The convergence between sustainability and investing is driving systemic change in the capital markets. Bloomberg estimates that ESG investing – which involves taking into account Environmental, Social, and Governance considerations in addition to financial factors – will represent a third of global assets under management by 2025. In her recent article, Anna Alemani draws attention to a frequently disregarded cause driving the growth of sustainable investing.
“The digital revolution gave consumers and investors access to virtually unlimited information. Financially material information about a company is no longer limited to SEC filings, ratings, and buy/sell recommendations from few trusted sources. Social media and other alternative data sources expose good or bad corporate behavior, allowing us to compare organizations on previously hidden areas of operations.”
Anna Alemani is the Managing Partner of Pinnacle ESG Services, helping clients advance responsible investing and sustainable business practices. Using rigorous financial analysis and systematic reporting, Anna helps asset managers integrate long-term sustainability into their investment cycle and make it a key component of their value-creation proposition to investors.
Anna’s career in the financial industry started in 2006 at Standard & Poor’s, where she was a Corporate Bond Rating Analyst covering various Energy sectors. From 2011 to 2017 she worked as a Senior Credit Risk Analyst for Noble Group, managing due diligence, risk assessment & credit underwriting for the Energy & Renewables trading desk. Anna holds a BA in Business Administration from Bocconi University in Milan and an MBA from Columbia Business School in New York. Anna also holds a certification in ESG Investing from Columbia Business School. She is a member of our Chapter’s 2023-24 Conscious Leaders Network.
In July 2022, our Board member Sashi Edupuganti was humbled and honored by CxO Outlook as one of the 10 most inspiring entrepreneurs. While we celebrate his achievement, we want to give our community a chance to get to know him better.
Every time you or I go online, the trail of our digital footprints gets bigger. With the ever-growing volumes of data being processed by social and media sites and streamed daily, data brokers have found new methods to make vast profits as they sell the same data many times over. Now, however, enterprises are turning to data monetization to build brand loyalty and trust.
This journey began for Sashi, who is Founder & CEO at ODE Holdings, when his youngest child, then eight years old, in 2019, wanted to become a social media influencer and star. As a parent, he felt a sense of duty to support his children’s dreams while simultaneously protecting them from the perils of social media. As he was exploring the risk and dangers of the digital landscape, he started to develop a hypothesis about how to create a world where we all could trust our digital footprints on the web.
The company was founded with the vision to create a new ‘Future of Consumer Data,’ creating a balanced and ethical data ecosystem. ODE uses state-of-the-art and emerging technologies to solve problems that widely impact consumers and corporations. While developed nations will benefit tremendously, the company expects that developing nations will reap the rewards of being able to monetize their data and create economic balance as they have not yet experienced the impact of the potential threat. “Not only are we helping enterprises grow, we are creating a micro-economy for a large portion of the world; the ability to get meaningful dollars into their pockets makes a big difference in their lives. This, in addition to addressing the fundamental data privacy and compliance exposure for the stakeholders,” says Sashi.
Sashi tells us how ODE has surpassed most of the existing and new market players with its blockchain and AI-powered integrated platform, Web 3.0. ODE is one of the only players in the market with the mission to disrupt the world of data and to create a two-sided marketplace where enterprises and consumers mutually benefit from data protection, organic compliance, and a shared monetization strategy.
ODE uses permissioned data from the consumer to support Enterprise analytics needs. The Enterprise sets up funds that are decremented every time analytics are run while monetizing the consumer who has consented to allow use of their data for analytics. Under no circumstances will data that is personally identifiable (PII) or private be revealed.
Data monetization offers benefits such as cost reductions, revenue growth, and opportunities to develop new services. Enterprises which build trust with their consumer community will build more brand loyalty leading to future success.
The ODE mission is to develop the data layer for Web 3.0 in which the data is decentralized and is stored in the consumer secure data vault. Data is only shared when consented by the consumer leading to data sovereignty and data privacy. This allows for the storage of data and the analysis of the data to provide insights while reducing risks and significant penalties based upon emerging legal requirements and regulations.
If companies wish to monetize data resources securely and ethically, they must do so in a way that protects the privacy of both the consumer who uses the new monetization service and the data itself. This necessitates enterprises clearly defining and comprehending what it means to use data safely. The adoption of a data-centric approach to security is becoming more common as a result of this discovery process.
Imagine a world where large organizations give consumers the capability to secure their data inside a secure vault. Only the consumer decides which data to share, and when they share, they receive compensation, can monetize, and rightfully get paid for what is theirs in the first place – their own data. We, the consumers, are the rightful owners after all!
In the words of CXO Outlook magazine, “ODE has forged deep relationships with prominent, well-known brands worldwide, making moves in the Telecomm, Financial, and Healthcare industries in a short period.” And according to Sashi, “Conditions are right for consumer data monetization. Web 3.0 plus regulations plus high costs of data breaches – we have the perfect conditions for change.”
We are used to identifying conscious businesses with companies that take ownership over their impact on the planet and are built around values to make positive change. Great companies such as Patagonia, Unilever, Natura come to mind. However, we may not tend to think of law firms as conscious organizations.
I will argue that today, the law profession is shifting and it is a great place for any Conscious Capitalist to create positive change. Being a lawyer myself, and after joining the Board of Conscious Capitalism Connecticut, I conducted research on what law firms are doing in terms of sustainability and what role they are playing in helping their clients adapt to new Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)/Sustainability demands. I was glad to learn that many law firms are deeply invested in incorporating ESG/Sustainability into their practices leading the way to a different way of doing business. Yet, there are many firms that need to better understand how to transition their practice to this new paradigm. With the idea of learning from what leaders in the industry are doing, I co-moderated a panel discussion with Gayatri Goshi, the Executive Director of the Law Firm Sustainability Network where speakers Pamela Cone, Founder and CEO of Amity Advisory, and Alison Torbitt, Partner at Energy and Environmental Group at Nixon Peabody law firm, shared their valuable perspectives on the challenges and opportunities for law firms today.
The following items are the main takeaways. It is my hope that this information is useful for you and that more law firms locally get inspired to take the leap and join this movement:
The results from a survey conducted by the Law Firm Sustainability Network showed that 96% of law firm respondents affirm that clients are demanding them to report on their ESG/Sustainability efforts in Request for Proposals. Why? Because today law firms are considered part of their client’s supply chain and therefore a key element in their ESG efforts, especially when measuring scope 3 carbon emissions. To remain compliant with their own targets, most clients require law firms to demonstrate their ESG/Sustainability measures and credentials in their Requests for Proposals. Therefore, it is fair to say that the absence of a sustainability strategy and ESG reporting presents a risk for business continuity. I understand that a solid ESG strategy could not be the main selection criteria when hiring a lawyer, but the absence of it could put your firm at a serious disadvantage.
Clients are becoming more sophisticated in ESG and they are demanding knowledge and understanding of ESG from their advisors to help them transition to more sustainable practices. Buyers of legal services confront a growing list of environmental and social issues that pose serious risks and opportunities for their businesses. Lawyers today have the opportunity to work with their clients to ensure they address these risks and maximize opportunities. But, to do that, lawyers need to be knowledgeable on ESG issues.
The regulatory landscape is shifting to incorporate elements of ESG. Clients need their lawyers to help them mitigate risks and identify opportunities. As lawyers, we need to be prepared to advise clients on thinking through and considering the impact, and the financial and reputational risks associated with environmental and social issues arising from new regulations affecting our clients’ businesses.
The new generation of lawyers is demanding law firms to walk the talk. Entry-level associates are increasingly requiring law firms for their ESG credentials. The younger generation of attorneys and potential new hires ask questions about diversity, equity, inclusion, and environmental policies. New generations of talent want something more than just a paycheck; they want to join law firms and organizations that reflect their values and beliefs. Having a clear Sustainability/ESG strategy can help differentiate firms bidding for conscious talent.
Law Firms are moving away from a “good to have” policy, to make it part of their business strategy. Historically law firms have seen their social and environmental impact as not material but as a nice program to have. Today, they are developing robust programs that actually generate a positive impact. Alison Torbitt explained that at Nixon Peabody, they started by classifying their sustainability initiatives into three buckets: internal, external-billable, and external-non billable. Internal mainly includes diversity, equity, inclusion, and wellness initiatives. External billable is their consulting work regarding sustainability/ESG mitigation, and contamination remediation. Finally, their external non-billable category represents their pro bono commitments and their donations to socially and environmentally friendly nonprofits and start-ups. She explained that today their current efforts are focused on their purpose and impact. Leadership is reflecting on: As a law firm, how can they positively impact everything they do? They are working on a strategic impact that brings all sectors of the business together – every practice group, management, business development, marketing, communications, operations, procurement, and compliance.
It is not about reinventing the wheel but seeing the law profession through a new perspective. For this purpose, it is crucial to have a cross-sector approach and stop acting and thinking in silos. Law firms need to connect the dots and practices and get everyone involved.
Law firms and lawyers have always had an important role in our society. Lawyers are trusted advisors to their clients and have historically helped shape and drive change and business behavior.
Today, as Pamela Cone mentioned on our panel, they have the opportunity of a lifetime to help their clients transition to more conscious practices and behaviors. This transition is both the most significant challenge and the biggest opportunity for the legal profession. While doing so, they also need to build their internal sustainability programs and lead by example.
Lawyers that become conscious capitalists will not only help save our world but also be successful while doing so.
Are you interested in learning more about Membership in our organization? Monthly events like this are free, plus networking and other benefits.
History doesn’t repeat itself exactly, but it can illuminate possible futures. This is a central point in this book by Timothy Snyder, who is among other things the Richard C Levin Professor of History at Yale. He has written extensively on the emergence of autocracies. One of his other recent books is On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century which is a pocket guide to fighting a takeover of your democracy. (You might want to get a copy)
I am writing this review as a capitalist. If you are a crony capitalist who enjoys garnering political advantage for your business interests, you do not need to read further. If your corporation is funding the political campaigns that undermine our democracy, take heed, you (and your grandchildren) might not like what you are paying for.
If however you are a true capitalist (see our Credo) then consider this. Democracy ensures the peaceful transfer of power. A peaceful transfer of power is our best hope of ensuring fairness in law. Without this fairness there is no foundation for true business.
Russia is a kleptocracy. If you think wealth disparity is bad in the US, take a look at Russia. It is full on, crony capitalism. Putin has a problem. His government can’t continue to survive if the Russian people believe there is a better way. Elections are staged in Russia but they are meaningless. Putin’s best hope is to convince the Russian people that all political systems are corrupt and all news is fake. If no news can be trusted then how do we know what is really happening and how can we make any judgements or any plans for change? If all governments are corrupt then there is no point of fighting for something better.
Nevermind if the fake stories are contradictory. Contradictory and emotionally charged, logically mutually exclusive fake news stories are exactly the point. These fake stories send real reporters out in so many directions in an attempt to get to the truth that they can’t keep up. It takes little time to promote a number of different versions of events and a lot of time to disprove them. In the end viewers are overwhelmed and give up trying to make sense of it and stop listening to real news. Instead they just consume the news that confirms their current views (on both ends of the political spectrum) which is of course the goal.
Russia managed (with the help of a skilled campaign manager) to get its preferred candidate elected president in Ukraine. When that Ukrainian president refused to do Russia’s bidding they undermined him and he fled the country, to Russia. (The campaign manager also of course lost his job.)
Then Russia invaded Ukraine while denying it was doing so. When the invasion was not a total success Russia used social media and lies to incite Ukrainians to storm their individual state capitol buildings and take over the local government.
Russia promoted Brexit, Russia promoted Scotland seceding from England. Scotland did not secede but Russia generated election lies and 30% of Scots still don’t believe it was a fair election.
Does this all sound familiar?
As soon as the Scottish vote was over, those same Russian sites began to promote a US presidential candidate. That campaign manager (Paul Manafort) went to work for a new presidential candidate this time in the US whom Putin succeeded in getting elected.
We narrowly dodged a big bullet a few months ago but it is not a bullet, it is a comet and it is coming around for another pass. The only thing that saved us last time was a few very brave people, most of them Republicans who did their jobs while under extreme pressure and threats to themselves and their families.
If you are a true capitalist you recognize that we depend on the continued existence of democracy. Without a peaceful transfer of power there can be no fair law. Without fair laws there is no playing field for real capitalism. Political favoritism and bribery are the gateway to facism.
Democracy is no sure thing. Democracy in our country is not inevitable. It is here only so long as we are willing to defend it. Are you?
Public relations professionals are too often known as the people you need to call when you have a scandal that needs cleaning up, but I argue that this stereotype is outdated and generally inaccurate. In fact, PR leaders are really the people at the table who aim to keep corporate leaders transparent to disrupt scandals before they occur, meanwhile guiding companies towards greater consciousness and more conscientious business practices.
What on earth do I mean by this and how does it happen in real life?
Before a Business Decision is Made
In the caricature of PR pros, we’re called after the fact…solely to clean up the mess. I’m optimistic that by now, most businesses have realized that it’s important to bring a PR leader into the mix before a significant business decision is made and rolled out.
If you’re a business that’s focused on the conscious path and doing business more conscientiously, and you don’t have a PR executive at the table as you work through important business decisions, it’s time to find a good partner. Here’s why.
A PR leader is always thinking about “how things will look” and the truth is the answer to that question is changing by the second. A good PR executive will follow what’s culturally relevant day-to-day, minute-to-minute and use these insights to interrogate optics in the current zeitgeist. We all keep this famous phrase top of mind: “perception is reality,” and when a PR executive starts asking questions, we uncover realities that a well-intentioned group may have missed. We also uncover opportunities to infuse more layers of authentic value into a business decision and can help gain widespread buy-in as they help steer the ship accordingly.
Picture this – your company has a new product designed to help moms, and you decide to launch the product on Mother’s Day. An influential mom blogger gets wind of this and shares with her followers that she feels like the timing of the product launch is tone deaf because Mother’s Day is a time to honor moms and not a time to sell them a new product to help with their daily responsibilities. If a PR executive was in the room, you would have likely discussed timing, as well as your influencer strategy. You might have changed your launch timing, or maybe you would have kept the timing, but decided to accompany your launch with a give-back to make moms in need feel special, including a way to positively engage the influential blogger with your give-back program.
Announcing a Business Decision to the World
Whenever you make a big business decision – this is an exciting moment. In an ideal scenario, a PR executive was at the table providing guidance in the first place, but if not, better late than never to charge them with crafting the announcement. At this point in the process, a PR executive will evaluate the business decision, ask the questions about how it will look and assess opportunities to ensure it is received in the best possible light.
In the example above, your launch timing is set in stone, but bringing the PR leader in to help with the announcement could give you the opportunity to think about adding in a give-back before making your announcement or engaging with stakeholders before the announcement goes live to make sure your intentions are clearly understood. This kind of relationship-building is well worth the proactive investment.
Cleaning Up a Business Decision Gone Wrong
You made a big business decision, you announced it to the world, and it didn’t go exactly as your team had planned. This can happen, especially given the fact that we’re living in a world with a 24/7 news cycle where something that felt appropriate in the morning may feel tone deaf by lunchtime. PR leaders play an important role on the team and can partner with leadership to identify opportunities to change the trajectory of the conversation – often that’s by tapping into a higher purpose and looking for a more conscientious path forward.
Generally, people think PR pros are responsible for sharing an organization’s good news at best or cleaning up a scandal at worst, but the reality is that whenever we have a seat at the table, our role offers us a strategic platform to ask questions that can lead organizations toward more fully cognizant and therefore wiser and more forward-thinking business decisions. We are ultimately responsible for the reputations of the organizations we support, and when we fully realize what that means, the PR profession is a great place for an aspiring Conscious Capitalist to help make the world a better place.
Today’s contribution comes from the desk of our Executive Director, Glen McDermott.
Who loves to be out on the water this time of year? Indeed, boats and beaches in the summertime make for great quality of life in Connecticut. However, we also have hard-working harbors that bring in cargo from all over the world. With this in mind, and in light of our recent Decarbonization panel for Earth Day, Board Member Greg Robbins, PhD, brought this little gem to our attention this week:
A return to sail power for cargo shipping sounds like an eco-friendly slam dunk, doesn’t it? Indeed, sailing ships are making a comeback for this purpose.
We find, though, that sometimes words like “sustainability” and “carbon neutral” can become somewhat…squishy. It’s important to look closely at real numbers, as the Dutch company Fairtransport has.
Since 2007 Fairtransport’s mission has been to raise awareness of climate-friendly transportation and to minimize our communal carbon footprint. With an engineless sailing fleet, they trade organic and traditionally crafted goods, and ship sustainable cargo overseas by wind power alone.
In this article you will learn how exactly they measured the cost:benefit ratio and ecological impact of building their next vessel for this purpose. In fact, prior to building, they analyzed the life cycle of a proposed ship part by part, function by function. You’re likely to be as surprised and fascinated as we were by all they had to consider, as well as their results.
The full article might be a 7-8 minute read. I’d say it’s worthwhile for any conscious leader aiming to balance positive intentions with effort and return on investment. We’d love to know what you think.
CHEERS for Friday and the start to a pleasant and productive Summer in CT!
In my work in the Agile business community, I have long been fascinated by the “hidden gem” nature of this report. Its findings support so many of the points Gavin Watson has been making in his Friday Reads series. I appreciate an opportunity to offer it a place within the connective tissue of ideas we’ve been exploring about self-organization, employee engagement and where leadership resides across the continuum of established institutions and emerging, ‘start-up’ ventures.
‘Power to the Edge’ reminds me of an anthem seen on a poster at a college radio station or a chant you might hear at a community protest. However, it was actually a report commissioned by the Department of Defense’s Command and Control Research Program (CRRP). According to the report’s introduction, the CCRP “pursues a broad program of research and analysis in information superiority, information operations, command and control theory, and associated operational concepts that enable the DoD to leverage shared awareness to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of assigned missions.” An important aspect of the CCRP program is its ability to serve as a bridge between the operational, technical, analytical, and educational communities.
So, DoD thought it was important to set up a research program focused specifically on the national security implications of the Information Age! If the military has become aware of this information gap, then perhaps there are useful lessons here for the rest of us fighting our lesser battles, day-to-day.
The publication’s central thesis is that Industrial Age structures – often organized with hub-and-spokes centrality as a key support to their command-and-control functions – must develop greater interoperability and agility in order to respond to the needs and crises of the Information Age.
Moving the seat of institutional power from the center to the edge achieves control indirectly rather than directly. While this can feel threatening to commanders who fear chaos, it is often faster, more efficient and life-savingly more effective in today’s fluid missions and environments.
Enabling technology has come in the form of advances in communications that can keep individuals and networks richly connected at minimal cost. The enabling mindset to accompany the new technology, however, is still emerging.
“As bandwidth becomes ever less costly and more widely available, we will be able to not only allow people to process information as they see fit but also allow multiple individuals and organizations to have direct and simultaneous access to information and to each other.”
David S. Alberts & Richard E. Hayes, Power to the Edge
As John Stenbit writes in the foreword, “Our future success requires that we think about information and relationships differently. We need to move from a set of monopoly suppliers of information to an information marketplace. Only by doing this will we be able to ensure that our forces will have the variety of views and perspectives necessary to make sense out of the complex situations that they will face.” The battlefields of Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq, among others, have provided proof-of-concept for the value of such network-centric capabilities.
Empowering the edge, these authors propose, is a transformation more fundamental than any other the military’s command-and-control structures have had to handle since the early to mid-19th century. It is also absolutely essential for navigating the complexity in which we find ourselves today.
You see, the edge of an organization is where the organization interacts with its operating environment to have an impact or effect on that environment. Empowerment of the edge involves expanding access to information and the elimination of unnecessary constraints. Whereas in the past, perhaps many procedures were needed to deconflict various elements in the absence of quality information, today the emphasis is on establishing clear, consistent rules of engagement that the forces can implement themselves. By unbundling command from control, commanders become primarily responsible for setting the initial conditions that make their teams more likely to succeed.
Edge organizations thus often move senior personnel into roles that place them at the edge. This can reduce the need for middle managers whose role is to manage constraints and control measures.
John Sviokla summarized four fundamental principles of the agile, “edge-based” organization a few years back in the Harvard Business Review: situational awareness, skills, values, and decision rights. Let’s take a look at each of these in turn to see how you can empower the edge in your organization.
Situational Awareness. Traditional command-and-control structures evolved from a set of assumptions about fog and friction in warfare. In the Industrial Age, information to thoroughly assess a situation was costly and difficult to attain. However, information flow is fast-paced and cheap, changing the economics for the Information Age. Today,in the time it would take for a network to convey information from the edge to the center and then back out to the edge, the situation would have already changed, making such centralized conclusions obsolete! Find ways for edge-stationed personnel to communicate directly with one another to acquire and convey robust awareness of a given situation. Situation awareness will always need to be developed and shared, but whose task this is and how it is accomplished are evolving.
Skill. When professionalism and creativity among a force are in question, very little can be accomplished. Mission-critical competence – that is, the ability to know what exactly to focus on – is best demonstrated under pressure when there has been sufficient preparation in advance. Preparing for a range of shifting circumstances is key (note: this is not the same as planning for a single, desired outcome, which often assumes certain circumstances which may or may not materialize in the field. Perhaps counterintuitively, too much of this type of planning can make an organization more fragile.)
Getting any job done typically involves things that need to be accomplished prior to undertaking a given task or mission – known as ‘readiness’ – and things that need to be done to accomplish the mission. Likewise, leaders at any level must have sufficient insight to know when to undertake different approaches to both, given the specific, on-the-ground circumstances. The comfortable position of selecting a single philosophy and working to establish it in both doctrine and training – then marching forward to a centralized leader’s drumbeat – has disappeared now that we are in the Information Age.
Values. This is what can replace that former security found in following the leader. Edge organizations seek to make command intent congruent throughout a whole organization, so that any part of it can ‘figure out’ how best to proceed in a complex situation. (It is not just the ‘head’ anymore that does the thinking!) This is made possible through reliance on a shared value system. Values can serve as a reference to guide every day-to-day decision as well as organizational design features. When structures are imbued with values, the results are congruent. It turns out that it is not lack of information but lack of clear and consistently-applied values that create fog and friction in our organizations.
Decision Rights. The most mature form of an edge organization is recognized by its self-synchronizing capacity. In edge organizations, peer-to-peer interactions are paramount, enabling high degrees of trust. Only through very rich personal interactions, guided by the values, skill and situational awareness outlined above, can sufficient information be conveyed in a fluid manner to overcome the uncertainty and volatility associated with complex field operations. The Power to the Edge report found that commanders do well to increase the degree of creativity and initiative that subordinate decision-makers in the force can be expected and even encouraged to exercise.
For example, General Douglas MacArthur, when organizing his campaign to island hop and retake the Philippines, is reported to have called in the commander of his theater Army Air Corps and told him to “keep the Japanese air forces out of my way.” That was the only order issued and the subordinate was left free to decide how he would accomplish the mission.
At the risk of repetition, in order to do this, his troops had to have access to four key things, also necessary for business organizations seeking the speed and effectiveness of self-synchronization. These essentials are:
High quality information enabling shared situational awareness;
Competence at all levels of the force;
Clear and consistent understanding of command intent; and
Trust in the information, subordinates, superiors, peers, and equipment.
Today, even in our home state of Connecticut, nicknamed ‘the land of steady habits,” responsibility for the use of resources and the health and wellbeing of personnel cannot afford to stand on ceremony based on tradition or the false security of what’s worked in the past. It cannot even rest on the strong shoulders of one or two supposed heroes who are ‘in charge.’ In fact, taking care of the important things to achieve a group’s mission is a distributed responsibility. And the power to carry out these responsibilities lies not at the center of an organization, but truly at its dynamic edges.
PS: Did you know you can book time with Gavin Watson to discuss how the principles of Conscious Capitalism are working inside your organization? It’s true – and while we cannot hoard these riches, supply is somewhat limited. Schedule your appointment now!
For today’s Friday Reads, I decided to offer a close read of two significant lines that have been tumbling about in my head this week. One is from David Sloan Wilson and the other is from David Attenborough. I think these may have given me a new and simpler way to explain the benefits of Conscious Capitalism.
I was reminded of the Attenborough quote last week while watching a series featuring Greta Thunberg called “A Year to Change the World.” She had just finished the Davos climate summit and was feeling discouraged. Attenborough was sharing his long perspective that comes with many years. During the conversation he said; “Self interest is for the past. Common interest is for the future.” It was just so simple, and so profound.
The David Sloan Wilson quote is; “Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. All else is commentary.” This needs a bit of unpacking.
When there is a selfish individual or several selfish individuals within a group, those selfish individuals will take advantage of the altruistic members of the group and take more than their fair share. Therefore; “Selfishness beats altruism within groups.” Only that’s not the whole story.
“Altruistic groups beat selfish groups.”
David Sloan Wilson
In groups containing selfish members, not only are members of the group being unfairly treated, groups containing selfish individuals have to spend effort creating rules, policing individuals, and watching their backs. They are forced to waste potential creativity on guarding against a cheat. Altruistic individuals are forced to start thinking more about their own self interest for their own self preservation. Performance of the group is going to be miserable.
Altruistic groups who have no selfish individuals are focused on helping each other. This generates lots of win-win-win scenarios, and people are happy about it. Individuals think every day about how they can contribute more to their group. They love their group, and their group loves them. There is great positive energy and collaboration, more creative ideas and more energy. When someone needs help, the others gladly step in to lend a hand. There is no place within the group’s culture to be asking, “what’s in it for me?”
This is why Conscious Capitalism works. This whole concept of altruistic groups of individuals is fractal. It looks the same at whatever scale you are looking at it. A group of five people or a group of five companies. The same principles are at play. In either case, an altruistic group will beat a selfish group.
What could be more selfish than a company focusing solely on generating profits for its shareholders, especially if it is at the expense of everyone else in the company or any suppliers or customers? Pay the employees less, buy materials at a price almost sure to drive the suppliers out of business, and cheat oops… I mean charge your customer as much as possible.
On the other hand….
What could be more altruistic than a group of Conscious companies acting for the benefit of all their stakeholders; the employees, the suppliers, the customers, the community, and the planet? This altruistic group will beat similar groups containing selfish companies.
What company culture could be more Conscious than one composed of altruistic employees intrinsically motivated and fulfilled by doing what they do best every day to benefit everyone else for a shared higher purpose?
They will certainly outperform a company focused on shareholder profit in a culture that allows selfish individuals to contribute less and take more.
A Conscious Leader is engaged in the common interest of her people and all of the other stakeholders. She has an abundance of altruism.
Today I started a 12 month course on becoming certified as a Conscious Capitalism Consultant.
As all good first days of a course should be, it provoked some new thinking for me. A question was raised. How do we as consultants expect to transform business into something more Conscious?
For me that requires answering the question: how did we get here in the first place? Why is business done the way it generally is? I can think of three possibilities; you may think of more.
Door #1 Was it originally a garden of Eden where businesses (like my grandfathers) cared deeply about their employees, generously shared profits, and went out of their way to help their people and the community? My father is another example, in the 1960’s he was known to pay people more because they had families and needed to care for them. (A crazy idea nowadays – and probably illegal – but there it is.) He acted generously based on his compassion for a parent struggling to raise a family. The New England Shaker communities would have agreed with him “to each according to need”)
Did the garden of Eden come to an end because of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Milton Friedman and Neo-liberal economics? Was that a more compelling story?
Door #2 Or is it a stage of development thing, like Piaget’s stages of cognitive development and Kohlberg’s stages of moral development? Do businesses move from selfish to selfless on some sort of continuum? From ruthless and profit driven, to higher-purposeful? Is it dependent on the leaders’ stage of development as Keagan and Lahey suggest in their book, An Everyone Culture: Deliberately Developmental Organizations.
Door#3 Or are selfish organizations, neo-liberal economics, extractive capitalism on the one extreme and Conscious Capitalism near the other end of the spectrum reflections of personality type? On the one extreme narcissistic and psychopathic leaders and their companies and on the other extreme companies run by a near Mother Teresa type personality and acting accordingly?
If it is Door #1, that Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand destroyed the garden of Eden then we just need to work on a more compelling story than the one Ayn Rand tells in Atlas Shrugged. David Sloan Wilson, an Evolutionary Biologist, has done just that in his new book Atlas Hugged. Kate Raworth rewrote economics and destroyed Milton Friedman’s neo-Liberal economics in her book Doughnut Economics.
If it is Door #2 a stage of development problem and a company can’t go beyond the level of development of it’s leader then we would employ a strategy of leadership coaching and development. These programs are a dime a dozen. I think a lot of these programs fail. The ones I witnessed certainly did.
My bet is on Door #3. It is personality based. It is the personality of the leader that is relevant. So the temptation is to ask the question: how do we change someone’s personality? The problem is that we can’t. Every personality trait is highly heritable. It’s mostly genetic. We are who we are and we get more entrenched in our personality the older we get (see the work of Robert Ploman and his book Blueprint.) Compassion is an element of personality therefore it is highly heritable. Both the extent to which someone is compassionate, and who that compassion is directed towards – only our family, only our close group members, or absolutely anyone who is suffering – gets passed down.
Everyone I have met so far in our Conscious Capitalism tribe felt strongly that something was deeply wrong with corporate life. Some of us had developed our own versions of something similar to Conscious Capitalism and were fighting to make it real. Then we discovered Conscious Capitalism and realized this was what they were looking for. It was not the other way around. We did not think corporate life was great (as clearly some people do) until we read about Conscious Capitalism and only then realized it could be better. People find us and express the genuine feeling that they have found their tribe. Reading and attending lectures did not convince them. They already felt out of place in the corporate world and upon discovering a Conscious Capitalism group feel right at home.
John Mackey is himself a great example. He was not a born capitalist. He was on a mission to serve a community by providing good wholesome food. Later on he discovered capitalism enacted in a conscious way could help him, and was indeed necessary to serve this mission.
I am arguing that people will either have a combination of personality aspects to be genetically disposed to get it and feel excited about Conscious Capitalism, or not. No amount of pounding on the door of a person who is not tuned to that frequency is going to persuade them. You might at best get them to agree that it is an option on the table, but they just don’t want to taste it right now… maybe later.
So if this is the case what do we do? Certainly not give up! There is a rich audience of people out there who are going to get it when they hear it and immediately and joyously join the tribe. We need to be speaking much more clearly and passionately so they hear us.
One of the things that struck me recently was the Gallup engagement survey data. It just hit me that the 15% who are “actively disengaged” who are drilling holes in the boat are actually engaged and just pissed off. They would not have that negative emotion if they did not care. They feel strongly that something is just wrong. Drilling holes in the proverbial company boat is not constructive behavior, but I would bet that if they were in a Conscious Culture with a high degree of autonomy and they felt free to bring their whole selves to work and that they were appreciated for their uniqueness, we would not see that behavior. Instead most in this group would become highly engaged. The problem is not the people, it is the system and culture. But I digress.
Turn up the volume! I think we Conscious Capitalists are soft selling our idea because we are generally more thoughtful and understanding than most.
We have experienced the pressure from the traditional business leaders to conform to the traditional practices and we don’t want to behave like that. There is also a desire to win over a larger audience so we don’t want to offend any potential business owners. If it is door #1 or door #2 that is the right strategy. But if it is door #3 that is a mistake. If it is door #3 then we need to be loud and unapologetic about what we believe, while at the same time acknowledging it is not going to be for everyone and that’s ok.
If we are unabashed and unapologetic, loud and clear, those who are predisposed to connect with the principles of Conscious Capitalism will hear us and show up. They are members of our tribe that have not found each other yet. We can then help them along the journey they already yearn to be on. We can provide a language and a framework with which they can explore their feelings and ideas and share them with others in their organization. This is the most effective path to converting the highest number of companies to this framework. This is the way we will have the highest positive impact on people working at companies who deserve to be fulfilled by work, when they are investing 90,000 hours of their lives there. This is the way we will change our societies and save our planet.
These conscious companies will of course continue to dramatically outperform the regular companies, but don’t expect that to sway any non-believers. They will continue to take a wait and see, maybe I will have a taste of it later, approach until the cows come home. It’s just not their thing and it is never going to be.
Of course, there is an upside and a downside. On the downside we won’t get everyone to become a Conscious Capitalist. I never expected we would. On the up side we can take a bolder stand, attract the leaders who are looking for this tribe, and assist in converting more companies to these principles faster. People deserve to have fulfilling work lives, and our planet desperately needs more conscious businesses. For me the mission is clear. The urgency is great.
This is the same book I reviewed last week. Last week’s review was about ancient human societies, and the contrast with our modern work culture. It was about the autonomy and egalitarian systems we crave that will also lead to high performing workplaces. This book also has a lot to say about leadership, much of which is especially applicable to our times, so I wanted to cover the subject of leadership separately.
“In humans, leadership is a little more widely spread than in other animal species. Someone would take the lead on the savannah in the limited arena in which his talent was able to flourish…amongst our ancestors the followers fundamentally created the leader.” Mark van Vugt and Ronald Giphart, Mismatch
Or, as Simon Sinek puts it: “To be a leader means one thing and one thing only. It means that you have followers.”
If you are a leader your ‘power’ was given to you by the people you are leading. They are letting you lead because they trust that you will care for them above only yourself. That is a sacred responsibility that should not be violated.
In our ancient ancestors’ time, leadership was fluid; it depended on what needed doing. Leadership was not hereditary or a full time job. A leader was a person with a good plan and the ability to engage others and make it happen.
If Pete suggested going out on a hunt even though Pete had never come home with as much as a Bunyoro rabbit, all the men would carry on lazing under the trees. But if Jack who was extremely proficient at catching wildebeest proposed a walk, everyone would definitely follow.
Leadership can have a dark side.
“I worry that business leaders are more interested in material gain than they are in having the patience to build up a strong organization, and a strong organization starts with caring for their people.” – John Wooden
Unfortunately some individuals will abuse leadership (the power that the people give them) to take advantage of the group.
We want transformational leaders who have the good of the group as their focus and who will self-sacrifice for their group. We don’t want transactional leaders or narcissistic or sociopathic leaders. Cooperation, high performing groups, fulfilled people, and dominance don’t go together.
What to do about a bad leader?
Ultimately the responsibility for bad leaders lies in our followership.
“Cooperating in a group context is more effective when aggressive or dominant types are ejected or when the group takes them down a peg or two. No one individual is stronger than the group.” Ronald Giphart and Mark van Vugt, Mismatch
Being expelled from the group 50,000 years ago meant certain death. Our ancestors had ‘STOP’ strategies: Strategies To Overcome the Powerful. They used gossip, had minimal hierarchy and used humor, ridicule, and shunning. If none of that worked, then the death sentence by expulsion from the group was meted out. That was an effective strategy for ridding the group of a narcissistic or sociopathic person trying to take control.
Our current organizations and governments are lacking effective STOPs. Sometimes our organizations even institute rules against essential STOP tactics like gossiping. We need to put effective STOPs in place. We could encourage the gossiping around the water cooler that used to happen around the campfire in the evening. Leaders used to be chosen by their followers. In our ancestral groups you were a leader because your followers chose you. We could still do that in our companies and even review our company leaders with the authority to replace them if they are not serving the group. As in ancestral times, we could pass leadership around as something that is situationally dependent. Whoever is best at leading the project at hand takes the lead. This allows for more variations and selection and if the results are good, repetition in the future. In this way, the better leaders for particular circumstances will emerge from the group.
Unfortunately, as in so much of our business practices, there is a Mismatch in our human evolutionary design and our corporate leadership systems and in our political leadership systems.
If the shareholders choose the leadership for a company through the board of directors, there is a risk that they might choose the wrong type of person for the job. Parachuting in an MBA from outside is rarely a good choice for leadership of a company. Natural leaders should be allowed to emerge from within. When a CEO is chosen who primarily cares about the stock price and their bonus, there is not much the employees can do about it except vote with their feet. There is a good argument for the employees to choose their leaders at their working group level and, even at the top of the company.
In our politics there are real issues. We have been designed to exist in groups of up to 150 people. At this size we either know each other directly or we know someone who knows that other person and we can find out about their reputation by asking our friends.
A great number of us are prone to following self serving leaders who enhance themselves to appear strong. When we are fearful (and sometimes bad “leaders” deliberately create fake stuff to be fearful of or deliberately amp it up) we want someone who sounds confident, and if it is a complex issue we may elect them to take care of it for us.
We have different personalities, psychologically we are not all built the same. We tend to one end of a given spectrum or the other.
Liberals and conservatives, for instance, care about the issue of fairness but see fairness in a different way, through a different lens. Some ask; am I, and is my group, getting our fair share? Others ask, is that disadvantaged person being treated fairly? We are all compassionate but feel compassion differently. Compassion can be group-related. Who is my group? Is it my family? My friends, My church? My religion? My company? My fellow sports team fans? My political party? My country? Or am I a global citizen with global responsibilities?
In our ancestors’ times it was good to have people who cared about strangers outside our group. People who felt compassion and offered sustenance to outsiders. We see that in the generosity of groups who do not have much but willingly share what little they have with total strangers. It was also good to have people within our group considering how that would put an additional strain on our group’s resources. A strong in group bias. We still have this range of personality types living among us. A good leader needs both.
How I participate in leadership is linked to a large degree in how we are hardwired. Am I one who wants to lead? Do I prefer to stay in the background? Am I a good follower? Do I pledge allegiance to a flag? Do I respect authority? or do I question authority? Keep in mind, I am wired a certain way, and so are you.
The question to ask ourselves is what level is the leader operating on? Is he putting himself before everyone else in the group? Is he putting himself and his friends before everyone else in the group? Or is he putting the group ahead of himself? If he is putting himself and or his friends ahead of everyone else then he is clearly not the person we want leading us. As soon as things go wrong he will be blaming everyone else instead of helping to solve the problem. A good leader who cares about the group over himself would be apologizing for what went wrong and offering to step down and let someone else with a better idea give it a try. That is not weakness, that is putting the good of the group first.
If our leader is putting the group ahead of herself and her friends, that’s great. Then we need to ask a follow up question which is; what level of group is she putting ahead of what other group(s)? Is she putting our group ahead of the other groups? Or is she putting everyone in every group’s best interest ahead of her own and our group’s self interest?
It is important not to be just a leader for your own group. After all, Hitler’s power came from the belief in the idea that Germany needed to come first.
To the extent that humanity not only survives but prospers for the next thousand years, it will be because we and our leaders put the greater interest of all of us and our planet (on which we and all future generations depend) ahead of our short term, personal, and national interests.
We are a global collaborative system of groups of groups within groups, living on a finite planet. Just like any stakeholder system if a group treats other groups unfairly and takes more than their share, the system is going to collapse. We followers need to be choosing leaders who understand this and we need to be willing to make personal sacrifices for our global group of humanity.
This pandemic is a trial run of our ability to put global human interests ahead of our personal, local, political, and national group interests. So far I am not impressed. Hopefully we are beginning to learn the lesson. How this pandemic continues to unfold over the next decade depends on learning the global citizen lesson. The pandemic will keep teaching us about global citizenship through viral variants until we learn it. As the followers who give our leaders power to act for us, we are responsible for behaving (and voting) like global citizens.