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Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business [Hardcover]

John Mackey , Rajendra Sisodia , Bill George
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Jan. 15 2013
As seen on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday

A New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller

In this book, Whole Foods Market cofounder John Mackey and professor and Conscious Capitalism, Inc. cofounder Raj Sisodia argue for the inherent good of both business and capitalism. Featuring some of today’s best-known companies, they illustrate how these two forces can—and do—work most powerfully to create value for all stakeholders: including customers, employees, suppliers, investors, society, and the environment.

These “Conscious Capitalism” companies include Whole Foods Market, Southwest Airlines, Costco, Google, Patagonia, The Container Store, UPS, and dozens of others. We know them; we buy their products or use their services. Now it’s time to better understand how these organizations use four specific tenets—higher purpose, stakeholder integration, conscious leadership, and conscious culture and management—to build strong businesses and help advance capitalism further toward realizing its highest potential.

As leaders of the Conscious Capitalism movement, Mackey and Sisodia argue that aspiring leaders and business builders need to continue on this path of transformation—for the good of both business and society as a whole.

At once a bold defense and reimagining of capitalism and a blueprint for a new system for doing business grounded in a more evolved ethical consciousness, this book provides a new lens for individuals and companies looking to build a more cooperative, humane, and positive future.

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Conscious Capitalism is full of thoughtful insights and original observations that could help organisations from start-ups to multinationals become better at creating financial and social wealth for all their stakeholders… I recommend it to entrepreneurs and investors everywhere – I strongly suspect it will be one of the outstanding business books of the year.” — Luke Johnson, Financial Times

“…at a time when the public reputation of big business has hit a dangerous low, surely the efforts of Messrs. Gates, Porter and Mackey—and even Ms. Nooyi—to make capitalism better can't be all bad. As the authors put it: "Free market capitalism is one of the most powerful ideas we humans have ever had. But we can aspire to even more. Let's not be afraid to climb higher." — Alan Murray, The Wall Street Journal

"... a good read with useful insights for those who are, or aspire to be, entrepreneurial." — Pamela Hartigan, Financial Times

“Even if you don’t agree with all or most of Mackey and Sisodia’s arguments, their vision—essentially, startups for grownups—seems viscerally compelling, and describes the sort of enterprise that I suspect most would love to join.” — David Shaywitz, Forbes.com

“Had [Mackey and Sisodia’s] application of higher consciousness been in the boardroom a generation ago, we might have avoided the suffocating regulations of Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank, and the dire straits of companies like General Motors, Sears, Citibank, and even Enron…Conscious Capitalism is still an inspiring blueprint for a better world.” — Mark Skousen, BARRON’s

Conscious Capitalism is a wonderful book, full of fiery passion and incisive insights. So buy it. Read it. Implement it. It’s a true guide to future.” — Steve Denning, Forbes.com

“Mackey and Sisodia make a valiant effort to redeem a practice often tainted by greed and corruption and show that if the individuals managing the system commit to conscious capitalism, everyone benefits.” — Publishers Weekly

“I would place Conscious Capitalism at the top of my list of good reading—by far. It's not just the writing; the intent of the book is very good.” — Gilda Chan, Senior Merchandising Planner at Vera Bradley

Conscious Capitalism, raises valid points about ‘heroic entrepreneurs’ and ‘conscious companies’ that are ‘butterflies’ as opposed to the normal ‘caterpillar’ companies, focused only on profit optimisation and shareholder value.” — Outlook Business (India)

“The book is an exceptional guide to best practices in organizational leadership. It is refreshing, high on ideals, and has a fair dose of prescription for creating and operating enterprises with a conscience.” — Business World

Conscious Capitalism builds the case for free market enterprise, driven by a purpose other than profit.” — Mint (livemint.com)

In stark contrast to today’s often pessimistic view of capitalism, MacKey and Sisodia defend the old principles while simultaneously urging business leaders to transform how they do business. Business cases ... show that companies are perfectly capable of creating more value for all of their stakeholders, from customers, employees, suppliers, and investors to society as whole and the environment. — Business Digest (France)

“In all the chapters, you’ll find how the effects of having a passionate, inspired team build stakeholder relations at a variety of firms in many industries.” – Jim Pawlak, Dallas Morning News

“…a must-read, with a message especially appropriate for these times of dysfunctional political polarization, with “red-state” Republicans over-simplistically depicted as conservative and pro-business and “blue-state” Democrats as liberal and anti-business.” — Lanny Davis, TheHill.com

Conscious Capitalism is in keeping with the ancient wisdom of India as it views leadership as trusteeship, which is all about focusing on the right actions and not being attached to outcome.” — The Economic Times

“… the most powerful part of Mackey’s message: running a wholesome business doesn’t mean your business has to cut back on profitability. Doing the right thing pays, Mackey writes.” – Robert Gratton, Austin Business Journal

“Whole Foods co-founder Mackey, writing with economist Sisodia, offers a persuasive paean to free enterprise. Light on ideology and long on thoughtful analysis—a good book to hand to the budding entrepreneur in the family.” — Kirkus Reviews

Conscious Capitalism demonstrates conclusively that in business, nice guys don’t always finish last. They may finish first.” — Anthony J. Sadar, Washington Times

“A timely explanation of what is wrong with capitalism and how it can be made right. Recommended for business owners, employees, customers, and investors.” — Library Journal

“As an HR professional [this book] has helped me realize I need to focus on the business mission and company values to reconcile my professional goals and personal values.” — HR Magazine

“Like a trip to Whole Foods, you may not buy everything Mackey offers, but overall, the book rings up as good value and good for you.” — Associations Now

“… a superb new book… essential reading for every businessman, investor, or lover of a good story. This is a fascinating tale. Read the book. Enjoy the story. And spread the word." — Alexander Green, Investment U Chief Investment Strategist, Market Daily News

Conscious Capitalism spells out the practices which Mackey, I and many others believe will restore the trust which has been eroded, both in corporations and markets, and will allow capitalism to continue. I welcome this book and hope asset-managers will take heed.” — Hazel Henderson, Seeking Alpha

“Thus it is the responsibility of ethical and conscious businesspeople and entrepreneurs to demonstrate to society their important role in the world, what businesses can do for local communities, for families and to solve deep social problems. Conscious capitalism is therefore not only a story worth telling but is a vision of our world worth preserving.”— The Classic Libertarian Perspective (Blog)

“If you believe in fair, open, and voluntary exchange, you’ll love Mackey’s book. If you don’t believe in those things, you need Mackey’s book.” — Hennessy’s View (Blog)

“… very good, with useful insights on almost every page…” — Marc Gunther, Sustainable Business Forum

Conscious capitalism is a refreshing vision of economics that assumes people want more than just money. It’s also a vision that supplements the narrow interests of investors with the broader interests of employees, managers, customers, and the larger community. As the success of Whole Foods demonstrates, it works.” — James A. Ogilvy, strategy+business

Conscious Capitalism is a book you will want to share with every business owner, manager, and worker you know.” — Jo Ann Skousen, Liberty

“an inspiring defense of free enterprise…an exceptional guide to best practices in organizational leadership...Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business is a treatise for a cultural revolution.” — Wesley Gant, Values and Capitalism, an initiative at the American Enterprise Institute

Conscious Capitalism is [Mackey's] philosophy of how capitalism and good business can - and should - be the driving force of change in the world. Business leaders must be attuned to an 'ethical consciousness', argue the authors, and through this all stakeholders, including employees, customers, shareholders and society as a whole will benefit.... making the case that companies who take genuine care of their workers and communities and the environment actually end up creating the most profits and long-term shareholder value.” — SAPress – South Africa

ADVANCE PRAISE for Conscious Capitalism:

From the Foreword: Bill George, bestselling author of True North
“This is the book I always wanted to write.”

Howard Schultz, chairman, president, and CEO, Starbucks—
“I have long believed that companies have a responsibility to balance profitability with a social conscience, yet few leaders have an inherent understanding of just how to do it. In Conscious Capitalism, John Mackey and Raj Sisodia provide a timely, realistic framework so companies can better serve a variety of stakeholders. I highly recommend listening to what they have to say.”

Herb Kelleher, former Chairman and CEO, Southwest Airlines—
Conscious Capitalism is a welcome explication and endorsement of the virtues of free-enterprise capitalism—properly comprehended, there is no more beneficial economic system—and a simultaneously pragmatic and inspirational extolment of higher purpose and humanism in business. I hail and revere the tenets of Conscious Capitalism!”

Ratan N. Tata, Chairman, Tata Sons—
“This book provides the script for a much-needed different narrative for f...

About the Author

John Mackey is co-CEO and cofounder of Whole Foods Market and cofounder of the nonprofit Conscious Capitalism, Inc. He has devoted his life to selling natural and organic foods and to building a better business model. Dr. Rajendra (Raj) Sisodia is cofounder and trustee of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. and professor of marketing at Bentley University. He has authored seven books, including Firms of Endearment.

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By Robert Morris HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
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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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  151 reviews
109 of 131 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 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
5.0 out of 5 stars 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
5.0 out of 5 stars 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
5.0 out of 5 stars 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
5.0 out of 5 stars 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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