Gavin’s Friday Reads

Nov 27, 2020

An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Human Behavior, from our Chair

This list introduces a new weekly series – Gavin’s Friday Reads. As anyone who attends our Town Hall events has come to know, our Board Chairperson, Gavin Watson, is an avid reader who delights in books to stoke his curious mind. Now that many of us arrive at a long weekend ready to relax, unwind and hopefully restore ourselves while safe at home, we wanted to present his top five current book recommendations. 

We offer it in thanks for the health and happiness Conscious Capitalism brings to the world. 

Bonus points for coming to our next Town Hall with one or two under your belt. As always, we’re sure to have a lively exchange. 

  1. Elinor Ostram, Governing the Commons (1990) 

Ostrom won a Nobel Prize in economics for this – and with good reason!  In it, she lays out the conditions necessary for a group to manage common resources, sustainability. Gavin considers this a foundational text because it can be applied to self-organizing teams at work. For next Friday, we’ll lay out all 8 of Ostrom’s core design principles and get into more detail about how we can use these principles to design for creative and highly productive teams that are essentially self-organizing and self-governed.

  1. David Sloan Wilson, with Paul Atkins and Steven Hayes, Prosocial (2013)

Wilson is an evolutionary biologist, and stands on Ostrom’s work in economics to view group behavior through the scientific lens of how humans have evolved over time. As the authors lay out, when you understand how we are hardwired to behave with each other, workplaces as well as volunteer or activist groups can be engineered to address deep social needs in the drive for performance. Gavin wholeheartedly agrees with their claim that addressing social equity first and foremost is the path towards lasting change. 

  1. Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind (2013)

A psychologist, Haidt is concerned with morality and politics, two issues that are intertwined and often divide society into “us” and “them.” Resolving these rifts is primarily, according to the author, a function of shifting our mindset to recognize that we need both caution and risk, standards and autonomy, in order for any human group to function and our species to survive. 

  1. Jeff Sutherland, Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time (2014)

By now you may notice that these picks are in chronological order. Their ideas interlock, and reflect Gavin’s own interdisciplinary approach to poking at the biggest and most fundamental questions that can keep us up at night. Why is it so easy to misunderstand each other, even when we’re on the same team? And how can work have more intrinsic meaning, so that it becomes creatively satisfying? These itches get scratched in this read, which will motivate some immediate experiments. Gavin has found that inviting people to opt-in to projects, empowering them to self-organize and keeping up a conversation about what’s working and what’s not is the essence of Scrum, and it works! 

  1. Robert M. Sapolsky, Behave (2017)

The subtitle of this book is “Humans at our Best and Worst.”  Do you see a theme, here, yet? Gavin is enthusiastically concerned about how we treat each other in groups not only so we can get things done right, but so we can decide – together, and not in conflict – to do the right things! This pick from Bill Gates’ reading list is more than worthy of being passed along, because it draws upon latest advances in neurobiology, primatology, and other scientific disciplines to explore all of the above. 

“If you only have time to read one new text over Thanksgiving break, any of these would be worthwhile. But if you want to build a mini-curriculum of big ideas that can lead to great results, this could be a good start. We’ll be at the Town Halls ready to discuss, and of course want to hear your picks as well!” 

-Gavin Watson

Principles of Conscious Capitalism

Conscious Capitalism has 4 principles. Conscious Leadership, a Higher Purpose, a responsibility to every Stakeholder and a Conscious Culture. As Raj and John say they are all connected with each other and you can’t separate them out they all go together.

My favorite part though is Conscious Culture.

No matter what your perspective or political affiliation I am sure we can all agree that there is a lot to do.

Our world needs all of our best efforts if we are going to get it all done.

Unfortunately, as Gallup is happy to tell us only about 30% of us are engaged (13% globally). This is a huge waste of potential. As Raj and John say, “humans are not a resource, they are a source”. Like the sun humans are creative and full of potential to do what needs doing in amazing new ways.

There are two reasons that Conscious Culture is my favorite part.

The first reason is that the people in the organization are the ones who are going to make everything else happen. The people carry us all forward in service of our higher purpose and the people take care of all of the stakeholders, starting with the customers and the suppliers and then the community and the environment. This is where it all happens.

The second reason is 90,000 hours! This is the number of hours each of us is likely to spend working during our lives. A paycheck is just a stipend that keeps us going, it needs to be fair and above average and that is where it stops being important. Once we are compensated fairly and generously then the issue of money is no longer worth our time and we can get to what really matters. For a healthy work environment, we should avoid all other extrinsic motivation. (no bonuses! they are a distraction and a demotivator)

Human beings have intrinsic needs. We want; positive emotion, relationships, meaning/purpose. We want to learn and to teach what we know, we want environments filled with humility, humor, forgiveness, compassion, generosity and gratitude. We need psychological safety and autonomy to flourish.

Want to know why 70% of people are not engaged or are actively disengaged? There are two potential reasons.

#1 Scarred psyches. Many people have spent years in abusive or sub optimal work environments where they were distrusted, closely monitored, manipulated, and treated like a resource. They may have had a manager who was nothing like a Conscious Leader. It can start very early. Many of us from grade school through high school were told what to do, exactly how to do it, and judged by how well we conformed. Some company environments are harsh. It is no wonder that after years of acculturation to perform in a non-compassionate and non-creative environment that it can take time for someone to begin to trust, feel safe, and begin to engage.

#2 Have we provided an intrinsically motivating environment for them? Human beings need psychological safety and autonomy, this is non-negotiable. How much autonomy is there for us to decide what we are going to do, how we are going to do, it and who are we going to do it with? Most typical managers would be shocked to see how far autonomy can go and how well it works. Have we co created an environment with friendships, positive emotions, compassion, generosity and gratitude? Are people learning from eachother and teaching eachother every day?

Our planet and everyone on it needs all of us to be performing at our best. This is why creating a Conscious Culture is more important now than ever.

Gavin Watson

As of January 2020, Gavin Watson began serving as Board Chair of Conscious Capitalism, Connecticut Chapter. View Gavin’s LinkedIn profile here:


Horse Leadership

Gavin Watson

I have been reading Mismatch by Ronald Giphart and Mark van Vugt. The following are some ideas I gleaned from the section about the mismatch in the work environment. The book is about the mismatch between the environment in which we were “designed” by evolution and the environment in which we now live and work.

We can learn something valuable from horses. They have a different system of leadership than we use in our corporations.

Within herds of horses the leader is a mare. She is the leader because the other horses choose to follow her. They select her to lead them because she is the best at looking after the others. She is the best at keeping the group healthy. She does not take leadership it is given to her by the other horses.

Here is the way they define leadership: “Leadership is a process of social influencing, whereby a leader coordinates the activities of one or more followers.”

There is a stallion also. He does not lead he follows. He guards the back of the herd and protects it from predators.

Gorillas establish “leadership” based on who is strongest. The strongest male gets all of the females. This is of course not real leadership according to the definition above. It is just dominance.

Chimpanzees will have none of that. If one male chimpanzee is too dominant and taking advantage of things for his own interest several other male chimpanzees will gang up on him and put an end to it. This keeps dominance in check.

For humans group survival is the key to passing along our genes. (the goal of evolution our ‘designer’ is gene replication) Human cooperation is our main survival mechanism. Anything that gets in the way of cooperation (like aggressive and dominant individuals) needs to be eradicated. In our ancestral environments the followers selected the leader(s). We did not have just one leader who led all the time. Leadership was fluid. Who was leading us depended on what was needed at that moment. The one most suited for that need took the lead.

Our current corporate structures do not allow for this flexibility. We do not select who will lead us. Leadership does not easily change when the situation changes. In addition, because managers are often “leading” from positional authority rather than being selected by their followers, their followers can not easily get rid of them when they begin to behave in ways that are in their own interests instead of the interests of the group.

We could learn something from horses and our human ancestors. Two different species evolved similar solutions that work.

Gavin Watson

As of January 2020, Gavin Watson began serving as Board Chair of Conscious Capitalism, Connecticut Chapter. View Gavin’s LinkedIn profile here:


Energy Savings at Watson Inc.

Gavin Watson

In March of 2019 we sold our family business Watson Inc. to an Irish food company Glanbia PLC. Watson is a nutritional food ingredients company in West haven CT with 330 employees, 100 million in sales and about 10 million in profits. We sold Watson for $89 million. Glanbia has kept the facilities and all of our people. Glanbia is investing heavily in growth and new business at the company.

I mention the above not because it is particularly relevant but just to establish that I have valid experience and I know what I am talking about when it comes to running a business.

I have always been most interested in two things. Saving energy and developing people.

In my high school years, I experimented with solar energy. While in college in the late 70’s. I built an experimental three-wheel energy efficient vehicle. Later on, after college, I converted a Porsche 914 into an electric vehicle. Over the years I have converted three diesel cars to run on vegetable oil, so they would be carbon neutral and have a zero-carbon footprint.

In college I studied psychology and religious studies. I am still driven to understand and share what I discover about, what motivates us, and what humans find is a meaningful higher purpose.

In this blog I want to tell you about our experience becoming more sustainable in terms of electrical usage at Watson Inc. We had been conscious of our effect on the environment for a long time. I was purchasing 100% renewable electricity starting in 2010. In 2015 we really started to put a lot of effort into sustainability.

One of the things I am most proud of is our reduction in electrical energy consumption. We were already buying 100% wind energy for our electrical needs but I wanted to use as little of that as we could so that more energy would be available for other things. I reasoned that if more people were to start driving electric cars, as I was doing, that was going to put an additional load on the electricity supply so we needed to free up as much as possible.

By 2019 we had succeeded in reducing our electric consumption by 25% while growing the company 20%.

Typically, most companies would hire a consultant to come in and survey our operations and give us a list of the things we should do. This would have been easy but not optimal in my view. Instead we hired a consulting team (Leanovations) to come in and show us how to do an energy survey and how to quantify it ourselves.

I asked everyone in the company to let me know if they were interested in participating in this. Seven people volunteered. Most volunteers were from the maintenance department, which you would expect, but there were also people from the analytical lab who were passionate about energy saving.

There are two benefits to doing it this way. The first is that people are learning something valuable and they are actively involved in something they care about. This naturally leads to higher engagement. The second benefit is that we now have the skills in house and enthusiastic people paying attention to this so this knowledge can be applied continually.

We ran this as a kaizen event. We went to the “Gemba” where the energy is used and quantified it. Teams learned how to read the information on motors and other equipment. We measured the amount of power it was drawing, and how many hours it was on. We pulled this information together and made easily understandable charts so people could see where the energy was being used. We explored what could be done differently. We came up with ideas. We applied to the electric utility for funding and received over 50% funding (about $800,000) for what we did. The payback on our investment was about 3 years.

This is what it ended up looking like in 2015.

Watson Inc. – Annual KWH Usage

Watson inc Annual KWH Usage

This is what we physically did;

Air Compressor

Our old air compressor system would run continuously and load and unload as the air pressure cycled up and down in the building from 110 to 120 psi.

We upgraded our air compressor to a new VFD drive compressor that would speed up or slow down as needed keeping the air pressure constant. We also added 2,000 gallons of additional compressed air storage to the 2,500 gallons we already had.

We upgraded the compressed air piping from 3” to 6” piping. This gave us more uniform air pressure at the far end of the plant. Previously we ran the compressor at 110 psi to get 90 psi at the furthest machine at the other side of the facility. With the 6-inch piping there is virtually no pressure drop from the beginning to the end of the line. The new compressor now runs at 94psi only. For every 2psi of pressure reduction an air compressor uses 1% less energy. Since the compressor runs 24/6 days a week this really adds up. We are using 10% less energy on our compressor which is 25% of our building energy usage so that amounts to 2.5% reduction in facility electricity usage over all.

LED lighting

We upgraded all three facilities (West Haven, CT, Orange CT, and Taylorville, Illinois) with LED lighting.

Dust Collection

In West Haven we had 14 dust collectors some had blowers on them of 10 HP and some of them up to 50HP, depending on the size of the unit. The average was about 20 horse power. In addition, these dust collectors also used compressed air to pulse clean the filters.

We replaced these dust collectors with much smaller units that are situated right next to where the dust is being generated. These new units have 5HP motors and they are cleaned with compressed air only when the operator pushes a button on the unit. These smaller units actually process about 20% more air flow than the larger units did but they use much less energy. They are able to do this because we do not have the efficiency losses of long sections of ductwork. (We no longer have long sections of ductwork that need to be disassembled and cleaned either. There is just a short piece of flex hose.)

A more dramatic energy savings was achieved because the new dust collectors return the air to the room. The old dust collection units exhausted the air outside the building above the roof where the old exhaust blowers were located. Because the air is no longer being exhausted outside, the air conditioners no longer have to cool down the make-up air. The old dust collectors exhausted the entire volume of air in the room every 30 minutes. This meant that the air conditioners had to cool the entire volume of air in the room from whatever the outside temperature was to the required room temperature two times an hour. (This was sort of like driving around in your car with the AC on and the windows down.)

Since the new units return the air to the room, so the AC units no longer need to work as hard.

The same dust collection reconfiguration was done in Orange and in Taylorville.

Air Conditioning

We replaced all 33 of the HVAC units with newer more efficient units with economizers on them.

We replaced older inefficient motors with more efficient ones.


We use steam for many of our processes. We have done several steam trap surveys and fixed and replaced traps that were not operating properly. We also reconfigured our steam piping to make it more efficient.

Compressed Air Leak Survey

We conducted several sleeping building audits. On a day that nothing is running we walk around the building looking for things that were running that could be turned off and we also looking for compressed air leaks. These leaks were fixed. There is a lot to be learned and saved by doing these sorts of sleeping building audits.

This is how our energy usage declined. There is some variability due to weather inconsistencies but you can see the trend.

Watson Electric Monthly KWh

Just to put this in perspective according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average US family uses 900 KWH per month. We reduced our energy usage by about 100,000 KWH per month or about as much as 110 U.S. households.

We did this while at the same time growing the company from $80 million to $100 million in sales.

For me personally I enjoyed combining energy efficiency with collaborative learning. Learning every day is essential for long-term engagement, and long-term company success.

A sustainability project like this and developing a conscious company culture are both things that are never done. There is always more to do.

Gavin Watson

As of January 2020, Gavin Watson began serving as Board Chair of Conscious Capitalism, Connecticut Chapter. View Gavin’s LinkedIn profile here:


Marna Wilber

Why do we need a new way of doing business?

Marna Wilber

Companies need to find new ways of conducting business for a variety of reasons. They are continuously being asked to deliver improved results with fewer resources; employees are asked to do more and often become overly stressed.

But how do the best companies keep employees healthy, engaged, interested and loyal? By developing a mission-driven organization, companies can evangelize their employees to share in that mission creating a sense of belonging and community. This is critical because companies need to attract and retain the best talent for top performance and by having a clear purpose, employee retention and engagement improve, and future community-focused leaders emerge.

Give us an idea of how have you helped make the world a better place?

Over my lifetime, I have been involved with many non-profit organizations. I attribute this passion to my mother who was always very mindful of what our family could do to assist or welcome others.

Currently I serve on three boards including Conscious Capitalism Connecticut. What I have realized over the years is that it is not enough to be a donor or a sponsor. Donors and sponsors are great but tend to have simple transactional relationships with philanthropic organizations. To be a champion of the cause and donate one’s time, talent, treasure and spread the word on the mission, is when everybody wins. I strive to be involved by contributing my time, funds and talent communicating and marketing organizations missions while building their brand.

Additionally, my intention is to be a true champion for the organizations I am associated with and to continue to encourage companies to find their purpose for an employee, business and community win-win-win.

What does Conscious capitalism mean to you?

Conscious Capitalism is the opportunity for a for-profit business to associate itself with a challenge or inequity in society and then champion for its elimination or improvement resulting in a better world.

There are many for-profit businesses that have giving strategies or a non-profit association where they donate funds or gifts-in-kind. But many of these relationships lack the full commitment of time, talent, treasure and evangelize the message. When companies can engage on all four of these aspects, our world will be a better place.

Alrun Hylwa

Why do we need a new way of doing business?

Why are we here? What is our purpose? There is a trend, even a yearning and a certain urgency for meaningful change and a renewed approach on how we do business. A new generation of enterprises, functioning more like a living organism rather than an institution, with conscious leadership, engaged stakeholders, social and environmental awareness, all working together to elevate each other while creating wealth and success. It is about active listening, being human, engaged, conscious and mindful of our actions, doing good while doing business. Each one of us has a unique gift – let’s share it.

Give us an idea of how you have helped to make the world a better place

Living in a rapidly changing age of media and technology, with constantly evolving new electronic platforms to adapt to, staying connected and grounded as a human being, on a human level is more important than ever. Being present, aware of one’s surroundings and people, kind, acting purposefully and thoughtfully are core values I try to live by. My day starts and ends looking at two words on sticky notes ‘Give’ and ‘Grow’. Two small words reminding me of what is important, staying true to myself and setting out each day anew to be the best I can be, doing good, as an executive, as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a human being – grateful to be alive.

What does Conscious Capitalism mean to you?

Conscious Capitalism is a conduit to be able to make a difference. We all spend long hours each and every day at work with colleagues, consultants, superiors, all to provide for our families and to enjoy what we create. Being able to mindfully set goals together, shaping company culture, positively affecting social change and helping protect our planet for generations to come through conscious leadership is crucial alongside financial goals and success. To me Conscious Capitalism is a path worth pursuing, a meaningful movement to be part of, to shape and create a purposeful, prosperous future together.

Gavin Watson

Chair – Connecticut Chapter

Why do we need a new way of doing business? 

Because the current management and business practices that most companies are practicing today are at least 100years old.  In that time two things have happened. First the world moves much more quickly now and secondly we have learned a lot about the best environments for human engagement and productivity, we now know how to create an engaging and quickly responding workplace.  Several companies have pioneered and achieved this. It results in a better environment for people and a more prosperous company so why would we not do it?

Give us an idea of how have you helped make the world a better place? 

I read a lot of different books and learned about practices other more progressive companies.  I also read a lot in the field of positive psychology and other recent scientific studies. It became obvious to me that we should be managing and structuring our companies not on current “best business practices” which are not science based, but we should be structuring our companies and managing our work places based on the current best research.  Using the information and the examples of other companies I tried out several new approaches and they work very well. We created an environment rich in autonomy and information flow where people can flourish and the company performance is much better. 

What does Conscious capitalism mean to you? 

It means being conscious, self-aware, a certain stage of human development and maturity.  Many companies don’t stop to think about anything past the strategic plan, coming within budget, and making money.  They are acting like a single cell organism that is not self-conscious. A single cell organism that is consuming all of the food in the petri dish as fast as possible.

A conscious company is self-aware.  A conscious company knows why it exists and knows that it exists for something much more than making money.  A conscious company has a purpose and regards making money as just something it must do so that it can continue to exist and continue to pursue it’s purpose.  A conscious company also knows that it has a responsibility to all of its stakeholders. First of all the employees for without them nothing else matters, and without them the purpose cannot be pursued.  Then the other stakeholders; the suppliers, customers, the community, the environment and finally the shareholders who get what is left over of the money. In a conscious company there will be plenty of financial reward because the conscious company will outperform it’s non conscious competition.  The shareholders true reward however is the knowledge of the difference their assets are making in the world. Because the shareholders of a conscious company are of course themselves conscious.

Introversion and Leadership

Gavin Watson

I am reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain.  It was recommended to me by Allison Holzer one of the co-board members of our Conscious Capitalism group in Connecticut.  Quiet is about “The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.”

There are many notable observations that Cain makes and I am only about 1/3 of the way through it.

One of the particular things that I found makes a lot of sense to me is the difference between extroverted leaders and introverted leaders and what works best and when.

Cain makes the observation that extroverted leadership works best when the team needs motivation and direction.  The extrovert excels at being confident that they know the one best way and exactly where the group needs to go. They can get a group of disengaged people energized to follow them by sheer dint of personality and self-confidence. They will happily use extrinsic motivators such as threats, or rewards and bonuses to get people to do what they want. If you have a group of non-engaged individuals who are lacking in motivation, and mission or purpose you may need an extroverted leader to get them going, to drive success, to lead the charge!

Susan Cain Quotes


Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas ….

There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas

Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.

Introverted leaders, on the other hand, tend to lean back and encourage others to lead from wherever they are.  Introverted leaders recognize that they always have a lot more to learn and discover. They take more time to carefully consider options.  They know that they may not have the best ideas and they are excited to consider a variety of perspectives. Introverted leaders are more likely to welcome a difference of opinion.  They will be more likely to try several options at the same time rather than confidently committing everything to just one best way. They will be more likely to see a need to pivot and make corrections along the way.  Introverted leadership works best in an environment full of meaning and purpose, where people are engaged and eager to contribute in creative ways. The introverted leader also naturally creates this meaningful and intrinsically motivating environment.  The introverted leader creates a safe environment for a variety of opinions and psychological safety to explore new ideas and make mistakes and discover more opportunities for success. 

In the old world (50 years ago) that changed slowly and predictably, where people left themselves at home and came to work to do what they were told and follow the procedures and were just happy to have a job, extroverted leadership was a successful strategy.

Increasingly we live in a complex world where things are not always what they seem to be, and they change quickly. We need the creativity that comes out of working in an environment that is interested in exploring new and contrary ideas.

The introverted style of leadership is increasingly a more successful strategy.  

Gavin Watson

As of January 2020, Gavin Watson began serving as Board Chair of Conscious Capitalism, Connecticut Chapter. View Gavin’s LinkedIn profile here:


Heather Desjardins

Why do we need a new way of doing business?

We are living in a world that is demanding a depth and purpose to how we earn, how we spend and how we interact with our capital.  Through the expansion of technology and knowledge, we understand the effects our choices have had on our species and our earth. It is imperative that we shift our relationship with all forms of capital for our very survival.   

How have you helped make the world a better place?

I am the Chief Development Officer of Conscious Capital Wealth Management, empowering individuals to live their dreams and align their investments with their values through investment vehicles and technology aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).  I am one the founding members of the executive team of Future Capital and Co-Founder of the Live Whole™ Institute encouraging others to remember their reason for being here and encourage them to live a life of passion and purpose.     

What does conscious capitalism mean to you?

Conscious capitalism is an operating system vibrating at a high consciousness level where all stakeholders including the earth are engaged through love, inclusion, honesty and integrity.

Allison Holzer

Why do we need a new way of doing business?

The world of work has drastically changed in the last 10 years. More than ever before, people want to have a calling, they want the organizations they work for to have a cause, and they want to feel a sense of community both within and outside of work. When people feel inspired by their work and the mission of their organizations, they bring their best to the table. Collectively, everyone benefits. I love Hamdi Ulukaya’s recent TED talk where he says that businesses can be the great positive change agents in today’s society. 

Give us an idea of how have you helped make the world a better place?

I believe that sustainable inspiration is one of the most underrated and most critical resources to be managed in modern work. I’ve spent the last several years researching inspiration, cracking the code on how we can tap into this resource more intentionally. In sharing this knowledge with clients and the world, I’m helping them clear away clutter, activate their strengths, and deliver on extraordinary results. We spend 90K hours on average at work in a lifetime. When more of these hours are inspired ones – both individually and collectively, the world is most certainly a better place. 

What does Conscious capitalism mean to you?

Gone are the days when businesses who only care about the bottom line profits at any cost to others succeed the most. Conscious Capitalism is a collective commitment to being intentional about how we do business so that we are attuned to our impact on others, our colleagues, the environment, the community, the world. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being conscious and attuned to our impact on others, so when we do make mistakes, we learn from them and grow collectively in the process.  I believe that conscious capitalists are people who are called to do business with empathy.