“Has business gone mad?” That is the question people might ask when they hear that CEOs, company board members, entrepreneurs, academics, consultants and executive coaches spent two days together talking about love and caring at work, appreciation and gratitude for employees, and joy and consciousness practices that can improve productivity and well-being. Companies represented at this gathering came from various industries such as retail, the hospitality industry, restaurants, finance, construction and more. Even a couple of conglomerates were represented.
Have they gone crazy? It’s no wonder that question comes up, since business generally has such a bad reputation and many see it as serving only its CEOs and shareholders, with a primary focus on profit and the bottom line.
Both mad and crazy maybe or could it be that business is finally coming to its senses and valuing the human spirit? At the 2012 Fourth Annual International Conference on Conscious Capitalism, which was held at the Bentley University in the U.S. earlier this week, the theme was “Conscious Culture: Building a Flourishing Business on Love and Care”. I was lucky enough to attend and learn about the conference speakers’ and attendees’ consensus that it is time to humanize business.
The good news is that this is already happening. Apart from attendees from the U.S., the conference guests came from all corners of the world, including Europe, Australia, South Africa and South America. Many represented new initiatives. For example, Gina Hayden came from South Africa, and recently co-founded the U.K. based Global Institute for Conscious Leadership with her partner Dr.Sarah Morris. You could also find next-generation leaders at the conference. Twenty-one-year-old Corey Leveen, who joined his CEO father Steve Leveen from Levenger, was one of these. A business senior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he is researching his own startup – a peer-to-peer food sharing program. Then there was Chris McAdams, a young social entrepreneur from Texas, who traveled on a Greyhound bus for 54 hours to attend the conference. Young people today intuitively know that things have to change, and that business as usual is not an option. They crave conscious leadership and mentoring that can provide them with the knowledge, wisdom and inspiration that are missing from most MBA programs. They want to build businesses using the new paradigm that Blake Mycoskie of Toms and Tony Hsien of Zappos are modeling.
At the conference, new research was presented in various areas. For example, Ed Freeman, from the University of Virginia, who is often referred to as the originator of the stakeholder’s model, talked about values and how they have to be lived through questions and inquiry instead of coming from fixed answers. Michael Gelb, author of “Brain Power: Improve Your Mind as You Age”, said in his speech that research is proving that our brain power improves with use, and how we use it can determine whether or not we go through life with a loving and caring attitude. And Srinivisan Pillay, author of “Your Brain and Business: The Neuroscience of Great Leaders” explained why trust, often thought to be one of the most important attributes in business, is associated with the hormone oxytocin that helps people to deal with fear. This is important because fear is the underlying cause of our command and control behavior (often called ego) that creates most, if not all, of our less-than-loving behavior at work and in our private lives.
Vineeta Salvi, CEO of Vidya Solutions, introduced the audience to practices such as conscious breathing and stretching. Nithya Shanti from the Nithya Shanti Foundation inspired listeners with his sharing about joy and happiness. And Nilima Bhat from Roots & Wings Consulting led a workshop on presence. Hopefully in time all of these consciousness practices will become an integral part of every company’s culture.
Some of the other speakers who are conscious-minded business leaders were Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre; Abilio dos Santos Diniz, one of the biggest business moguls in South America; the legendary Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic, Inc.; Karambir Singh Kang, who represented the international TATA Group; John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods; Kip Tindell, co-founder and CEO of the Container Store; Ronald M. Shaich founder, chairman and co-CEO of Panera Bread Company; and Scott Minerd, co-founder and CIO of the investment companyGuggenheim Partners, LLC. Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s Company and the present CEO of theConscious Capitalism Inc., was also present.
The heart of the Conscious Capitalism Institute are its two co-founders. Raj Sisodia is a professor of marketing at Bentley College and co-author of the much-talked-about book Firms of Endearment: How World Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose. Shubhro Sen is the president of Powershare, Inc. and executive director of theConscious Capitalism Institute. and The value of their vision and the manifestation thereof has already been proven.
The CCI Conferences are important as we build a community around the new business culture that is emerging in this area. Inspirational sparks fly out from the conference and support grass root initiatives like Lisa Hamaker’s project in the Boston area. She launched her Conscious Business Roundtable initiative the day after the CCI Conference last week with great success. The CB Roundtable is a place to explore career and calling through the lens of mindful, conscious practices.
We at the Conscious Leader Network got stronger sense of our own vision and how we would like to be of service to the world through our interaction with and inspiration from the Conscious Capitalism movement. Keep an eye out for the next CCI Conference a year from now.