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on 13 January 2013
This is a great book.

I must declare a bias: I am a real fan of the ideas presented here, and I have met both authors.

But trying to put that to one side, I still think it is a great book.

It is very thorough, very complete, and like my colleague Will McInnes' book Culture Shock: A Handbook For 21st Century Business it is full of practical advice and suggestions on building a different type of business.

It is clearly written, full of good stories and quotes. It also seems to include a good measure of honesty - as when John Mackey describes the problems he had with the SEC.

It is ideological, yes, but I think that is what we need right now. There's a lot of talk in business about disruption, and how business should respond, but this book sets out the beginnings of an intellectual and emotional framework for business in the 21st century.

Umair Haque's Betterness: Economics for Humans (Kindle Single) also comes to mind.

After an introduction, which aims to reset the narrative of business, the book is broken into several sections on making practical changes to the way a business works:

- Higher Purpose
- Stakeholder Integration
- Conscious Leadership
- Conscious Culture and Management

The book pulls together a lot of thinking from a range of very diverse sources. That is the whole point I suppose: to bring topics such as economics, sustainability, business management, psychology and systems thinking together. Indeed, the authors aren't afraid to mix words like love and care in with the kind of terminology (innovation, collaboration, decentralisation) you will read in many modern books on business management.

There are lots of practical examples and stories from Whole Foods Market. That company is obviously better known in the US than the UK, and there is a notable lack of any European examples (John Lewis, the Co-op, Cadburys etc). But as founder and CEO, John Mackey has been through most of the major decisions that need to be made in setting up and growing a large, listed company.

Once or twice I had a bit of a sharp intake of breath.

The term "free-enterprise capitalism" personally reminds me of "free market capitalism", in the style of Reagan and Thatcher. Something to which I have an instinctive and somewhat negative reaction. But, after a moment, I reminded myself to suspend a little, remember that I am not an economic theorist or expert, and read on.

And their real point is that capitalism generally has given itself a very bad name with the people who should be supporting it - those of us who believe in freedom for individuals and also in sharing, giving etc.

The other slight intake of breath came when Margaret Thatcher is listed amongst a list of leaders with high integrity, including Gandhi and other personal heroes. Again personally, I found this hard to take.

But again the truth is this is probably more about my biases and prejudices than anything else. And a good book, I believe, should challenge one's thinking, not just confirm one's prejudices. I resolved to dig out a biography and do some deeper research.

The book ends with sections on starting a conscious business, and transforming to become one.

An appendix covers the business case for Conscious Capitalism - including reference to Raj Sisodia's work on Firms of Endearment and a comparison with the "Good to Great" companies. This, in my view, is a very strong and compelling financial case.

Another appendix gives a very useful list of similar, related approaches (such as sustainable business, B-corporations etc), and explains why conscious capitalism is different.

In a final section, which contains a call to action, I was pleased to see a reference to Tom Paine, author of Common Sense and the Rights of Man. These, at the time, were seditionary works. They stirred people up.

This book is similar - some will hate it, but the mixture of emotion and intellect is powerful. Which is important, because, as the authors say, there's no time to waste.

Overall, this is a manifesto for a new type of business. Or, if you simply want to find out what Conscious Capitalism and Conscious Business are all about, this is a great starting point.

It is a big book as well as a great book. It will take you a while to read. But in my view it is really worth the effort.
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on 9 August 2017
I loved it because it was speaking what I think in a very simple way. Hope all businesses read and put it into practice.
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on 11 March 2017
This is the future of companies around the world. There is no turning back. The earlier companies start to apply those concepts the better.
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on 9 June 2017
Excellent book.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 7 February 2013
In this book, John Mackey and Raj Sisodia make a number of affirmations with which I wholly agree. For example of what they characterize as "Conscious Capitalism": for profit business initiatives "galvanized by higher purposes that serve and align the interests of all major stakeholders; businesses with conscious leaders who exist in service to the company's purpose, the people it touches, and the planet" and which conduct business "with resilient, caring cultures that make working there a source of great joy and fulfillment."

Presumably they agree with me that it is no coincidence that, each year, most of the companies ranked by Fortune magazine among the most highly admired and best to work for are also ranked among those most profitable and having the greatest cap value in their respective industry segments.

I also agree with Mackey and Sisodia concerning the process (the "HOW") by which business leadership at all levels and in all areas (including but by no means limited to the C-suite) can "liberate the heroic spirit of business." As they explain, "the sad reality is that for too long, business has [as have its leaders] been stuck in a defensive and reactive posture. Entrepreneurs and businesspeople are the heroes of our modern world, yet they have been caricatured as heartless and soulless mercenaries." That's true but what is much more significant, in my opinion, is the fact that business leaders are only now beginning to understand and [begin italics] appreciate [end italics] the importance of getting the values, hopes, dreams, and goals of workers in proper alignment with those of the given enterprise. To a significant extent, in recent decades, it has been the spirit of the workers that has needed liberation. Only then can the aforementioned "higher purposes" be served.

Mackey and Sisodia make brilliant use of several reader-friendly devices that will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later. For example, "Tables" and "Figures" that concisely present key data and several dozen mini-case commentaries that enrich and illuminate their narrative. They include those that focus on Whole Foods Market' stakeholder independence model, The Container Store's "heroic selling" philosophy, the Tata Group's rapid and appropriate response to crises, Pedigree's positioning as "the dog-loving company," HCL's self-reinvention, and four "environmental success stories" (3M, UPS, POSCO, and Walmart). Yes, these are large organizations but the lessons to be learned from them are relevant to almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be.

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to suggest the range of subjects covered during the course of the book's narrative:

o Why Capitalism Is Under Attack (Pages 15-21)
o A New Chapter in Human History (26-30)
o The Tenets of Conscious Capitalism (32-35)
o Great Companies Have Great Purposes (59-64)
o Leading and Educating Customers, and, Customer-Focused Innovation (77-80)
o Rediscovering the Higher Purpose of Capital (99-100)
o Businesses as Citizens (125-130)
o Whole Foods Market and the Environment (143-146)
o Competitors [Viewed as Stakeholders] (154-155)
o Types of Intelligence, Servant Leadership, and Integrity: The Synthesis of the Virtues (184-188)
o Qualities of Conscious Cultures: TACTILE (218-225)
o Starting a Conscious Business, Transforming to a Conscious Business, and Reinventing HCL (251-261)
o [Mackey and Sisodia's] Shared Dream (266-267)
o Liberating Our Heroic Spirit (270-271)
o Natural Capitalism (291-292)

I realize that no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope of material that John Mackey Raj Sisodia provide in this volume but I hope that I have at least suggested why I think so highly of it. Also, I hope that those who read this commentary will be better prepared to determine whether or not they wish to read the book and, in that event, will have at least some idea of how the mastery of specific skills and techniques can prepare them to help liberate "the heroic spirit of business," principled-driven capitalism, at a time when it is most needed in what has become a global marketplace.
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on 15 September 2014
John Mackey and Raj Sisodia describe the challenges and the hope for all organisations and businesses as we forge deeper into the 21st Century. The good news for business is that making profits is a good thing (an essential thing) and really serves humanity (as well as the shareholders).
The rub is that conscious capitalism only makes sense when you have become sufficiently conscious to understand what it means. Until you do the work on your self and become more aware and more conscious - you will never really be aligned with these ideas, and if you are not aligned, your business will not become a conscious business.
This is not another smart consultants fad (although many will try to jump on the bandwagon), it is a way of furthering the cause of human well being in all its forms - and we so desperately need this focus after centuries of serving the "Master" or the "Machine" .
Please read this book and absorb the ideas so that you feel as well as understand the message.
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on 29 December 2015
At Whole Foods, John Mackey created a new way of doing business that has proved as successful as it is revolutionary. In this book, Mackey describes the tenets of the Conscious Capitalism movement he has helped develop. He presents business as a heroic endeavour, with the power to change the world for the better. He argues that business has always had the power to do good for society, but that free-market Capitalism has erroneously been associated with corrupt forms of enterprise focused solely on making profit for shareholders. By being more 'conscious' of the real place and benefit of business in society, we are able to bring our businesses in line with this ideal.

Mackey redefines what it means to be a successful business. Traditionally, a successful business is one that makes large amounts of money for its shareholders. Conscious Capitalism offers the alternative of a business that sees synergy (rather than conflict) between stakeholders (including shareholders, customers and the wider society). Underscoring this is the concept of a successful business being one that understands its purpose. A purpose-driven business, then, should make profits, but that is not its purpose, merely a side benefit. This paradigm shift in thinking helps businesses to see socially beneficial activity as an integral part of their operation rather than an addendum or compromise.

Although Mackey refers to the experience at Whole Foods and other large international conscious businesses, this book is applicable to the small one-man-band business as it is to the large corporation, and is an inspiring read for anyone who is in business for more than just earning a living.
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on 16 July 2013
Best business book I've read, and I've read a lot of them. If all businesses were run with the principles in this book the failure rate in business would go way down and the world would be a better place. I know that makes it sound like anything but.a practical guide to business management, but that's the point. A well run business makes life better for every one it touches. And this book is not written by some idealistic academic, it's written by an extremely successful entrepreneur and CEO. Read it. You'll be glad you did.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 March 2014
I'm frustrated by what's been happening with capitalism. I'm old enough to remember the times when some of us had to defend capitalism against what many believed to be sensible alternatives and it makes me sick to the stomach to watch a cabal of no more than ten thousand big money investors and their CEO puppets do some truly nasty things in the name of capitalism.

Other than call today's state of capitalism by its name (crony capitalism) this book does not address any of the issues I have with the system. It does not even try to discuss why businesses today have stopped reinvesting their profits, why business today carries so much debt, why business these days spends record high amounts on lobbying and record-low amounts on pay.

Conscious Capitalism is, instead, a manual on how to manage retail businesses.

The most important point the authors make is that first you need to honestly and wholeheartedly embrace a purpose, a set of core values, and then the rest will flow, profitability included.

The second most important point the authors make is that you should look after all stakeholders of a business: clients, suppliers, employees, communities, the environment, even the competition, activists and unions, and then the shareholders will reap their dues, because taking care of all stakeholders will result in the excellence that will be essential for profits.

The third and fourth big points I could not tell apart, they concern "conscious" management, leadership and culture. That's where the going got a bit heavy with me. Like, a good manager should meditate, allegedly. I suppose if he's got the spare time it's a free country go ahead and meditate, but I would not list it in my top ten thousand priorities when I used to run my company. Hell, I skipped going to the dentist, I seem to remember.

Here's my big problem with the book: it sets out to refute some paper that was apparently written by Milton Friedman which said a business answers to its shareholders and nobody else. The authors say "no, it should do all these other things first and what's good for the shareholder will follow." Perhaps. But I was not convinced. I was never sold on why Milton Friedman is wrong (practically or morally) and I was never sold on why a cigarette company, for example, will deliver better results to its shareholders if it goes all moral on us, when its very purpose is not what I would consider moral.

On the other hand, the book did actually convince me that a company that buys from many suppliers and sells to the wider public can benefit from being all crunchy like the authors of the book seem to be. So if you're in that type business, do read the book, you'll get some good pointers.

And be prepared to deal with long strings of adjectives. Under this scheme, lives become" long, healthy, vibrant, productive and meaningful," for example. The scheme itself entails "living a life of meaning and purpose, service to others, striving for excellence, growing as an individual, friendship, partnering, love, and generosity." Hope you get the idea.

Oh, and prepare to LOVE Whole Foods, the Container Store, Medtronic and a few more companies that the authors like, while other companies you might actually have heard of (I'm thinking Google and Amazon, for example) only get brought into the discussion when it suits.

That said, if you have a good stomach for this type of hype, this is not a bad book about how to win in retailing. It's probably a very good book on that narrow topic. And it's got nothing to do with reforming capitalism, I'm afraid. That entails change to tax laws, regulations, property rights, intellectual property rights in particular, immigration laws, world trade agreements, foreign policy etc. Meditation? Not so sure.

And one last thought: a bit like I left that Howard Stern movie some fifteen years ago thinking he made a movie to apologize to his wife, or at least defend his actions to her, the thought crossed my mind many times that the Whole Foods CEO co-wrote this book with one of his gurus to feel better about having anonymously blogged about his competitors. I'm probably wrong about this. But I could not kick the feeling, it did color my reading of the book.
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on 22 September 2016
Conscious Capitalism starts out detailing some of the basics of creating more ethically operating business and standard lifting off points, but becomes most engaging when also comprehensively addressing the myriad of obstacles of our egos, values and opinions that burden us from seeing the fullest picture. You really feel like you're locked in a room with all the positives, negatives and integers between - but emerging empowered and ready to converse with others on the subject. Essential reading for anyone interested in inclusive, diverse working cultures.
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