As an investor, founder, CEO and business book author, I write about startups, design, how to build a good business, and I like to muse about culture in any form.

Brain Food “Takeout” Delivery by Raj Sisodia: Conscious Capitalism

Raj Sisodia delivering brain food to the Grommet team

We have a weekly team meeting that we “blew up” today.  Here’s why:  Lara Simon told me that at her first startup, Yoyodyne, founder Seth Godin used to productively override team meetings to deliver “MBA in a week” lessons.  I liked that idea.  Not so much the MBA part, but the “let’s learn something together” part.

I’ve recently gotten to know Bentley University professor Raj Sisodia through his role as co-founder of the Conscious Capitalism Institute.   I participated in their recent conference where I was honored to meet Stonyfield Farm’s CEO Gary Hirshberg, Kip Tindell, the CEO of The Container Store, and Doug Rauch  former President of Trader Joe’s, all practitioners of Conscious Capitalism.

Inspired by these powerful and successful companies and their impact in the world, I asked Raj to hijack our weekly team meeting and give us a tutorial on Conscious Capitalism.  Brain food indeed.  I won’t need to eat for a week, and I think our team felt similarly well-nourished.

Raj is the co-author of Firms of Endearment, whose title is fairly self-evident.  In developing the Conscious Capitalism movement he is taking his fascinating findings about purpose-driven organizations to another level.  I’m frustrated with just sharing a snippet from the CCI site here, but it is a good start to understand the movement:

Companies that practice conscious capitalism thus embody the idea that profit and prosperity can and must go hand in hand with social justice and environmental stewardship. They operate with a systems view, recognizing and benefiting from the connectedness and interdependence of all stakeholders. They tap into deeper sources of positive energy and create greater value for all stakeholders. They reject false trade-offs between stakeholder interests and strive for creative ways to achieve win-win outcomes for all. They utilize creative business models that are both transformational and inspirational, and can help solve the world’s many social and environmental problems.

Below are my random and incomplete notes about the facts and stats Raj shared that really struck me:

  • US per capita marketing expenditures are $3,300, which is more than the annual income of 86% of the world’s population.
  • Yet marketing, and big business, is generally deeply distrusted.  On a survey of trusted institutions, big business is 17th from the bottom.  (Interestingly, small business is second from the top!)  This cynicism and distrust is demanding more than incremental responses by business–it requires massive upheaval.
  • The companies studied in “Firms of Endearmen”t spend very little on marketing:  Whole Foods spends 1/10 of its industry standard marketing budget and 90% of this is directed towards local social initiatives.
  • The average age of a US citizen is 43, Europe is 47, Japan is 53-4.  It’s the first time in history when the demographic that traditionally seeks spirituality, purpose, and meaning in life is so dominant in developed countries.  Not surprisingly, the second best selling book of all time is “The Purpose-Driven Life”, bested only by the Bible.
  • While 350 communities have passed laws to prevent WalMart from building in their town, Whole Foods gets 1,000 letters a week asking about their future store expansion plans from people who don’t want to move to a community unless they know Whole Foods will be also moving there.
  • Psychological studies of successful businesses (traditional ones) reveal large parallels to psychopathic personalities:  i.e.e highly driven and self-absorbed, a take no prisoners attitude, believing in business as a zero-sum game.
  • In an age where information is democratized, and transparency in all dealings is a given, old-fashioned “command and control” businesses will suffer.  Conscious Capitalist companies will ascend, as they balance all stakeholders (people, profits, planet) with a conscious culture and conscious leadership, all directed at a higher purpose.  For Google:  organizing the world’s information, for Southwest Airlines: democratizing air travel, Whole Foods: organic living.   Daily Grommet:  citizen-shaped commerce.

I am happy to share Raj’s presentation if anyone asks me for it.  jules @ dailygrommet . com

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