Wow! What a thing to say! Consciousness â€“ not office complexes, or sales figures, or revolutionary new products, or share prices, or brand reputation â€“ but consciousness, that thing we all have but often struggle to explain or intervene with, is our greatest asset.
It was during our call with Brian Johnson last week that Brian revealed that this had been the biggest insight heâ€™d had during his life as an entrepreneur.
It cuts against so much of the accepted idea that we have about what business is. I think itâ€™s such an important and challenging statement that I want to take some time to unpack it a little further, and relate it to my own experiences and dreams.
How different would business be if we invested in consciousness?
How many businesses or organisations today treat the consciousness of their people as their greatest asset? How many companies treat their Human Resources as something above and beyond a bolted-on department and resource, and integrate the support and development of those peopleâ€™s consciousness, as the very central element of what business is?
I was struck by what Brian said, that for him, work was about giving his greatest gifts in service of the world. What would business look like if this was the role of business development, and not simply the increasing of the financial bottom line? How different would work become?
If we start with the commitment to consciousness as being our greatest asset, then what do we do differently in the way we run our businesses? There are, I think, two important pieces to distinguish between.
The first is that, if consciousness is our greatest asset, how do we invest in that asset, and develop and nurture it, just as we would a traditional tangible asset like a flagship product? This is a huge question, and one deserving of an enquiry all of its own. But for now, I want to concentrate on the second piece.
A most honourable pursuit of happiness
If consciousness is our greatest asset, then in what context is that asset best placed to thrive and reach the heights of its inherent potential?
It reminds me of something a friend of mine was telling me last week â€“ about when he was involved in business training in the early 90s. The depth of those trainings, he said, went so far as to actually result in people realising they no longer wanted to work for the company that had provided the training in the first place. What happened? The companies got scared â€“ the aim of expensive in depth training was to increase productivity, not to lose their valued employees!
And from the perspective of the business, I can completely understand that. How does it help the business if your development programs result in people leaving?
But I think thereâ€™s also a larger issue at play here. If we start from the perspective of the world â€“ of all people â€“ then what is it we want above all else? Perhaps we want people to be happy, and for people to find the ways in which they can â€“ as Brian said â€“ give their greatest gifts in service of the world.
From that perspective, I think there is little more honourable than assisting people with that self discovery, despite the possibility of them leaving your own small part of the world â€“ your company – as a result.
How many business leaders â€“ if they really took the time to enquire â€“ would find that their employees were there because they deeply wanted to be there, and felt empowered to give their greatest gifts?
As Jim Collins articulates in his seminal book Good to Great â€“ one of the first steps for a company making the journey from good to great, is to make sure you have the right people on the bus. Without the right people â€“ the people who are intrinsically motivated to work in service of the business mission â€“ the path to greatness is going to be derailed before it even begins.
A question dear to my own heart
How do I create the circumstances where I am released to work in service of my larger dream and serve the world with my gifts?
Itâ€™s a question that Iâ€™m asking myself constantly, and probably indefinitely. Itâ€™s a question that feels all the more potent and fundamental when held in the context of my idealism.
Itâ€™s also a big question, and one that is not going to be easily answered, especially in our current business culture. And neither is it, I believe, one that is meant to be answered by much of our current business culture. Why? Because itâ€™s not the burning question that most people hold â€“ itâ€™s not the enquiry inherent in their own consciousness. And I for one do not feel called to admonish anyone for not sharing my own ideals.
But for those of us that do feel called to explore that question, I invite us to share that enquiry. Letâ€™s share our dreams and our successes, our doubts and our struggles, our advice and our expertise.
Letâ€™s invest in our consciousness, and realise the return on that investment. Letâ€™s start to shape a workplace where we are more awake, more fulfilled, more impact, and ultimately, more happy.