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Conscious Capitalism, With a New Preface by the Authors: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business Paperback – January 7, 2014
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Praise for the hardcover edition of Conscious Capitalism, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller:
Full of thoughtful insights.” Financial Times
Buy it. Read it. Implement it. It’s a true guide to the future.” Forbes.com
I highly recommend listening to what they have to say.” Howard Schultz, chairman, president, and CEO, Starbucks
This is the book I always wanted to write.” Bill George, bestselling author, True North
About the Author
- Publisher : Harvard Business Review Press; 1st edition (January 7, 2014)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1625271751
- ISBN-13 : 978-1625271754
- Item Weight : 11.5 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.25 x 1 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #17,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Reading about spiritualism in this book was a complete turn-off. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. I wish people would stop advising others to "raise their consciousness." No man can wake-up one day and decide to "raise his consciousness." That is a natural process that takes place and changes one from within. The narrator's voice came across as "holier-than-thou." I live in America and the The United States is not a country that embraces an individual's spiritual needs.
"...few people knew much or cared about environmental issues," (Mackey, Sisodia, 2014) indigenous people such as Native Americans have always cared about the environment and the planet.
"What people want in life is to be recognized, to grow and to have made a difference," (Mackey, Sisodia, 2014). The authors should speak for themselves they have no way of knowing what other people want out of life. These are not my goals in life.
"However, when any profession becomes primarily about making money, it starts to lose its true identity and its interests start to diverge from what is good for society as a whole," (Mackey, Sisodia, 2014). Have these men been living under a rock or something? This statement perfectly describes how American Business is conducted today. I love how entrepreneurs become millionaires and tell other people not to focus on money.
On page 54 of the book the authors discuss how employees only care about a paycheck. Of course people care about a paycheck because that is what they have been led to believe. Throughout the course of one's life this is heard: "Graduate high school, go to college and graduate, land a good job and make money and you are set for the rest of your life." Not to mention nowadays people dedicate 40-plus hours to their job. A person has to get up to get ready for work, commute to work and work all day long. God-forbid if a person has to run errands after work. A person's entire life now centers on working at a company. That is not living and enjoying life in my humble opinion.
The authors really are not a big fan of Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric.
I did manage to find one great quote in this book, "Leadership and management are not synonymous. Leadership is mostly about change and transformation. Management is about efficiency and implementation," (Mackey, Sisodia, 2014).
This book dragged and it contained entirely too much unnecessary information. This book could have easily been cut in half had it not included so much information that was not pertinent to the subject matter of conscious capitalism. The beginning half of chapter 7 is interesting because it focuses on business matters.
I cannot recommend "Conscious Capitalism," to other readers. Normally, if a book is a dull read, I would advise other readers to check out the book at a library, borrow the book, purchase it dirt cheap at a yard sale or flea market. Please do not waste your time reading, "Conscious Capitalism." This strikes me as a book that was slapped together just to generate revenue through sales.
There are four principles that underpin the practice of Conscious Capitalism: Higher purpose and core values, stakeholder integration; conscious culture and management; and conscious leadership. I am going to focus on the first two.
Author Richard Leider, asks every audience he addresses the following question: What are the two most important days in your life? Most people, he reports, identify the day they were born and an event such as their wedding day. The answer Leider wants them to get to is, obviously the day you are born, but less obviously the day you realize why you were born.
(Pause here and think about this.)
Consider how different your working life would be when it dawns on you that you were born to ensure fairness in business, which is why you are a commercial litigator. You were born to make people’s movement about their cities and country safer and smoother. That is why you are so committed to your work in the Integrated Traffic Systems department of the local roads authority.
When the employees of your company, department or unit, see their work as infused with meaning, you will see a commitment rarely seen elsewhere.
Executive of Medtronics, the world’s largest medical technology company, regularly tell staff: “Your job here is not just to make money for the company; your job is to restore people to full life and health.” To drive this point home six patients are brought to every year-end party to describe about how a Medtronic defibrillator, or a stent, or a spinal surgery with a stimulator has changed their lives.
The Container Store, a hugely successful, multinational chain of stores selling containers, practices Conscious Capitalism. Their purpose is to “help people get organized so that they can lead happier lives.” Cofounder and CEO encourages his sales staff to do everything they can to sell customers products that they might not be aware they need.
He repeats “his lost man in the desert story” at every opportunity. Imagine a man lost for days in the desert, dehydrated, terrified and almost delusional with thirst. He sees you and desperately asks for water. Most people would feel good that they have helped the man by giving him a flask of fresh water. That is all the thirsty man asks for and wants at that moment.
However, there is so much more one can do for him. “He probably has heat exhaustion or sunstroke; he obviously needs a hat and sunscreen; he needs to be re-hydrated. You could call his wife and family and let them know he’s okay, since he’s been missing for days.”
A salesperson whose only focus is to meet target behaves very differently from salesman with a higher purpose. Up-, on- and cross-selling containers is not a way to extract more sales, but a way to get the customer more organized so he can lead a happier life. Purpose-driven salespeople outperform the target driven type across all product groups.
I have emphasised this principle of higher purpose because in my experience with a wide variety of companies in 14 countries, it is the one that seems to “get lost” over time. Often, the founders of the firm where driven by a higher purpose, but without a constant reminders, in a wide variety of ways, (bringing patients to the party or telling stories,) their initial purpose fades or is ambushed by slumps or the race to meet payroll.
It is well worth revisiting the issue of your business’ higher purpose if for no other reason than its economic value.
“Stakeholder integration,” another Conscious Capitalism principle, is a philosophical issue with profound practical consequences.
The stakeholders in any business are the shareholders, the staff, suppliers, the customers or clients, and the community in which the business operates. The common view of stakeholder groups is as a zero-sum game. There is only so much to go around and if staff get increases or suppliers are paid on time, and if contributions are made to the community, someone must get less.
The “Conscious” part of the book’s title “Conscious Capitalism, refers to wider and deeper understanding of how the world really works. People who are not highly conscious, think narrowly and in short time-frames. The do not see the whole picture and they do not see consequences.
When stakeholders are seen as an integrated whole, and this collective is not viewed in terms of a zero-sum game, we know we have to think win-win, and be highly creative.
If staff feel underpaid they will be disgruntled so they may work with less enthusiasm. This leads to lower profits of shareholders, and less satisfied customers. Businesses run on Conscious Capitalism principles outperform businesses based on other economic models.
The business is not mechanical it is organic. Every part affects every other part because each part is connected and interdependent.
There is much food for thought in this wise book. It deserves a slow read.
Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy
Feels at times like a book written by a guru. So four stars. Four very well deserved stars.
Then, I started realizing that businesses are part of a much bigger ecosystem which include the Planet and Society.
This book is humbling, tranquilizer, and visionary. Let's change together our destiny!
Top reviews from other countries
I must declare a bias: I am a real fan of the ideas presented here, and I have met both authors.
But trying to put that to one side, I still think it is a great book.
It is very thorough, very complete, and like my colleague Will McInnes' book Culture Shock: A Handbook For 21st Century Business it is full of practical advice and suggestions on building a different type of business.
It is clearly written, full of good stories and quotes. It also seems to include a good measure of honesty - as when John Mackey describes the problems he had with the SEC.
It is ideological, yes, but I think that is what we need right now. There's a lot of talk in business about disruption, and how business should respond, but this book sets out the beginnings of an intellectual and emotional framework for business in the 21st century.
Umair Haque's Betterness: Economics for Humans (Kindle Single) also comes to mind.
After an introduction, which aims to reset the narrative of business, the book is broken into several sections on making practical changes to the way a business works:
- Higher Purpose
- Stakeholder Integration
- Conscious Leadership
- Conscious Culture and Management
The book pulls together a lot of thinking from a range of very diverse sources. That is the whole point I suppose: to bring topics such as economics, sustainability, business management, psychology and systems thinking together. Indeed, the authors aren't afraid to mix words like love and care in with the kind of terminology (innovation, collaboration, decentralisation) you will read in many modern books on business management.
There are lots of practical examples and stories from Whole Foods Market. That company is obviously better known in the US than the UK, and there is a notable lack of any European examples (John Lewis, the Co-op, Cadburys etc). But as founder and CEO, John Mackey has been through most of the major decisions that need to be made in setting up and growing a large, listed company.
Once or twice I had a bit of a sharp intake of breath.
The term "free-enterprise capitalism" personally reminds me of "free market capitalism", in the style of Reagan and Thatcher. Something to which I have an instinctive and somewhat negative reaction. But, after a moment, I reminded myself to suspend a little, remember that I am not an economic theorist or expert, and read on.
And their real point is that capitalism generally has given itself a very bad name with the people who should be supporting it - those of us who believe in freedom for individuals and also in sharing, giving etc.
The other slight intake of breath came when Margaret Thatcher is listed amongst a list of leaders with high integrity, including Gandhi and other personal heroes. Again personally, I found this hard to take.
But again the truth is this is probably more about my biases and prejudices than anything else. And a good book, I believe, should challenge one's thinking, not just confirm one's prejudices. I resolved to dig out a biography and do some deeper research.
The book ends with sections on starting a conscious business, and transforming to become one.
An appendix covers the business case for Conscious Capitalism - including reference to Raj Sisodia's work on Firms of Endearment and a comparison with the "Good to Great" companies. This, in my view, is a very strong and compelling financial case.
Another appendix gives a very useful list of similar, related approaches (such as sustainable business, B-corporations etc), and explains why conscious capitalism is different.
In a final section, which contains a call to action, I was pleased to see a reference to Tom Paine, author of Common Sense and the Rights of Man. These, at the time, were seditionary works. They stirred people up.
This book is similar - some will hate it, but the mixture of emotion and intellect is powerful. Which is important, because, as the authors say, there's no time to waste.
Overall, this is a manifesto for a new type of business. Or, if you simply want to find out what Conscious Capitalism and Conscious Business are all about, this is a great starting point.
It is a big book as well as a great book. It will take you a while to read. But in my view it is really worth the effort.
The rub is that conscious capitalism only makes sense when you have become sufficiently conscious to understand what it means. Until you do the work on your self and become more aware and more conscious - you will never really be aligned with these ideas, and if you are not aligned, your business will not become a conscious business.
This is not another smart consultants fad (although many will try to jump on the bandwagon), it is a way of furthering the cause of human well being in all its forms - and we so desperately need this focus after centuries of serving the "Master" or the "Machine" .
Please read this book and absorb the ideas so that you feel as well as understand the message.
Mackey redefines what it means to be a successful business. Traditionally, a successful business is one that makes large amounts of money for its shareholders. Conscious Capitalism offers the alternative of a business that sees synergy (rather than conflict) between stakeholders (including shareholders, customers and the wider society). Underscoring this is the concept of a successful business being one that understands its purpose. A purpose-driven business, then, should make profits, but that is not its purpose, merely a side benefit. This paradigm shift in thinking helps businesses to see socially beneficial activity as an integral part of their operation rather than an addendum or compromise.
Although Mackey refers to the experience at Whole Foods and other large international conscious businesses, this book is applicable to the small one-man-band business as it is to the large corporation, and is an inspiring read for anyone who is in business for more than just earning a living.