The assumption behind this article is that the purpose of the Conscious Capitalism movement is to catalyze a paradigm shift in business such that the four pillars of conscious capitalism become the dominant lens through which the performance of a company and those in it are assessed. The question facing the CC chapters then is how best to leverage our limited time and capacity to affect that paradigm shift.
There seem to be five mutually-reinforcing domains that create what is ‘common knowledge’ in business. The five domains are: Professional Associations, Business Schools, Business Media, Consultants, and Capital. If these five domains began to operate from the CC paradigm, the conditions would be set for the broader paradigm shift in business to occur. These five domains are a possible framework to focus the outreach and organizing efforts of CC Chapters.
1. Professional Associations
Many business leaders are involved in professional associations to connect with fellow business leaders and stay abreast of important trends and industry best practices. These associations include everything from local and state chambers of commerce to local service clubs like Rotary and Kiwanis to large national industry-specific groups like the National Restaurant Association. These groups are often hungry for quality content that their members will find valuable, and Conscious Capitalism is certainly that. If the leaders of these professional associations become knowledgable about, and advocate for the four pillars of conscious capitalism, we greatly expand our capacity. Inviting these leaders to events, and building direct relationships with them will help us create mutually beneficial alliances to expand our influence and advance our mission.
2. Business Schools
Probably the single-greatest influence on the dominant business paradigm is the curriculum thought to MBA students in business school. Currently, some schools are aggressively leading the way in teaching their students the concepts behind the four pillars, but many more confine these ideas in a single course on business ethics, if they are taught at all. Outreach to faculty and students at local business schools (not matter how big or prestigious) is another strategic opportunity for us. Inviting them to events, or enlisting them to co-host events with us will likely pay great dividends as we continue to grow.
3. Business Media
Imagine what would happen if the conscious capitalist viewpoint was consistently featured in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, Fast Company, Inc, and Forbes as well as on the airwaves of CNBC, NPR and the countless podcasts on business and entrepreneurship. Local chapters may not be able to affect programming at some of these larger outlets, but they can build relationships with their local business media and business beat journalists and columnists for major local papers. Chapters could even create a speaker corps of local CC business leaders, academics, and consultants to pen op-eds and be available for comment as reporters seek perspective on the business stories of the day. Similarly, business books have a tremendous influence on business leaders. Promoting the books that are resonant with the four pillars (to members, to media, and even on Amazon) and debating (respectfully) those that propagate the old paradigm is another important aspect of the business media domain in which chapters can engage.
Most businesses rely on consultants (at least occasionally) to help guide their decision-making. As such, consultants are another critical domain that shapes the paradigm of business. Active outreach to consultants, large and small, and across industries, is another major opportunity for CC Chapters to move the needle. The goal is not to turn every consultant into a conscious capitalism consultant. However, the more a marketing consultant, a leadership consultant, and a financial consultant can all see the world through the lens of the four pillars, the more their advice will contribute to the broader paradigm shift we seek.
The people and institutions that provide capital to businesses are a critical domain. Networks of venture capitalists, leaders of state and local economic development efforts, executives from banks offering business loans, and analysts for the major capital markets are also very important relationships for chapters to build. Imagine what would happen if a loan application included questions on stakeholder relationships, leadership development, and workplace culture? What if most analysts began incorporating those factors into their stock evaluations? What if economic developers expanded their view to see that not all ‘jobs’ are equal and not all economic ’growth’ contributes to prosperity? If practicing the four pillars would help business leaders access capital, and if ignoring them prevented that access, things would change in a hurry. As we all know, the research on the financial performance and resiliency of CC companies suggests that such a filter for capital investments would be in the best interest of the providers of that capital. We should endeavor to help sources of capital to develop tools to operationalize that understanding.
Like the four pillars, these five domains are mutually reinforcing. As capital increasingly prefers CC investments, the business schools will increasingly teach the four pillars. As greater results are achieved by consultants operating under the CC paradigm, business media will promote thesis stories, causing professional associations to spread the paradigm shift more broadly, generating more opportunities for capital, case studies for business schools, stories for media - and so on.
Ultimately, if these five domains can be brought into alignment with the four pillars, the paradigm shift we seek would become a foregone conclusion. Therefore, increasing this alignment locally and nationally is critical aspect of the mission of the Conscious Capitalism chapters. Indeed, the work we are doing already to host events and educate the business community have begun this critical work, but many chapters are operating without a clear strategy. Distinguishing these five domains can help chapter leaders to focus their efforts on strategic opportunities we can leverage to advance the purpose of the Conscious Capitalism Movement.