Why Conscious Businesses Stop being conscious — How to Build the Business of the Future
We are entering a new era, whether we like it or not. People are seeking new ways of being in relationship with each other, whether that relationship is in business, at work, in our service to something other than self, in our home, with our family and friends. However, the path forwards is unchartered. It is indeed Terra Incognita.
For two decades I worked as an executive coach to senior leaders, often in very traditional industries like banking.
My conversations were always intimate, open-hearted, and safe places for leaders to share their fears, concerns and mistakes. I often witnessed conversations never before shared, a privilege of trust I treasure to this day.
Clearly, the people I worked with were good people, working to be respectful leaders. Yet they also knew they were working in a business-as-usual model with design features that needed to exploit, extract and debase to remain a profit maximiser. Knowing this, I wondered why they chose to remain.
I concluded that there were many reasons, including the sunk costs of leaving — a nice lifestyle and status — and going to what? Where are the business models that do not exploit and extract for profit maximisation?
Social Enterprise? Conscious Business?
If a business uses the same frameworks that created profit maximiser machines — the legal codes, the need to grow the bottom line to reward the shareholders, the way we account for value by discounting values needed for life — then good intentions will get caught in the same design features that brought us to this exact place today.
There is no model or an outstanding example of how to do business differently. No place to point and say here! Here is a company that has unhooked from the language, tools, models and codes of business-as-usual.
Until Syntropic Enterprise!
Bold statement, yet that is what we are seeking to do.
As an observer learner in this space for over twenty years, I watched many companies tout that they are conscious businesses or social enterprises and then fall into a messy heap of hypocrisy and incongruence.
Why is this? What is going on?
First, it is important to be clear that we are operating between two worlds. The world of the old system, where everything is built around a model of eternal growth, money making, success at all costs, status as measured by your external success, the accumulation of stuff, staff, lists, names, how many books you have written, how many this and that. The constant pull of never enough. This world is seductive, attractive, and seemingly glamorous. Like a beautiful siren, it calls us into a trance-like state where all of our original impulses are lost. We are so saturated in this world that we cannot see how much it en-amours us.
The world I hope we are moving towards is one where there is deep abiding respect (reverence) for the value of people, nature, and the environment, where the recognition of abundance is a guiding principle, where reverence as a business practice is the norm.
What is said is what is done; inside, outside, within the individual and the group.
Where the choice to move to mastery is a daily practice. Where there is no “there” that is reached, but deep respect and love for the journey unfolding.
Living in the space of emergence, not knowing what is coming next or how it will look, is held as standard, and people move within this without the paralysing fear and contraction of needing the security of knowing.
Where value that makes a healthy contribution to the whole is respected and honoured as value. And activities that contribute nothing to the whole are seen for what they are, scams and junk profiteering.
I have felt like the cartoon character with one foot on one cliff and the other foot on the cliff on the other side, and a vast chasm between, my legs in a full split, sweat rolling off my face, between these two worlds, holding tight, feeling the pull of both, needing to take a complete step into the new world…trying desperately to straddle both. I am not alone. Many people, I suspect, feel the same, straddling these two worlds.
Why do businesses with the best intentions end up in a mess?
What is the original impulse to start the business in the first place? The Source Idea and its Pattern Integrity?
Let’s get clear about that. If it is to make money, own it — nothing wrong with that, except when you project to the world that you are doing something else.
In other words, be in total truth around that original impulse. Anchor into it. Choose to describe it carefully, as the words you choose will carry their energetics. If it is clearly articulated and truthful, your original impulse, what we call the Source Idea, will energise you. If you seek to create a conscious business, your original impulse will be about service to others or things outside of yourself. If this is not it, then be clear about what you hold as the intent. (Becoming famous, making money, getting status, winning the prize, teaching people a lesson, going to IPO)
If your business has been going for some time and is starting to go pear-shaped, then take a weekend off, get together with your foundation team, and get back in touch with the original impulse.
Get deeply in touch with it. Including the stuff you have tried to keep hidden, like…” oh, and by the way, I would like to show all those jerks who said I would amount to nothing that they were wrong!” Name it all. Own it all.
Until you have an aligned clarity around your original impulse Source Idea, your business will likely implode.
What commonly happens is a company starts with this original impulse/intent, and then if and when the ‘goody bag’ shows up, full of all the sirens of the old world — money, fame, success and power — and through the apparatus of micro agreements, called little atrocities, negotiations are made with that original impulse/Source Idea that erodes and debased its Pattern Integrity.
Before we know it, we are under a spell of glamour, completely disconnected from the truth of why we started the business, in denial as to what is going on within the business, and now enacting the very same behaviours we told ourselves we would never do.
It no longer becomes about how we can serve the world with our work; it becomes about some other distraction from the original impulse.
Integrity and transparency are lost.
I find this heartbreaking to watch. Yet, at the same time, I have compassion, as existing and surviving in business is challenging. Unfortunately, the options for survival can often feel limited to a return to business-as-usual. This is one of the primary reasons we need a Syntropic Community of Practice, to keep each other strong against the forces that insist on things staying the same. To find innovative and creative ways to navigate uncharted waters, to design new and different pathways, models and language.
Most people I know want a place to work and play where the original impulse is honoured, truth is Truth, what is said is done, and reverence is afforded to all parties, internally and externally. They long to find a space and place for that to be the ground of the business.
Businesses that remain in an honest, open, integrous dialogue with all stakeholders, holding the original impulse/Source Idea as sacrosanct for as long as it serves all of those at the effect of the business, are willing to invite wisdom from all domains. They continue to embody every aspect of what the business stands for, internally and externally, while they say no to business-as-usual legal codes, value metrics and growth imperatives.
To do this is not easy. It takes commitment and investment of the highest order. It takes making choices that refuse to compromise the Pattern Integrity of the Source Idea.
Clarity, courage and integrity. Rigour, reverence and wisdom.
More and more of us seek to engage with companies like this, to buy from them, work with them, and learn from them.
This is a world where Syntropic Enterprises become business-as-usual. I will meet you there.
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Syntropic World is a global education and community of practice applying the organising principles of nature to enterprise design and human coordination. Creating ecologies of trust, ensuring integrity in everything, enabling collective sense making, and organising around a central purpose — how to create a world that works for 100% of humanity without ecological offence or the disadvantage of anyone.
Find us here https://syntropic.world