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Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business Hardcover – Jan 15 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (Jan. 15 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422144208
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422144206
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.3 x 3.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #58,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 150 reviews
109 of 131 people found the following review helpful
Doing Well by Doing Good! Dec 31 2012
By Kevin Currie-Knight - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In the October 2005 issue of Reason Magazine, John Mackey, Milton Friedman, and T.J. Rogers debated whether businesses had any larger social responsibility than to maximize profits for shareholders: Mackey was the lone voice for the affirmative. 7+ years later, Conscious Capitalism can best be thought of as an extension and years-later elaboration on Mackey's argument. This book is one part spirited defense of free market capitalism and several parts description of how businesses can and should become more aware of ALL stakeholders (shareholders, workers, customers, distributors, the environment and the community.)

Before going into the how-to's, Mackey starts with a spirited but brief defense of market capitalism. Mackey recounts how he started as a co-founder of a co-op, but left largely because others' political agendas - largely, anti-market - prevented, in Mackey's judgement, the co-op from serving its customers well. Mackey built the store that would come to be Whole Foods and discovered the potential of markets and market transactions to change people's lives. (Lest we forget, markets are less about exploitation and zero-sum thinking than they are about voluntary positive-sum transactions, each party providing what the other wants.) Sadly, when most of us think of market capitalism, we tend to think of Ayn-Rand-like glorification of selfishness and greed as well as economic reductionism (reducing everything to purely economic calculation sans 'the human element.') Needless to say, this is a perception Mackey rightly wants to change.

The rest of the book - the meat and potatoes - are about Mackey's conception of "conscious capitalism" - companies who do well by doing good. Mackey's favorite examples: Google, Amazon, Costco, Southwest Airlines, The Container Store, and (who else?) Whole Foods Market. These are companies who do well by workers, customers, distributors, investors, and other shareholders. They are driven by purpose and vision, create a good culture internally and externally, have good values-focused leadership, and can easily answer the question "What difference would there be in the world if we didn't exist?"

The book examines how these (and other) companies exemplify conscious capitalism's four tenets: (a) have and keep to a strong vision for the company, (b) have value-focused leadership, (c) try as best as you can to take care of all stakeholders (investors, workers, customers, etc) rather than seeing them as antagonistic to each other, (d) create a strong culture internally and externally. Whole Foods, for instance, has a strong mission of bettering people's eating habits. Southwest Airlines has always gone out of its way to create a good and relatively egalitarian work environment. Google cares as much about creating beneficial tools that people can use as it does about increasing profits. Etc.

One of the areas Mackey touches on in the book's appendix, but I wish he'd focus on more - is convincing us that businesses practising conscious capitalism can be successful while doing good things. His appendix cites some good data available elsewhere, but doesn't really go much into that data. (And one has to wonder, if conscious capitalism is a good business strategy, why haven't more folks been 'doing' it a long time ago? After all, markets reward those who are successful. Jack Welch - about whom Mackey has nothing remotely positive to say, with good reason - successfully ran General Electric for many years with his very unconscious capitalism.) Of course, it does make sense that treating stakeholders well is good for business (customers will support those who treat them weil, workers will work harder and stay longer when they are happy, etc.) But I couldn't really see a skeptic being very convinced by this book. (One objection not spoken to: Mackey is clear that conscious capitalism sometimes requires sacrificing short-term gains for long-term gains, but, will one really be able to secure investors, pay distributors fairly, etc, if one is quick to subordinate short-term gains to anticipated long-term gains?)

Anyhow, this book was a pleasure to read. It is refreshing to see an author like Mackey defending the idea that one CAN do well by doing good, one CAN do good things for others and (unapologetically) make a profit. To this reader, at least, this is what capitalism and markets are supposed to be: companies and consumers voluntarily making positive sum transactions producing "mutual gains from trade."
78 of 95 people found the following review helpful
Conscious Capitalism Jan. 6 2013
By William and Melanie Grossman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I would not usually read a book like this. I'm a social worker, not a business person, but I am a Whole Foods fan, and go there just for the boost I get from the positive energy that abounds there. Truth be told, my daughter persuaded me to give the book a chance. I'm glad I did... As someone who has never worked in industry, the book helped me re-examine some of my premises, but did so in a non-judgmental or threatening way. I have dedicated my life to helping others, and this book showed how a conscious business can do the same, not by taking advantage of customers and employees, but by providing them with goods and opportunity they voluntarily wish to exchange time and money for. Not sure I am willing to change my political stripes at this point, but I did enjoy the opportunity to hear a different point of view explained with compassionate concern.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
This book should be required reading in all business schools. Feb. 28 2013
By GKD - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this book to be enormously inspiring. When I finished it, I felt as though I'd had an evangelical experience. It makes you wonder why business hasn't always been conducted in this way. I guess the answer is, because we didn't know any better. We had to evolve to this point, just as we've stopped pouring industrial waste into our rivers and no longer x-ray our feet at the shoe store.

I'm no tree-hugger. I'm not even that much of an environmentalist, but I do recognize a good idea when I read about it. We have a responsibility to our planet and to each other to make this world the best it can be. John Mackey may have amalgamated the ideas of a lot of other people, and he may even have co-opted the term "conscious capitalism" from Muhammad Yunus (I did my homework), but he deserves an enormous amount of credit for what he did do, i.e. put these ideas into practice and then bring them to public consciousness by writing his book.

I didn't know much about Mackey before reading the book, only what was in the news a few years ago about his postings on the Yahoo! message boards. At the time I thought his behavior reprehensible, but given that no charges were filed and that the buyout of Wild Oats was allowed to proceed (and now reflecting on his account of the events), I am inclined to believe that the "news" we were given was incomplete and more than a little tainted by the usual media spin.

In summary, I am completely taken with Mackey's ideas as expressed in his book and can only hope that the world takes notice. I must confess that as I read it I did have a sudden urge to break into a chorus of "Kum Ba Yah" from time to time. It can come across as a bit treacly. But it is a hopeful paradigm for the future of business.
41 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Why John Mackey and Raj Sisodia are convinced that "Conscious Capitalism will become a dominant paradigm for how to do business" Feb. 7 2013
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
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.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A Win-Win for Humanity Feb. 5 2013
By Ruthanne Iliff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In this book by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia we learn that big business and profits need not be contrarian to the good of the whole. Owning, working for and buying from companies that incorporate altruism and profit is more than just a feel good experience. It is essential to the future of the World as a place of peace and prosperity for everyone. My son is a currently a business student in college and I sent him this book to give him a better understanding that making profit can also mean giving back. In fact, it's better for profits! Obviously, I enjoyed this book immensely and can only imagine the relief and joy it will bring to young people studying business throughout the United States. I hope more financial officers will get on the program.

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