the authors.  In other words, it is consciousness in practice.

Rob Warwick and Pete Burden


Conscious Business – Call for Papers

Pete Burden and I are the guest editors for the winter edition of eOrganisations & People (eO&P) on the subject of Conscious Business.  If you would like to write a paper for the journal we would very much like to hear from you.

We are looking at papers from practitioners, academics, consultants – basically anyone who has anything thoughtful to say.  One angle that we are particularly interested in centres around the challenges people face in making conscious business a part of their day-to-day reality.

Writing is not just about writing.  We are looking for this edition of eO&P to develop into further action and gatherings.  We don’t know what this might look like yet.  That is something that we will develop with authors and collaborators.

About conscious business

There are many definitions, but features we are drawn to include:

  • being profitable but with more than just financial goals
  • delivering value to a wide set of stakeholders
  • providing a safe place for human development and growth
  • where all involved have the power to influence outcomes
  • where transparency, communication and awareness are paramount

About eO&P

eO&P Is the journal of the AMED, the Association of Management Educators and Developers (Hyperlink to: in the UK.  It is a quarterly journal written for both practitioners and academics who are involved in management and leadership development.

Interested? Please contact us or click here for more information.


Conscious Business Conversations that Enable Change

What are the important characteristics of a Conscious Business?  In July about 20 of us met in Brighton to discuss this and to develop ideas of how organisations, particularly those that are small and medium-sized, can practically become more conscious and to use this awareness to improve what they do and to share experience with others.

For large companies there are many audit tools, quality systems and awards to choose from.  From personal experience I know that they can be worthwhile, but they can be very time consuming, bureaucratic and take valuable resource out of the company.  They can have complex ways to examine and put a number on what people do in organisations (ie what people value and how they work with each other to bring about change).  Paradoxically the very act of putting a number on these interactions eclipses the essential quality of those interactions they seek to shine a light on.  The aim of the workshop was to develop something straightforward and meaningful that small and medium-sized organisations could use.

The general features were agreed, a Conscious Business is: respectful, transparent, is fair, is involved in its  community, is authentic, is humble, learns, makes a profit, is ethical, is honest, pays tax and is aware mindful of the full  impact it has.  All of these are important, but without context of what actually happens in practice they can lack meaning.

At the workshop these were further refined into the following distinct themes.

  • Conscious about Profit
  • Social Value
  • Transparency
  • Fairness
  • Have Generosity

In order to bring these themes to life in a practical way we worked on: 1) concrete and everyday examples: 2) what are the two or three question areas that bring these themes to life.  These now feature in our Changing Conscious Business Conversations Tool. There are no metrics or scoring mechanisms in the Tool.  The focus is on having conversations.  These are conversations that relate to what people do in their organisation and how they relate to their environment, suppliers and customers.  Meaningful conversations, particularly with people who you wouldn’t normally speak with, enable people to notice what has not been noticed before and to understand their importance.  A few conversations and a page or two of notes can form the basis of an action plan to bring about change.  These notes and the action plan can also form the basis of further conversations with other Conscious Businesses with the aim of sharing what works and avoiding what doesn’t.  It helps to raise the consciousness of conscious business within the community.

The tool can be found following the hyperlink here.

If you are inspired to use this in your organisation we would very much like to fear from you – what went well, what could be improved, and most importantly the difference it made.