Conscious-Business.org.uk

A home for the Conscious Business community in the UK


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Climate Change – a Conscious Start

Climate Change Questions
Climate change matters?
Does it effect me? Let’s see.
Ask the right questions.

Conscious business is a very powerful way of working. Any management course will show the benefits of working as a team over working as an individual. How much more powerful is this collaboration in the smart interconnected world we live in today?

Taking a conscious business perspective, it is relatively simple to consider the role of stakeholders on your business or the impact that your business can have on others. But how can we encourage more businesses to take this systemic approach?

There are many businesses operating in a more traditional manner, who find working in a linear way obvious and easy. Acknowledging the merits of working more consciously requires a shift in mind-set.

One way to bridge the gap is to focus on a single issue and explore the impacts on your business and stakeholders. Consider climate change as an issue with potential impacts on almost all aspects of business.

There are two critical observations:

  • Climate change may have risks or opportunities on your business, your suppliers or customers, now or in the future – or maybe not.
  • By asking these questions you have started the process of examining the interconnectedness of the stakeholders; becoming more conscious.

Even if the answers show that climate change has a minimal impact the exercise is very likely to find efficiencies, savings, reduce risks and maybe to find some new opportunities. And will certainly be a step towards a more conscious business approach.

Some may see this focus on the single issue of climate change as a retrograde step, away from the systemic approach of conscious business – the single issue tail wagging the dog. Some tail. Some dog!

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Conscious Business – Differences – and Ants

At the recent inspiring and thought provoking meeting I had a surprising conversation about Conscious Business.

He said:  “The name Conscious Business attracted me here to be with others who know what Conscious Business means.”

I said: “Interesting.  I’m here because I don’t think we know what it means.”

He said:  “Actually, I think you are right!”

I said: “I disagree, I think you are right!”

As the conversations about this continue holding this ‘both/and’ paradox about Conscious Business seems a necessary hypothesis.

Let’s jump to a piece on the BBC’s Today programme about Ants and Edward Wilson, a sociobiologist.

Wilson’s research concludes that ants’ behaviour showing altruism and consideration for the wider ant community is embedded in their genes even more than the importance of necessity and kinship.  Their behaviour is more than utilitarian.  (Looks like a rich area to investigate; and it should give us hope for the future.)

Now, if we apply this to a family: is a family a family or a collection of siblings and parents?  Is the family competitive or collaborative?  Families clearly show both.

(Let’s not go further to the fundamentals of left and right wing politics – in essence: is a society a society, or a collection of individuals?)

So, the purpose of this post is to address the tricky question: ‘What is it that is holding businesses back?’

Traditionally businesses have been for the benefit of shareholders – the profit motive.  This extends to the (pure) marketing idea of the importance of the customer to other models of partnerships and social business.  The majority of these structures shift the pendulum from one stakeholder being the priority to another.

At the meeting the need to consider a more collaborative approach was mentioned – for the benefit of both individual stakeholders and the benefit of the entire stakeholder network.  The win–win can then be applied to all.  (Rather than win-win in the traditional business sense).

And this starts the paradigm shift: by holding the paradox of both/and rather than either/or we move to a new way of looking at business.


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Do you think that this is a good question?

In times of uncertainty, many people long for definite answers and clear leadership.

There are times when such an approach is warranted, but history has shown that all too often after short-term gains, long-term oppression and regression arise.

If business is to become more conscious, it cannot be forced but must be evoked from within people. Pull not push. And if we believe that humans are both limited and ‘built for growth,’ we have to consider how these factors shape our approach to increasing such consciousness.

I think that key to this is the use of questions rather than the provision of answers. By adopting this method, we are helping each other think more. Hard work at times, but in the long term I’m convinced it will produce better results.

So a key issue is to learn to ask not just questions but the right questions. To do this, we must apply the ‘questions are more important than answers’ approach to ourselves. It doesn’t matter how good an ‘answer’ is, if it is an answer to the wrong question it is at best useless, and at worst regressive.

Let’s ask ourselves what evidence we have that asking questions is such a good way to encourage growth. Here are some reasons:

1 Coaching – the best coaching I have received has been when I have been asked questions. My initial reaction was, “Hm, I paid for answers to my issues not questions!” But as the wise coach persisted with questions, my own ability to think about possible solutions developed, and most importantly, my belief grew that I could think differently, take action and see some change in my situation and that of my business.

2 Knowledge v Wisdom. – we seem to live in a society that is rich in knowledge but poor in wisdom. I think that in good measure knowledge comes from an ‘answers’ approach, wisdom from a ‘questions’ one.

3 Socrates – one of the founders of Western philosophy, a major contribution of his was the Socratic Method, whereby a series of questions are asked not only to draw individual answers, but also to encourage fundamental insight into the issue at hand. This is shown (at length…) in Plato’s Republic, where Socrates is the questioning mouthpiece for the message of that work.

4 Jesus – Christians claim that Jesus was God himself. So surely, he would have the ‘answers’ and would give them to us. Well, he certainly did give some very clear answers, but the Bible records him asking people nearly 300 questions. If such an approach was good enough for him, …

5 Pascal – a great quote from him: “All of man’s problems stem from his inability to sit quietly in a room.” We want noise and answers, rather than quiet and questions.

6 Delegation – if done properly, this costs in the short-term, but pays dividends in the long-term. I have found Ken Blanchard’s situational leadership model helpful in thinking about management and delegation, and the use of questions is a key part of this approach, particularly at the later stages of development.

Apart from the Situational Leadership model, I have also found the following helpful in trying to become someone who leads more with questions:

1 Kipling’s six honest serving men.

2 Covey’s seek first to understand.

3 Read, read, read.

4 Expose yourself to new ideas by developing weak as well as strong links.

By continually adopting a ‘questions’ approach, we shall develop our own and other people’s thinking ‘muscles.’ It is harder work in the short-term, but will produce better results in the long run. It can also help us all break out of stuck thinking.

As Steve McDermott has said in one of my very favourite books (How to be a Complete and Utter Failure in Life, Work and Everything: 44 ½ Steps to Lasting Underachievement), the quality of our life will be in direct proportion to the quality and depth of questions we ask ourselves on a regular basis.

What do you think?


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Choose a ritual

There’s a great little summary here of a range of practices or rituals – things you can do every day, week, month or year – things that will help you become more positive, more aligned and more motivated.

Pretty much every religion in history includes ‘practice’ of some kind. I believe it is because, if your goal is happiness or something like it, rituals like these help. Therefore bringing them back into modern use is a great idea.

But the key ones for me are those that raise consciousness. These include journal writing, and various other kinds of reflection and self-assessment.

In my view, following rituals without consciousness or awareness is not enough. Without this awareness rituals can become empty repetitions of behaviour.

But simply ask yourself a question, or watch yourself as you do something, and things can change. Awareness or consciousness transforms our experience of ourselves and our relationships, leads to behaviour change, and ultimately to different results.


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Business as war?

I just read this wonderful statement by Sam Keen about questions – “Your question is the quest you’re on. No questions — no journey. Timid questions — timid trips. Radical questions — an expedition to the root of your being. Bon voyage.”

That touches me deeply. Asking really good questions is very dear to me.

I looked Sam Keen up because I came across another quote from him “Business is just warfare in slow motion.” What an abomination. I was shocked to read this. But an abomination that I guess that many people, including myself, sign up to. Not always, and perhaps not consciously. But sometimes I do think in terms of “the competition”. How can we beat them? How can we outwit them?

Even if I am not the most outwardly agressive person, I admit I do sometimes think of business as war. Or at the very least, as a zero-sum game – where there must be a winner and a loser. I start to believe there isn’t enough to go around. I belittle and blame others for their own suffering – it must be their own fault they’re unable to find their way out of whatever problems they face. And, if I look inwardly, I am shocked to discover a core belief that others are somehow separate from me, disconnected, that we are not all part of a whole.

As Keen says elsewhere “we have to stop pretending that we can make a living at something that is trivial or destructive and still have sense of legitimate self-worth”. Destructive livings are bad for self-worth; they’re also bad for the world.

So what’s the alternative? There is a new world out there. It’s coming soon. A world where a different type of business exists. A world where co-operation and the win-win game are the only game in town. Where we all recognise that we are all connected, that we all share this one world.

How does business operate in that new world? For me, it’s beyond democracy. It’s even beyond caring. It’s about giving. And business is just a framework, a way of working, that gives real results to the people it serves. All of us.