Preface by the coauthors Raj Sisodia, Timothy Henry and Thomas Eckschmidt
What This Book Is, and Who It’s For
Conscious Capitalism is a philosophy—along with a set of guiding principles and best practices—based on the simple idea that business is about more than making a profit. It is an approach to business built on the fundamental, universal truth that people aspire to more—to meaning and purpose, and to fl ourishing and fulfi llment.
Conscious Capitalism does not hold the notion of profit in contempt—no business could exist without making money. Rather, the philosophy provides an alternative approach to the essential pursuit of profits, one that emphasizes ideas like trust, collaboration, and compassion. It says that business is good, even heroic, because it creates prosperity. And it says that it can do so much more to elevate humanity than most people think possible.
Four core principles of Conscious Capitalism offer the blueprint for practicing this radically different approach to building and leading business. They are higher purpose, stakeholder integration, conscious leadership, and conscious culture.
The idea of Conscious Capitalism has been around for a couple of decades and was first popularized by John Mackey, cofounder and CEO of Whole Foods Market. Now a global movement, the organization dedicated to the spread of Conscious Capitalism has grown rapidly since its inception in 2008, with chapters in nearly thirty US cities and a dozen countries around the world. Th e idea is finding great appeal in diverse cultures and economies, because it taps into deep human aspirations about how people want to live and work in the world today. It places the flourishing of human beings at the center of business enterprise.
The foundational book that captures the core ideas and spirit of the movement is Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia. Published in 2013, the book builds on the idea that, as we move deeper into the twenty-first century, the main source of competitive advantage will increasingly lie in the human capabilities, the culture and operating model of an organization. Conscious Capitalism is basically an issue of bringing out the best in your people for the benefit of all the people whose life your organization touches. Th e organizations that enable their people to be at their best will have the best teams and the best performance. Th is assertion forms the core argument of the book and our movement.
Since the publication of Mackey and Sisodia’s book, companies large and small around the world have developed a growing interest in embarking on a journey of Conscious Capitalism. To meet that need, this book, the Field Guide to Conscious Capitalism, is a hands-on guide for businesses—young and old, small and large, private and publicly traded—to implement the core principles of Conscious Capitalism in their own organizations. The book can also be used by nonprofits and the public sector; the principles of operating as a conscious, purpose-driven organization are universal.
Our Promise to You
If you read this book, and more importantly, if you and your leadership team carefully do all the exercises that are provided, you will walk away with a detailed plan for building a more conscious business. Th is plan will include both near-term (twelve to eighteen months) and longer-term (three to five years) actions. To help you create that plan, the field guide is built on a series of exercises—practical initiatives you can take to design your own unique journey to becoming a more conscious organization. We want to meet you where you are today and help you craft the next steps on your journey.
Here are some specific tasks that you can expect to accomplish:
• Write a purpose statement for your company, and develop a plan for communicating it to your organization.
• Map all your stakeholders, identify their needs, and understand how you can create more value for each of them.
• Understand how to create win-win-win relationships with all your stakeholders.
• Create a culture playbook for your company.
• Create a personal leadership development plan.
• Develop a leadership checklist for your organization.
• Set priorities for the coming year and beyond
By understanding the principles of Conscious Capitalism and engaging with these exercises, with your teams, and with others in the organization, you will have the tools for creating a more conscious business, as Whole Foods Market, Google, Starbucks, Southwest Airlines, Patagonia, and many other successful companies built on the tenets of Conscious Capitalism have done.
Who the Book Is For
This field guide is designed for leaders and their teams—the group that has the responsibility and authority to shape the future of the organization as a whole or stand-alone units within a larger organization (typically known as strategic business units or corporate functions). Th e journey we describe is that of the organization, not the individuals. But you cannot have a conscious organization without conscious leaders, and you cannot be a conscious leader without being a conscious human being. To that end, the book also includes guidance on how the senior leaders of the organization can elevate their own consciousness and how they should alter their approach to leadership development in the entire organization.
The field guide is written for companies that are at various levels of consciousness. They could be startups or mature companies, at the very outset of the journey or already on their way. They could be public or private companies, large or small, domestic or global. They could be for-profit companies or nonprofits, consumer-facing or business-to-business. Th e principles of Conscious Capitalism are universally applicable to all kinds of organizations.
In addition, this book can help companies in the very early stages of a Conscious Capitalism journey or companies that have been pursuing various aspects of Conscious Capitalism for several years. We hope to lay out the entire journey for you, providing options for each tenet of Conscious Capitalism: a beginner’s set of options, a middle-level set, and a more advanced set. In this way, we aim to meet you where you are so that the steps are relevant and actionable for you.
Finally, this field guide is also a resource for consultants working with teams and organizations. Sometimes, a third-party facilitator can help keep the team on track and can occasionally push the team to dig a bit deeper on some issues. However, we recommend that if you consider using consultants, make sure they are deeply versed in Conscious Capitalism, either through regular attendance at the annual Conscious Capitalism conferences or by participating in training programs offered by Conscious Capitalism, Inc. (see our website at for information on our various programs and events).
Note to readers: If you are new to Conscious Capitalism and haven’t read the book Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, please make sure you read chapter 1 of this field guide to get a grounding the context, the concept, and the business case for Conscious Capitalism. Otherwise, you can start your journey with chapter 2.
How to Use the Book: From Aspiration to Action
The transformation to Conscious Capitalism is indeed a journey. In a sense, on any journey, you never quite arrive. It’s a little like the development of human beings’ levels of consciousness. There’s no end state per se. But the higher you climb, the broader your vision. In this way, a conscious organization is constantly exploring and developing new ways to operate and be successful.
By the time you finish reading this field guide, you should have a very clear set of priorities for the next twelve to eighteen months. You’ll see plainly where you are today and know where you’re going so that you can continue your journey and have the highest possible impact on your business. We hope to help you move from aspiration to action.
Throughout the field guide, we also talk about who needs to be onboard with this journey. As you begin to build support in your organization, the support must come from several levels: your leadership team (referred to here as your top team), your public company or advisory board, your middle managers, and then eventually the entire organization. Stakeholder buy-in also requires clarity on why you are pursuing Conscious Capitalism and how best to implement this philosophy in your organization. It takes courage to move in a new direction or to take a significant next step on the journey. We hope this book will give you the support you need to feel more confident in moving these inspiring concepts into action in your organization.
How the Book Is Structured
The first four parts of this field guide cover the four tenets of Conscious Capitalism: higher purpose, stakeholder integration, conscious culture, and conscious leadership. Th e final part focuses on bringing it all together into an actionable plan. By the time you complete the book, you will have developed an implementation plan and strategy for you and your business to successfully embrace Conscious Capitalism.
Each opening chapter in parts 1 through 4 introduces you to a tenet and shares examples through stories and other comments from interviews with business leaders. Besides introducing the tenets, these chapters provide a glimpse of what other companies on this journey have done.
Subsequent chapters in each part present exercises, assessments, and other tools. We will suggest how you can dive deeper into specific aspects of your business by using tools such as customer surveys and employee surveys that address levels of engagement and trust. Th e point is to understand the gap between where you aspire to be and where you are today. Th e stronger your understanding of that gap, the better you can determine the next steps that will have the biggest impact on the business.
We then provide exercises and practical actions that will help you assess the possible next steps for each tenet. In this way, you can begin to create your own action plan for implementing the practices and principles of Conscious Capitalism.
For each of the four tenets (purpose, stakeholder integration, leadership, and culture), you can address where you are at three levels. At the first level, you examine the building blocks of Conscious Capitalism. For example, do you have a purpose? Does the leadership team know who your stakeholders are? At the second level, you look more broadly at the organization in terms of raising awareness and understanding of the tenets of Conscious Capitalism. For example, do people in the organization know who your stakeholders are? The third level is about bringing the tenets to life in the core DNA and culture of the organization. For example, in conscious leadership development, have you clearly defined the kind of leaders you want involved in developing the organization, and are you supporting them? Th e exercises take you through these levels systematically.
When you work through each step with your team, be aware that you need to walk before you can run. We help you through this process by offering the basics first and then outlining exercises that go into more depth. When you and your team are starting out on the exercises in this field guide, begin with those that correspond with your level of development.
How to Use the Exercises
The exercises proposed in the book should be done by the business leader and his or her direct reports. For the most impact, we recommend that the leadership team do the exercises as a team and discuss every exercise, outcome, and gap together. Doing so will allow for faster alignment and change for the organization. Nonetheless, leaders would also benefit from working through this book on their own—and then engaging with their team.
Given the importance of bringing your team members along and getting them deeply involved in the transformation to Conscious Capitalism, we recommend a two-step process for involving your team. First, you need to expose your leadership team to the concept of Conscious Capitalism and enlist their support (chapter 19 details how to accomplish this step). Then you must move from this aspirational vision to a concrete and prioritized plan for action.
The second step is to work through the action plan with your team and will require setting aside time when the team can focus on the plan. In our experience, the team needs to take this work in chunks, which are represented by the five sections of the book.
There are two basic models for working through an action plan. Choose the approach that best fits your team and the circumstances.
One approach is to plan for a two- or three-day retreat in which the entire team is taken off -site. In this situation, we recommend working through each of the five parts of the book in sequence, spending three or four hours on each part. For each tenet, focus on the areas that are most pertinent to your own situation. For example, in part 1, “Higher Purpose,” your focus would depend on how well formulated your purpose is. If your organization has not yet developed a clear statement of purpose, or if the team feels that the current purpose doesn’t fit your current needs and should be updated, then your team should focus on this tenet of Conscious Capitalism. On the other hand, if you already have a well-defined purpose, the next step is to make sure everyone knows that purpose and then, later, to ensure that you are living it.
Another approach is to schedule a series of five sessions, one for each part of the book, for three or four hours each, over not more than five or six weeks. The goal here is to ensure that you have enough time both to do the relevant exercises for your team and to discuss the potential impact on your business and the next concrete steps to move this tenet into action.
How to Use the QR Codes
Throughout this field guide, you will encounter QR codes, the square bar codes that allow you to access additional information from the authors, from our interviewees, and from other sources. To read the codes through your cell phone, you can download one of three apps available for IOS, Android, and Windows:
• Inigma (IOS, Android, Windows, BlackBerry)
• Zapper (IOS, Android, Windows)
• QR Code Reader by Scan (IOS, Android, Windows, Kindle)
If a QR code does not work, you can go to our YouTube channel, where all our videos are posted and referenced by chapter to make it easier to access and link them to the chapter you are reading.
Throughout the book, we have provided spaces for you to record your responses or ideas in the various exercises. Th e spaces might not be large enough for a full “download” of your ideas and team feedback. You can use sticky notes to gather feedback and collect ideas before entering your responses to each exercise throughout the book.
The Longest Journey Begins with the First Step
This book is meant to be used! Do the exercises, discuss them with your team, decide, and move to action. Our highest hope is that you and your team will launch into a new phase of transforming your business and hence by example begin to change the perception of business in the world. For now, we wish you bon voyage on this profoundly transformative journey to Conscious Capitalism. The pathway is not intended to be a personal one (though it includes some personal elements); instead, it is a leadership-team journey to bring about true transformation for your organization. Start now!