Conscious-Business.org.uk

A home for the Conscious Business community in the UK


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Purpose and Values

The economic climate isn’t great for business at the moment but in one very important sense business is getting easier for me and it’s down to my ability to make decisions. Decision-making is getting easier because more and more of the choices I make are the ones I believe in. In the past I spent too much time and energy arguing with myself about the best way of doing something.

Part of me wanted to act in line with the perceived business wisdom. I guess because it required very little thought, to others it looked like it was the right thing to do and maybe if it went wrong I felt I was less to blame. But all too often I thought the perceived wisdom (particularly the bits that involved people) was a load of old bull, it just didn’t feel right and the resulting argument with myself caused me to get rather stressed.

These days I’m much more likely to make decisions I believe in. Sometimes they’re in line with the perceived wisdom and sometimes they’re not. When they’re not in line, I make the decision consciously and if later on, things go ‘pear-shaped’, I really want to know why. In other words, I learn.

The alternative would be to go with the perceived business wisdom but there’s a real danger that unconsciously I’ll try and prove myself right by sabotaging the whole process so I can say to myself ‘I told you so’. Even if things don’t go wrong I’d probably convince myself that ‘my way would have been better’.

Whilst the case for listening to one’s self may be strong, putting it into practice isn’t always so easy. To do it well, I believe there are two essential ingredients.

The first is Purpose, a really strong reason for doing what you do as effectively as you can. The second is Values, a set of principles that cannot be broken even if breaking them helps achieve the Purpose.

In the relatively recent past many of us have mistakenly believed that our ‘Purpose’ was to make money. Many of us failed because it was obvious to others that, this, and not ‘fabulous customer service’ or ‘great quality’ was what we were looking to achieve. Another group of us managed to make some money but found out pretty soon after, that it wasn’t our ‘Purpose’ after all.

But I also know people who seem to go out of their way to avoid making money. It’s almost as if their ‘Purpose’ is to go without the nicer things in life.

My advice is to avoid including money as part of one’s ‘Purpose’ and trust that the more progress you make towards your real ‘Purpose’, the less money-related worries you’ll have.

A really strong ‘Purpose’ is something that motivates you, something that gets you out of bed in the morning and something that you’d happily have on your gravestone.

Values are personal, they are a set of principles by which you live your life. They are not a set of principles by which you would like to live your life. Your ‘Values’ are your ‘Behaviours’. The way you behave is the way you are. It doesn’t mean you can’t change your behaviours but it does mean if you cheat, then you value cheating. It means that if you shout at someone you attach value to that shouting. If you help an old lady across the road, you value the help you give.You give someone feedback, you value feedback and so on.

The perfect Conscious Business is the point at which all stakeholders have the right ‘Purpose’ and the right ‘Values’ for them personally and they are aligned. Investors, Customers, Employees, Directors, Suppliers  etc all share a common ‘Purpose’ and a common set of ‘Values’

Conflict is the beginning of consciousness. M Esther Harding


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Business is Personal

“Don’t take it personally, it’s just business”. This expression really, really gets my goat.

There simply isn’t a difference between your personal values and your business values. Business is a part of life and the way you act in business is the way you act in life. If you tread on someone at work, you tread on someone, period – no caveats, no excuses.

”Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not” Oprah Winfrey

Posted via email from No Hidden Agenda


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So what's it all for?

I heard someone ask me today what all this conscious business stuff is about. So here goes.

Business is great. It’s a very powerful force. It’s great at harnessing creativity and innovation, but mainly it’s good at getting things done. While governments and non-governmental agencies alike plan and develop policy, business has usually finished the first activity and is on to the next one.

And we are in a hurry. We have a lot of problems in the world. Poverty. Hunger. Disease. Climate change. Loss of bio-diversity. Desertification. War. Nuclear proliferation.

All of these threats are coming closer. And many are getting worse as, for example, population grows.

Business can’t solve all those problems but it can contribute to solutions for many. Especially when we need new, radical solutions that haven’t been tried before, the unique structure of business allows their creation and rapid deployment on a large scale.

Even small business can seed changes elsewhere, by setting an example or by being a catalyst.

The problem with business is that for too long the people running it have had the wrong goals. If your goal is financial, and you work at it hard enough, and diligently enough, you are likely to achieve a financial goal. While neglecting other more useful goals – such as addressing the threats listed above.

So, the question is: “How do we get at least some of the people running business to adopt other, more beneficial goals?”

Forcing them won’t work. These are very independent-minded people.

Luckily, however,  I believe people evolved with a set of values that are constructive not destructive. The natural state for people is to select goals that will put back good things into the world, for all of humanity.

All that has to happen is for us all to become more conscious.

More conscious of more than just our material drives – in fact, conscious of what drives us mind, body and soul. As we become more conscious of our deeper values, then we will start to work towards them.

More conscious of our individual contribution to the results we create.

Many of us don’t believe that we have much influence on what happens in the world. So then it’s rational to let it just go to hell. But we all do have that influence, and once we realise that then the sky’s the limit.

Many of us believe that others need to be told what to do. And we don’t understand that this approach itself creates unsustainable solutions. Nothing that is enforced will last. The only things that last are those that are created together by those who benefit.

And more conscious of what holds us back and limits our influence. Many of us are ‘hungry ghosts’ – we carry around past emotional pain that makes us greedy, envious, jealous, addicted, obsessed, and compulsive.

Becoming more conscious of this pain, while usually a painful process in itself, is a good way to reduce or even remove its power.

So, as we become more conscious, we do more of the right things, more often. And that’s what all of us need. Now in and in the future.

Simple as that really.


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The politics of business

One of the programmes I most hate on the radio is Any Questions on BBC Radio 4.  Of course, I don’t really hate it. I hate it only in the sense that I enjoy listening to it so that I get many opportunities to loudly prounounce “What an idiot!”.

The brilliant idea of bringing together people into a setting where whatever they say is bound to cause offence to other participants or those in the audience pre-dates reality TV by many, many years of course. And it’s really entertaining in a true sense: it’s diverting and holds my attention.

Yesterday’s episode was set in Londonderry, Northern Ireland and inevitably some of the discussion was about the political situation. In particular the recent comments by Martin McGuinness describing dissident republicans as “traitors” came up.

Someone made the point that language is important, and so it is. And so is the context in which language is spoken.

The word traitor sits in a historical, political and broader context. Just as dissident does. Just as Ireland does. Or any other term we use.

That context affects the way meaning is drawn from the word.

I know little about Northern Ireland. But it seemed positive to me that the speakers seemed to be agreeing that, in 2009, the context has changed.

And that probably as a result of the “peace process” there is a new way of looking at the world which is held by the majority of people. In that context, the words traitor and dissident and even terrorist mean quite different things from what they did in the past.

Agreement amongst the participants of a panel show perhaps doesn’t create quite the kind of entertainment the editors are seeking. So the conversation moved on.

But I was struck by how much business in 2009 needs a new context. Our  language needs updating, of course. But for me, meaning is what counts. And it is often context that determines meaning.

I commented on an Umair Haque post on the Harvard Business site earlier in the week. Umair seemed frustrated that some people are just disguising old (really old) business models in the language of the new. He’s quite right of course. Just changing the words and calling it “Business 2.0” doesn’t change anything.

The shift to Business 2.0, or whatever you want to call it, is a contextual shift. It’s a change in the way we look at the world. A shift in the principles that underpin why we do business, what it is for. These are things we don’t often talk about in business – we’re usually far too busy discussing the how.

But to achieve the kind of seismic shift that has been achieved in Northern Ireland’s politics, we’ll surely need as deep and as far reaching a discussion as has been held there. And with all that is going on in the economy and the wider world isn’t it just a brilliant time to be having this discussion?

Umair is just one of the many people showing the way; all strength to him. I’d love to hear of more like him.


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Value of role models

Another good post from Rosabeth Moss Kanter. She says it much better than I can where big companies are concerned.

Now let’s try to find some SME examples. Which small and medium-sized companies have been investing in getting their Mission straight and have benefitted from it – even in this downturn?

Who beyond the usual suspects  has been trying to add real value. Here’s last year’s FastCompany list. I wonder who will make it this year?