Book Review of Conscious Capitalism

The book makes for an easy evening read. It addresses four important areas that business leaders have to build upon: I) Stakeholder integration, II) Higher purpose and core values, III) Conscious culture and management, IV) Conscious leadership. In addressing these areas within the pyramid outlined by authors Mackey and Sisodia, leaders become in that sense, conscious capitalists who seek for the betterment of human society as a whole through capitalism. Indeed, businesses do not exist merely for the sake of maximizing profit. Within each business lies a fundamental purpose, which the authors have rightfully pointed out in the introductory chapters of the book. Despite the fact that there has been some bad vibes about capitalism as a whole due to a lack of understanding and the manner which greed has painted it in negative light, this book does shed some light as to how capitalism is meant to be seen and practiced.

The good: the authors have collected and sprinkled a great deal of quotes throughout the book, which makes it quote-worthy. By using them,the message gets hit home even faster as readers are able to quickly grasp where the authors are heading. Some of the reviewer’s personal favourites include:

“In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run it is a weighing machine.” Ben Graham.

“Too much management without enough leadership leads to too much stability and inward focus. This eventually results in stagnation, decline and probably the death of the organization. Too much leadership without enough management is also dangerous; the company lacks organizational capacity, operational discipline and efficiency, and the business can become very risky.” John Kotter

The bad: It is unfortunate that the Mackey has written the foundational principles from a primarily philosophical-spiritual mindset, which can be seen through the way they are articulated. He also seems to be pushing his spirituality without realising the extent of it being overdone, inculcating meditation, breathing techniques, etc. sprinkled through a “things you might want to consider doing” approach. While the reviewer recognises the need for holistic writing, it becomes distasteful when authors begin infusing Eastern philosophical-religious practices into an otherwise practical book. From the looks of it, the phrase “Conscious Capitalism” really seems to be built upon the foundations of this philosophical-religious theme, which brings this theme to the forefront through disguising spiritual guidance as business thought. Additionally, Mackey seems to be pushing for the recognition of his philosophy and company practices at Whole Foods. Examples from other successful companies could have been used.

Jason.CJ (MBA), Editor, BLM

Excerpt

Picture a business built on love and care rather than stress and fear, whose team members are passionate and committed to their work. Their days race by in a blur of focused intensity, collaboration, and camaraderie. Far from becoming depleted and burned out, they find themselves at the end of each day newly inspired and freshly committed to what brought them to the business in the first place—the opportunity to be part of something larger than themselves, to make a difference, to craft a purposeful life while earning a living.

Think of a business that cares profoundly about the well-being of its customers, seeing them not as consumers but as flesh-and-blood human beings whom it is privileged to serve. It would no more mislead, mistreat, or ignore its customers than any thoughtful person would exploit loved ones at home. Its team members experience the joy of service, of enriching the lives of others.

Envision a business that embraces outsiders as insiders, inviting its suppliers into the family circle and treating them with the same love and care it showers on its customers and team members. Imagine a business that is a commit- ted and caring citizen of every community it inhabits, elevating its civic life and contributing in multiple ways to its betterment. Imagine a business that views its competitors not as enemies to be crushed but as teachers to learn from and fellow travelers on a journey toward excellence. Visualize a business that genuinely cares about the planet and all the sentient beings that live on it, that celebrates the glories of nature, that thinks beyond carbon and neutrality to become a healing force that nurses the ecosphere back to sustained vitality.

Imagine a business that exercises great care in whom it hires, where hardly anyone ever leaves once he or she joins. Imagine a business with fewer managers, because it doesn’t need anyone to look over peoples’ shoulders to make sure they are working or know what to do, a business that is self-managing, self- motivating, self-organizing, and self-healing like any evolved, sentient being.
See in your mind’s eye a business that chooses and promotes leaders because of their wisdom and capacity for love and care, individuals who lead by mentoring and inspiring people rather than commanding them or using carrots and sticks. These leaders care passionately about their people and the purpose of their business and little for power or personal enrichment.

Imagine a business that exists in a virtuous cycle of multifaceted value creation, generating social, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, cultural, physical, and ecological wealth and well-being for everyone it touches, while also delivering superior financial results year after year, decade after decade. Imagine a business that recognizes that while our planetary resources are limited, human creativity is unlimited and continually fosters the conditions in which its people can rise to their extraordinary, almost miraculous potential.

Such businesses—suffused with higher purpose, leavened with authentic caring, influential and inspirational, egalitarian and committed to excellence, trustworthy and transparent, admired and emulated, loved and respected— are not imaginary entities in some fictional utopia. They exist in the real world, by the dozens today but soon to be by the hundreds and thousands. Examples of such companies today include Whole Foods Market, The Container Store, Patagonia, Eaton, the Tata Group, Google, Panera Bread, Southwest Airlines, Bright Horizons, Starbucks, UPS, Costco, Wegmans, REI, Twitter, POSCO, and many others. In the decades ahead, companies such as these will transform the world and lift humanity to new heights of emotional and spiritual well-being, physical vitality, and material abundance.

Welcome to the heroic new world of Conscious Capitalism.

Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business Review Press. Excerpted from Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey and Raj Sisodi. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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One thought on “Book Review of Conscious Capitalism

  1. Reblogged this on Lead Me On and commented:
    I enjoyed this thoughtful review of Conscious Capitalism. It raises interesting questions about writings that embrace spirituality as a natural part of our leadership. There is a tender balance between discussing mindful management for sustainable social and economic change, and proposing a spiritual solution to Western culture. We can’t help but speak from personal knowledge and experience, and at the same time we need to expand our perspectives to be more inclusive and clear about the core concepts! It’s quite a challenge. I enjoyed the analysis of pros and cons for the book, and look forward to reading it!

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