Monthly Archives: April 2011

There’s this idea that if you make the case for something strongly and persuasively enough, sooner or later people will start to listen to you.

Last week, we spoke with Dr. Susanne Cook-Greuter, one of the foremost experts on adult development – basically the ‘conscious’ bit of Conscious Business. Something she said made me think very carefully about that idea.

Here’s my take on why I think that approach is not only ineffective, but perhaps even unconscious!

Waking up is a developmental process

Susanne’s life work has been to map out the ways in which people make meaning. Based upon the work of her predecessor – Jane Loevinger – her research shows that the way we make meaning unfolds in a stage-like process.

The difference between one stage and the next is a quantum leap in understanding and perspective. To give a concrete illustration of how different these stages are (and Susanne’s model identifies 8 major ones), let’s look at what ‘feedback’ means to different stages, an example Susanne herself shared with us.

While feedback to the lower stages is seen as a personal attack – a way of aggressively criticising one’s very person – to a higher stage it is more often seen as a gift. It is an opportunity to see through one’s own limitations and let go of the old patterns that no longer serve. The two meanings may both refer to something called ‘feedback’, but the similarities don’t go much further than that.

Most people don’t care about Conscious Business

I asked Suzanne, at which point in her model the inclination toward a conscious approach to business – or waking up the workplace – comes on-line. She told us that it only begins at what she calls the ‘Autonomous’ level.

As you can see from the table below (taken from Susanne’s doctoral dissertation), the percentage of US population that has reached the autonomous stage or higher is less than 7%. That means that only 7% of Americans  have the kind of meaning-making structure that would be even likely to take an interest in Conscious Business.

That leaves 93% who, no matter how hard you might make the case, will simply not resonate, or even take any notice. Why? Because it just isn’t something that shows up on their meaning-making radar. To give an extreme example, just as quantum physics doesn’t register as something a baby can ‘see’, so Conscious Business is something that the vast majority of the world’s population can’t see. They don’t resonate, because they simply can’t see it due to their meaning making stage of development.

So what do we do to spread this stuff?

  • Let go of the idea that shouting louder to our traditional corporate colleagues about the need for Conscious Business will make much difference.
  • Cease thinking that using the most innovative tools or practices will make traditional business ‘change their mind’.

As Tami Simon so beautifully articulated in our dialogue a couple of weeks ago, one of the most important things we can do to practice Conscious Business, is to meet people where they are at.

I don’t think pushing the need for Conscious Business to people who can’t see it is ‘meeting them where they’re at’, and I don’t think it embodies the conscious principles we’re trying to embed.

I think there’s another way. And my contention is that is starts by being conscious that most business isn’t very conscious, and it won’t become so anytime soon.

Instead, I feel called to actually role-model Conscious Business and show the world that’s ready to see, just how effective, meaningful and apt it is. The proportion of the world’s business that is going to embrace a conscious approach is small, and is going to remain small for some time. But the impact that that small group can make is huge!

Let’s wake up the workplace by being an evolutionary alarm clock for the people that made a 9am meeting with meaning, and leave the rest to sleep in. I’m sure they’ll wake up when they’re ready…or not 😉

How do you feel called to role-model Conscious Business? How do you want to contribute to that HUGE impact? What’s your particular tone of the evolutionary alarm clock?


Here we are, running this interview series, calling people from across the world to ask them what work could also be. It’s absurd!

Don’t get me wrong: We are on a mission to wake up the workplace, and we do care deeply about making work work.

Yet last week’s conversation with Tami Simon of Sounds True also made me think. She has been successfully running a conscious business for over 25 years now. What, then, has she found is at the heart of conscious business?

“To be willing to be yourself, and tell the truth,” she says. “To take time to reflect. To build intelligent business models, so that you can work together with others to fulfill the purpose of the business.”

Is there more to it? Yes, there probably is. Is it any more complicated than that, though? No! Conscious business is simple. It’s natural. It’s deeply human. And it works, too.

Then why are you reading this? Why are you participating in this series? Why are we going through the hassle of finding those few people who seem to understand this, and calling them up to ask them about it?

Because apparently even though conscious business is both simple and natural, it’s not! Because we do not bring our whole selves to work. We do not tell the truth at work. We do not take time to reflect. And even though we do generally build pretty intelligent business models, do we really do it for purpose? Or do we ‘simply’ do it for profit?

Now let’s look each other in the eyes and play it straight: Is it really conscious business that’s absurd? Absurd enough to need the qualifier ‘conscious’ to tell it apart from ‘normal’ business? I think that’s pretty absurd, and Tami seems to think so, too:

“I do know that the scaffolding of a workplace that is defined by people leaving their souls behind, and coming in in order to make something called ‘money’, so they can try to still squeak out a little time so they can have soulful lives, is an absurd tragedy.

That scaffolding needs to be taken down and not bought into. It’s not serving our families, our communities, or the world and the health of the planet. It’s not serving any of that.

And I don’t think we do ourselves justice if we believe that we have to buy into it. We don’t!”

So, what do you think? What are you buying into as ‘normal’? And how is that serving you and those you care about? We would love to hear your thoughts!

Want to hear more of what Tami was saying about her 25-year experience of building and running a conscious business? You can listen to the recording of the call on the downloads page (find the link in your registration email). If you’re not participating in the series yet, you can register for free above and get instant access to all calls.

Curious about Sounds True? Find more info over on their website. Tami also does a regular podcast with leading spiritual teachers and writers, called Insights at the Edge, which is well worth checking out!


Can you really mix consciousness with business? Can you keep getting things done if you pay lip service to all that ‘soft’ and ‘fluffy’ stuff like feelings, passions, energy, purpose or god forbid, spirituality?

In many circles, this idea is met with at best dismissal, and at worse ridicule. You can’t mix business with that stuff, business is about results, goals, and tangible outcomes. The idea of combining business with consciousness is an oxy-moron – it’s like saying you can have dry rain. Ridiculous.

Inspired by our talk with Jeff Klein last week, I’m going to tell you why this dismissal is not only inaccurate, but actually deluded.

Did you ever notice that stuff changes?

Whether we like it or not, things change.  In fact, things have been changing for quite a while now.  Well, forever actually.  And one of the things that changes at a rather rapid rate is us humans.  We’ve come a long way over the last 200,000 years.

We swapped caves for towns and cities.  We swapped god for science.  We swapped file-o-faxes for iPhones.  And now we’re in the process of swapping traditional capitalism for conscious capitalism, traditional business for conscious business. It’s inevitable

Conscious Business just works better

It’s a rule of Darwinian evolution that the stuff that works best, wins out.  Conscious business just works better.  And here’s why.

People are fed up of having to leave their own hopes and dreams on the night stand, and come to work to do someone else’s bidding.  Henry Ford’s revolutionary production line approach is breaking down. Why?  Because there’s more to life than work, and people know it.

So, while the old dogs of business are still fighting it out in the corporate bored-room, (pun intended), there’s a new guy in town: Conscious Business.

Conscious Business is where we no longer pretend that a business is simply an isolated entity designed to create wealth for its owners.  It’s not just a tube where you feed in time and money in one end, and get Ferraris and nice houses out the other.  It’s an entity that affects all its stakeholders – it’s employees, customers, environment, community and yes, also shareholders.

OK, but how do we judge if it works better?

Let’s make this as hard as possible.  Let’s judge the ‘works better’ claim on the values of traditional business, even though from a conscious perspective, they’re fundamentally limited.

So, from a traditional Business perspective, success is about profit.  Conscious Business can only be judged as working better if it makes more profit that traditional business. A tough challenge? Let’s look at the evidence.

In the Book ‘Firms of Endearment, research shows that companies that use a multi-stakeholder model (one of the core principles of Conscious Business that Jeff shared with us last week) actually make more money than traditional companies.

Did you get that? Companies that work on the principle of purpose beyond profit, and address the needs of all their stakeholders actually make more money than companies that exist purely for profit!

So, even judging the performance of Conscious Business on the cranky old values of traditional business, it still wins out.

Conscious Business is inevitable

It’s inevitable, because it works better – it makes more money. But of course it doesn’t stop there.  The whole purpose of Conscious Business is that it brings in a deeper purpose. It’s about using the power of business to truly engage with people so they align their own passions with their work. What happens then?  The actual world starts to work better.

Evolution has a pretty strong agenda.  It favours the stuff that works best. This stuff works best, and it’s here to stay.  It’s here to change the world.

If you want to hear our conversation with Jeff in full, check out the download’s section (linked to in the email you received when you registered). If you aren’t a member of the Waking up the Workplace community yet, you can register for free above and get access to all the calls.

Check out Jeff Klein’s website for more resources on the topics covered in this post. For more information on Firms of Endearment, check out this site.


Any business book that opens with a quote from Kahil Gibran has to have something pretty darned interesting to say.  And that’s exactly what Jeff Klein’s book does, as me and Jeroen noted over breakfast recently.

“Work is love made visible” – Kahil Gibran

This week on the series, we talk with Jeff, and I want to give you a little bit of a flavour for what you might expect from it.

Jeff is the CEO of Cause Alliance Marketing, and a founding trustee of Conscious Capitalism Inc.  His recent book (the one with the great opening quote) is called Working for Good: Making a Difference While Making a Living.

If you read my last blog, you’ll know that the theme of purpose seems to be a rather hot topic in the series at the moment! And coincidentally, it’s also the valuing of purpose that is one of the things I appreciate about Jeff the most.

In his work with Conscious Capitalism, Jeff uses the following three principles that a Conscious Business needs to have:

  • A Deeper Purpose: one that transcends profit maximization and return on shareholder investment.
  • Stakeholder Orientation: delivering value to all of its stakeholders – customers, employees, partners, industry participants, investors, the community, and the environment.
  • Conscious Leadership: leaders serve as stewards to the company’s deeper purpose and its stakeholders, rather than on personal gain and self-aggrandizement.

We’ll be diving into these principles and Jeff’s 30 years of experience with working for good, and bringing conscious business into the world!

This Thursday will actually be the first time we will talk with Jeff (and I’m excited to announce that Jeroen has gallantly given me his seat in the commentary box for the next few interviews).

We’ve never met in person before. But Jeff has been so supportive of this series, regularly emailing us to offer his congratulations on the work we’ve been doing and helping us out in any way he can. I just know it’s going to be a fascinating conversation, so hope you can be there!

Join the conversation with Jeff Klein this Thursday 7th April! It starts at 8pm CET, which is 7pm BST (British Summer Time), 2pm Eastern time and 11pm Pacific time. Timezone not listed? click here

For Jeff’s bio, click here


Perhaps the biggest transformation we can make in business is to bring our own passions, dreams and purpose right into the heart of the work we do. But what if this is the very thing that is actually stopping business from becoming more conscious and more transformative?

This is the intriguing idea that Holacracy founder Brian Robertson brought up in our call with him last week.

Warning: this could be provocative!

Brian was presenting some pretty radical ideas on the call which could totally turn our relationship to business upside down.

So, be warned, it might provoke you!

What is an organisation’s purpose anyway?

Can our personal dreams and aspirations be the very things that are suffocating our businesses from creating real impact in the world? Well, to really answer that question I think we need to give a definition for purpose, since it can mean a lot of different things!

Here is how Brian defines organisational purpose in his work with companies:

“Purpose is an organisation’s unique capacity to create something new in the world, to bring something new to life, to harness some creativity and express it.”

So, just as you and I are walking our own path in life, trying to find our unique contribution and gift, so an organisation has a purpose or mission of its own.

Not too radical yet right – we’re all pretty familiar with company mission statements.  But who decides what the mission is?

Purpose is not created, it’s uncovered

Who decides upon mission or purpose? It’s a question I’ve pondered a lot myself, so here’s my take.

The more aware I become, the more I feel that my own personal purpose in life is not something that I actually create for myself. I create the manifestation of that purpose by trying to build my businesses, and make a difference in the world.  But I really don’t think I’m personally deciding that purpose, it’s more like I’m uncovering it and refining it as I go along.

Did Mozart decide to be a composer, or was he just born with this incredible gift for creating music?  Did Michael Jordan decide that he should be a basketball player, or was it just there already?

Brian’s point is that the same thing goes for organisations.  We don’t create a purpose for our business, we uncover it.  It’s not creative work, but detective work.

You’re a parent to your business

Most of us would agree that a really good parent is one who helps their children live their own lives. They get their own agenda out of the way, and guide their child to discover what life is about for them.

They don’t force their child to become a lawyer, because that’s the thing that they wanted to do, and never did.  They don’t direct their child to becoming a doctor because they think it’s the most honourable profession. A great parent does all they can to help their son or daughter find their own passion in life, and live their life on their own terms.

So, in the context of good parenting, here is the provocative challenge that Brian laid out:

You are a parent to your own business

As a parent, it is not your job to use your business as a vehicle to achieve your own personal aspirations and dreams. You wouldn’t do this to your human children right?

Your job as a healthy business leader is to acknowledge and honour your personal dreams and aspirations, and then get them out of the way so you can help your business discover its own unique contribution to the world.

I’d love to know what you think

In your work, are you helping your organisation uncover its mission, or are you working out how it can let you do the things you love? Are these two sides contradictory, or can they be integrated? Do you think our personal passion and purpose is a threat to the organisations we work in?

I really want to hear what you think, so post your comments below.

To find out more about Brian’s work and Holacracy, check out this introductory article Organization Evolved: Introducing Holacracy You can also join these Upcoming Free Introductory Holacracy Webinars Enjoy!