‘Love needs to come out of the closet’: 10 Takeaways from the Conscious Capitalism Conference

With support from Axialent and the Conscious Capitalism Institute, I attended the Conscious Capitalism Conference last month. For two days, I immersed myself in learning and in true, unabashed conversations on topics I had felt, but hadn’t yet developed the vocabulary for or a real awareness of.

The teachers ranged from CEOs of publicly traded companies like Panera Bread and Medtronics, to mediation practitioners and authors on neuroplasticity, to business school professors, a Tata employee, and a former deputy assistant to the President.

The most unadorned comment I can give is that it felt incredible to connect with others who share the almost primal urge (a deep itch?) to create businesses that nurture our full selves.

1. “Love needs to come out of the closet in corporate America.” Whole Foods Founder John Mackey shared that in his company, emotional intelligence is more important than analytical intelligence.

2. Heart attacks are highest on Monday mornings (an indicator that work conjures stress and fear, rather than growth and fulfillment for too many people).

3. We’re experience an apathy epidemic. Nationally, 50-70% of employees are disengaged in the workplace. At Southwest Airlines, a company built on a strong culture and shared purpose, 97% of employees say they’re engaged and would go the extra mile for the customer (Gallup).

4. Culture can account for up to half of the difference in operating profit between two organizations in the same business. “I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game–it is the game” — Louis Gerstner, Chairman and CEO of IBM.

5. “Authenticity is not a synonym for corporate America.” A truism for readers here, but nonetheless a shrewd quote from John Mackey.

6. The ability to innovate is a company’s most sustainable, long-term competitive advantage.

7. Decentralization + empowerment ? innovation. Decentralized decision-making combined with empowering all levels of staff leads to far-ranging innovations that drive growth and profit in a company. For example, the Santa Rosa Whole Foods independently decided (with a “boys will be boys” type nod from Whole Foods corporation) to open a bar in the store. It reaped 70% gross margins, and was replicated by 75 local stores.

8. Face time. Host weekly breakfasts for rotating subsets of employees and ask them 1) Why are you here? 2) What are we doing right? 3) What are we doing wrong that needs to change?

9. If President Clinton could take the time to say “Thank you” so can we. While in office, President Clinton wrote Kim Jong Il a condolence letter upon the death of his father. Fifteen years later this led to a diplomatic détente as Kim Jong Il permitted only President Clinton to retrieve Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the American journalists who had been imprisoned in North Korea.

10. A lack of small talk at the conference. Imagine natural conversation flow, deep connections, and the absence of posturing and pontificating. In large part, people acted from the presumption that the contacts they needed to make would naturally happen.

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  1. Gina Hayden June 23, 2012 at 4:55 am #

    Hi Olivia
    I completely agree with your comment about the lack of pontificating and posturing at the conference and the feel of flow and presumption that the contacts that needed to happen would naturally happen. I found I met with exactly the people I needed to and had hoped to, effortlessly – they just sort of ended up in the groups I happened to find myself in. It was a very special conference, and I loved the way one could say ‘conscious leader’ without the other person’s eyes glazing over, and how we could actually continue the conversation beyond that! Thanks for a special reminder of a very special conference.

  2. Olivia Khalili June 23, 2012 at 11:01 am #


    Glad that resonated with you as well. I found it to be very unique. Thanks for the comment.
    Is there specific content you’d like to see written about conscious business here? You can email me at olivia{at}causecapitalism{dot}com.



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