Life is evolution and when we look at the universal principles of how life evolves, conscious capitalism becomes recognizable as the natural next step in our evolution. Richard Barrett, of the Values Centre, writes an easily understandable account of how evolution works and the stages to be found in evolution universally. When this is linked to consciousness and business, it provides a fascinating window on why conscious capitalism is the natural successor to the way we conduct business.
Throughout life, evolution begins with individual entities learning how to survive and be independent within their existing conditions. Therefore, within their existing context (which can also be thought of as their existing level of consciousness), these entities learn how to survive on their own. We can think of this as businesses that become established, perhaps start-ups finding their feet and stabilizing in the way they operate and make a profit.
What life throws at us is the urge, the drive for evolution, and how this plays out is that the conditions in which we find ourselves change – they become more complex and difficult, and we are no longer sufficient to meet the demands of this new context. The only way to survive is to adapt – to form group structures by bonding with other similar entities. Bonding rather than being independent requires a higher level of consciousness and we are forced to develop this through the natural process of our evolution. In a business context, perhaps mergers and acquisitions most closely resemble this pattern.
The third stage of evolution is where the framework or context in which this group of entities functions becomes even more complex and demanding and threatens the survival of that group of entities. The only way to survive is to evolve, and evolving into this new context requires cooperating with other similar groups. Therefore, shifting to a mindset of cooperation is what is needed and this forces the evolution of a different and higher level of consciousness. It requires seeing the importance of and value in letting go of what one knows, of what used to bring a sense of security and safety. It demands letting go of notions of ‘them’ and ‘us’, and instead seeing the underlying similarities between us – what we have in common, rather than what makes us different.
In business terms, I believe we are arriving at the foothills of this new form of consciousness through conscious capitalism. From its attention on a higher, more inclusive purpose than purely profit, to its business model that looks to cooperate with and align the needs of its multiple stakeholders, conscious business and, in its more inclusive sense, conscious capitalism, shows how through cooperation and joining up, more is possible – more survival, more flourishing. When taken against the backdrop of the science and theory of evolution, it is simply the more evolved way of doing business.
Wherever there is resistance to doing business in this way, opponents might look towards what is keeping them at the previous stages of evolution i.e. at the levels of independence or bonding. From the vantage point of independence or bonding, cooperation would seem like a threat to what one knows – because independence or bonding is all one does know. Perhaps this is why the opposers of conscious capitalism have such a hard time accepting that it might be a viable way of doing business. It requires them to let go of what they are most familiar with and know best – aiming for profit no matter what the consequences are to the other independent entities.
As such, conscious capitalism is a leap of faith for some, and for others it just makes perfect sense – a sort of answer to the call, the inward urge, that already exists within them that there must be a better way of doing business than the way we have been going about it in the past.
And so the megatrends we see all around us are indicators of a changing context, a more threatening set of circumstances that is challenging us to evolve in the way we live and work so that we may survive. Business is part of that. Megascandals, public dissatisfaction with corporations and the way they are run, markets imploding, global leadership disappointments and challenges, a universal search for meaning, voting and purchasing with your values, and a trumpet call for truth and transparency in business – these are our beacons in the sea change of our context that is demanding that we evolve to the next level. These conditions are forcing us to find new ways of conducting business, forcing the evolution of our business models, and the more inclusive, cooperative, stakeholder-driven model of conscious capitalism, which a natural reflection of the next stage of our evolution.