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?