The following is an emerging model for auditing the consciousness of a business. All business are conscious, but they can behave more or less consciously. So, by “conscious business” I am referring to the way a business can be and behave. You can’t become a conscious business. It isn’t the next great product for consultants! Conscious business focuses on improving the quality of consciousness in the business.
So, conscious business is all about how business act more or less consciously, internally and externally.
I’ll be adding more based on evolving conversations and discussions. Your comments are very welcome in helping to shape what might become a process for auditing the quality of business consciousness in chosen organisation.
This was put together by Paul Levy after a Brighton Conscious Business Meetup in October 2012. It forms the beginnings of a definition of Conscious Business.
The underpinning definition is below
Awareness of others and motives for action
The extent to which its leadership is aware of all of the motives for its actions and the consequences of those actions for its stakeholders
Ability to learn
The business’s ability to recognise its mistakes, learn from them and prevent them occurring or reoccurring
Awareness of community
The business’s awareness of the needs and motives of its employees, suppliers and customers
Awareness of environment
The business’s awareness of the dynamics in its internal and external environment and the impact of its actions on those environments including its ability to adapt and react to changes in those environments
Ability to consciously persevere and commit
The ability of the business to turn consciousness into conscientiousness – seeing commitments through and keeping stated promises in ways that show awareness for needed detail and sensitivity to feedback
Ability to absorb useful knowledge and experience
The ability of the business to learn from other organisations, absorb wise practice, and take on new knowledge and information
Awareness of integrity
The business’s awareness of its own congruence – between its espoused values and its actual behaviour
The Emerging Audit Model
The model is divided into different aspects of “‘consciousness” in business organisation. Consciousness is equated with awareness. A higher quality of consciousness equates to how close this awareness is to real time (the present) or even in terms of being aware of issues arising in the future with a high degree of certainty that can be acted upon in advance in a way that positively and practically influences them. So, one construct of assessing a conscious business could be assessing the extent to which the organisation’s awareness of an important issue related to conscious business is.
The model is currently divided into ten metrics:
METRIC 1 – Temporal Business Consciousness
METRIC 2 – Business Self-Consciousness
METRIC 3 – Business spatial Consciousness
METRIC 4 – Integrity Consciousness
METRIC 5 – Learning Consciousness
METRIC 6 – Motive Consciousness (Dive deeper here)
METRIC 7 – Technology Consciousness
METRIC 8 – Process Consciousness
METRIC 9 – Performance Consciousness
METRIC 10 — The Business Truth Sense
Each metric is detailed below with some tentative description and discussion. I’ve put in a simplistic scale that describes the level of business consciousness from “high” to “low”.
METRIC 1 – Temporal Business Consciousness
This measures the organisation’s self-consciousness in terms of time. The timeline of past, present and future is the focus here. How does the organisation consciously draw from its past – understanding its history, learning lessons, recognising historical patterns and effects? To what extent does it take conscious responsibility for its past actions? How well does it know how its current habits, patterns and processes are rooted in past patterns and processes in ways that allow it to use history to inform the present and future action and decision making?
Temporal consciousness for a business focuses on its ability to draw from history and also to identify trends that play into the present and the future. A conscious business can score high to low in this area as follows…
HIGH CONSCIOUSNESS – The Proactor has an ability to anticipate, see in advance/pre-empt, enabling pro-action. In this high consciousness state the business is able to deliver on the “day to day” activities but is also sensing outwards, inwards and forwards. There is a high degree of market sensitivity, customer and stakeholder feedback, as well as forecasting and scenario planning. The business is well aware of its history, its roots and often draws from the past as a resource for the present and future. Trend data is useful. Lessons and learning, stories and experience from experienced staff are valued. There is a rich knowledge base of experience. The business is also very “present”, sensing its environments, quick to pro-act and react, to learn and to re-imagine its future in the light of present and emerging knowledge and experience. The business sees itself clearly as having a biography, on a timeline of potential.
MEDIUM CONSCIOUSNESS – The Improvisor – Brought into awareness in the present or the immediate future – enabling improvisation and immediate response. Here the business has elements of proactivity but tends to be very present-focused. It improvises well but neglects its history and possible learning from it. It does vision the future but this tends to be done only occasionally as part of “strategy” making. It’s future radar isn’t very real time.
LOW CONSCIOUSNESS – The Reactor – is brought into awareness after the fact, enabling reaction. The business is very reactive, in the now, and doesn’t tend to take time to reflect and draw out learning and lessons from the past. It moves on quickly and often re-invents the wheel and is in a state of present-based pressure. It can be skilled at reaction, but tends to lurch from one crisis to the next and its strategy feels a bit abstract and not grounded in the present picture as it is evolving.
ZERO CONSCIOUSNESS – The Aftermather – is not brought into awareness until a state defined as “too late” – a kind of sleep state leading to regular fire fighting and even panic. The business doesn’t hold a sense of useful history, there’s a high turnover of staff and little sense of continuity. The business doesn’t forecast, plan accurately or identify useful trends. The business does not recognise nor value experience, nor does it value visionaries.
Want to go deeper? Dive in here.
Want to view the no nonsense guide? Cruise along here.
Or visit the story centre here for a story about temporal conscious business.
METRIC 2 – Business Self-Consciousness
Here we attempt to assess the extent to which the business is self-aware of key issues relating to Conscious Business. To what extent does the business “know itself” in real time. Here we define self-knowledge and awareness as a consciousness of the organisation self – the who, what, why, how, where and when of its present actions. It roots here not only into the timelines but also in its sense of identity, its awareness of what drives it, motivates it and also how consistent that awareness is across the business. The extent to which its self-knowledge arises from “within” is a sign of high self-consciousness, though consciousness can be raised through the use of third parties, but this creates a lag, a disconnect between generated and received self-awareness.
High Consciousness – the business is a “double loop” learning organisation with real time sensing of emerging issues of which it needs to be consciousness (it regularly scans, forecasts for itself). There is real time information sharing with all key stakeholders – at all levels of the value chain. The business may employ external agencies to help it remain self-aware. Without these agencies, it might drop in self-awareness. The business doesn’t necessarily have home grown, embedded scanning and sensing to a high degree.
Medium Consciousness – the business employs external agencies to help it remain self-aware. Without these agencies, it would drop in self-awareness but feedback isn’t in real time. The business doesn’t have home grown, embedded scanning and sensing to a high degree and external agencies provide input in away that isn’t fully real time. Often they are delivers of good or bad news after the event. Ability to pro-act is lower. The organisation has a lagging self-image, often blurred though fairly accurate.
Lower Consciousness – the business doesn’t regularly sense its internal nor external environment. It relies on informal grapevines, sporadic information sources, and tends to fire fight.The organisation has a distorted self-image.
Zero Consciousness – without any real sensing or feedback, the organisation is like a headless chicken, only surviving through stable market conditions and low technology rates of change. The organisation has no real image of itself.
Want to go deeper? Dive in here.
METRIC 3 – Business Spatial Consciousness
The business operates in a physical, geographical environment, regardless of whether its activities are physical or virtual. It is a “player” in a community than spans outwards from its own internal ecosystem to the “four corners of the planet”. The business’s processes and actions impact in this outward radiating direction and its awareness of this impact is expressed by this metric. The organisation will, to a greater or lesser extent, be conscious of this spacial impact in terms of – impact on physical environment, people, social groups and economies, political, legal, technological impacts as well. These impacts can be shown on a map. These impacts can be positive or negative.
High Consciousness- The Business behaves in an integrated way, seeing itself as a global, regional, sectoral, local or community citizen. It is aware of the impact of its actions both up and down the supply chain. It has real time information and intelligence that reaches beyond its internal boundaries – politically, economically, socially, technologically, legally and environmentally. As a connected, integrated citizen is behaves with a real time conscience.
Medium Consciousness – The business has some integrated externally, but not all information channels are reliable and the quality of consciousness may be distorted by conflicting commercial agendas. The organisation then behaves in a multi-personality way; there may be some awareness, but also a lack of congruence. The organisation knows only selective aspects of itself. The business is possibly cut off from parts of its community. It might be involved in local community projects, or be very close to local customers, but may be distanced in awareness of its wider environmental or ethical impact.
Low Consciousness – The business’s awareness is more limited to its own “selfish” agenda. It pushes out its products and services and attempts to “pull” wealth to it, regardless of spatial impact, especially beyond its own locality. It is a bit self-obsessed and is unable to integrate with its value chain beyond narrow commercial lines.
METRIC 4 – Integrity Consciousness
Integrity is the quality of coherent connectedness within the business. A key element is consistency. Integrity is where the different parts of the organisation are conscious to the leadership as well as the various parts of the business that need to be conscious of the whole. So, in integrity consciousness there are two fundamental elements:
– the coherence of the system in terms of its sub-system and its place in the metasystem
– the level of awareness within the system of the logic and values underpinning the system’s meaning of existence
HIGH CONSCIOUSNESS – The business does what it says it does. There’s is no disconnect between its stated purpose, values and ethics and its practices and processes. The business knows its raison d’etre, and awareness of this can be found throughout the organisation. There is also no conflict between this purpose, its externally shared public purpose, and its activities. The business has a way of passing this purpose on to new employees, and is able to know when it makes changes to this purpose through connection to high temporal and spatial consciousness. There is a whole system overview and the organisation demonstrates holographic qualities where each part of the system is a reflection of the whole system. There is total integrity – coherence in values and practice, purpose and process. The strategy is realised, and there is high awareness of both realisation and strategy. When something goes wrong, the business is able to learn quickly and spread learning into proactive prevention. The system evolves in a consciously designed way through internal and external sensing and measuring against the ongoing business purpose. The business feels awake and self-aware. Employees and stakeholders sense and feel this integrity.
MEDIUM CONSCIOUSNESS – The business’s real practice largely follows its own rhetoric. It is aware of its reason for existence, its core purpose and there is little disconnect between what it says its values are publicly and its business practices. However, this is expressed in differently interpreted ways across the business in ways that cause some confusion in practice. The business may be very high integrity in terms of its processes whilst being unable to find documentation and people who can say WHY we do things they way we do (we just do them). Or, it might be the opposite – there are a lot of shared values and the business strategy and purpose may be consistently and widely known, but there are examples across the business of practice not following this purpose. The businesses could be characterised as being multi-personality, as having pockets of best practice alongside pockets of poor practice. it may be a good citizen in one country and a poor citizen in another. Feedback from sub systems to the whole system overview is limited but not consistent. The “whole picture” is missing.
LOW CONSCIOUSNESS – The business rhetoric and the business reality are at odds with each other. Integrity is low because systems do not join up coherently or consistently. There may be pockets of practice that match the senior management definition of the core purpose and values, but these tend to be sporadic. The business lacks awareness of how processes fit together, there’s low consciousness of temporal and spatial elements in a way that the business’s environmental impact is uncontrolled and patchy, and it has little awareness of its history and how current practice has developed or needs to developed. The business may only still be surviving through successful products in the market, or through reactionary strategies at sub system level. The business is largely asleep to its integrity.
METRIC 5 – Learning Consciousness
– the business’s ability to identify when and how it is making mistakes and its ability to prevent them occurring, or react on them quickly in ways that do not compromise other types of consciousness. Learning from mistakes is valued, non traumatic error reporting is encouraged. The business principle here is that mistakes are portals to discovery but prevention is even better – proactive imagination of mistakes along the time line.
HIGH CONSCIOUSNESS – the business is open to learning from mistakes, there is a mature responsibility culture and this has replaced an over-cautious no-blame culture. When mistakes are made, they are indeed seen as “portals of discovery”. The business is “closed loop”, feeding current and past experience into present and future decision making. The business digs down to root causes. Reflection on practice is a core value and business process. Leadership encourages learning from mistakes and also actively encourages pro-active learning. The business is able to incorporate learning into practice quickly and fully. Learning spans immediate problem prevention and solution to training and development. The business is aware of what it needs to learn. Learning is transferred quickly from one part of the business to another and there is also ongoing sharing of learning with stakeholders and along the value chain. There is a high degree of project learning and reflection and knowledge and experience transfer between projects is highly practised.
MEDIUM CONSCIOUSNESS – Learning takes place across the organisation but is inconsistent. Learning tends towards being reactionary or generalist and isn’t always based on live feedback. Learning tends towards reactive problem solving with some attention to problem prevention. There is clearly learning going on but it isn’t a business-wide value. Learning tends to be located in the hands of Human Resources. There is some fear that making mistakes may get you fired.
LOW CONSCIOUSNESS – Learning is compartmentalised, tends to avoid difficult “zone of discomfort” topics and is rarely real time. When learning is real time it tends to be problem-focused with little or no time for reflection. There is an avoidance of learning where there might be “blame” attached and learning from mistakes is tied up with a culture of fear of making mistakes. Proactive learning is rare and senior managers see themselves as “beyond learning and development” which is reserved for those lower down the organisation. The business sees learning as “a luxury when we can afford it and when we have time”. There is little live feedback in the organisation.
METRIC 6 – Motive Consciousness
– the business’s consciousness of its own will force. A business can become highly motivated or demotivated and has a level of collective energy and will. A high conscious business knows and manages its energy levels and is conscious of the most optimum deployment of resources to optimise its will. A highly conscious business uses its energy so well that it has a quality of perseverance. A high conscious business is aware of its motives; in a low conscious business it is running like a “headless chicken”. In some cases, the motives are known only by a small part of the organisation.
This is a difficult metric because consciousness of motives and motivational energy can be consciously suppressed by one part of the organisation, in some cases the senior management, in some cases the major owners or share holders. So, there may not be a highly level of business-wide consciousness here, by the conscious design of one part of the organisation.
HIGH CONSCIOUSNESS – the business is conscious of its motives and motivational energy. This consciousness of “will” is distributed intentionally in ways that serve the other forms of consciousness in the business. The business is aware of its will in a way that allows it to act freely and consciously in the present and the future.
MEDIUM CONSCIOUSNESS- the business is aware of some of its motives but not all. Not all parts of the business are aware of “why we do what we do in the way that we do” and this lack of consistency in awareness is not always intended by the business leadership. There is sometimes a disconnect between owner motives and professional leader/manager motives. Motivational energy can ebb and flow due to lack of consciousness of why we are doing what we are doing. The assumption here is that people and groups tend to be more motivated when they know why they are doing what they are being asked or ordered to do.
LOW CONSCIOUSNESS- “The headless chicken”. The organisational will is collectively weak, often in the hands or just a few in ways that depress motivation. Senior leaders are in reactive mode, not very aware of what is really motivating the business. There is a disconnect between what we do, why we think we are doing it, and why we are really doing it. There may be hidden motives but these have been lost to the current leadership team. The business doesn’t communicate clear motives externally or internally because it doesn’t have a clear sense what they are.
(Dive deeper here)
METRIC 7 – Technology Consciousness
– the business is conscious of the technological processes and artefacts in its sector that can best support it in realising its integrity – its core purpose. The use of technology across the business joins up, makes sense to it, and his has effective feedback systems into the whole picture to ensure technosophic (wise) choices are made
HIGH CONSCIOUSNESS – technology is used “wisely”, drawing from different relevant perspectives and disciplines. Technology choices are part of the business’s “narrative”. on a logical and sensible timeline running from past, to present, to future. The business use of technology is sustainable and links coherently to its business strategy which, in turn is informed consciously by technology potential. Technology enables the organisation to become more conscious, it improves others forms of consciousness, making it more aware of relevant information and able to gain real time internal and external input to decision making. Technology forecasting and planning takes place. Technology use and implementation never depresses business consciousness. Information technologies enhance real time “sensing” and different systems join up, internally, and out into the value chain and stakeholder field. Technology aids business learning and innovation and technology practice
MEDIUM CONSCIOUSNESS – technology is deployed effectively but doesn’t completely join up. Information systems are mostly but not all integrated and decision making doesn’t always have full information.Some technology choices do not easily follow from past choices so the narrative feels a bit broken. Overall technology helps the organisation’s intelligence but wisdom is not always present so systems do not always integrate as well as they could. Technology delivers better business processes but not necessarily a better whole system.
LOW CONSCIOUSNESS – technology allows individuals and groups to function more reflectively but doesn’t serve to improve whole system business consciousness. No one has the whole information picture and information systems do not join up well. Access to real time sensing and information contains inaccuracy and “lag”.
METRIC 8 – Process Consciousness
– the business is highly process conscious. It is able to monitor all critical business processes as close to real time as possible. Process owners have up to date knowledge and context required to enact processes at optimum performance. Process knowledge is up to date and closed loop. Process learning and improvement takes place and there is a high degree of skill and awareness of how processes should link up and integrate. Process potential is known and linked to temporal consciousness – process history is known. Leaders are aware of how processes form the “whole picture” – The business understands the concepts of closed and open systems and is able to think holistically and locate process flows into and out of the business. Each process is managed sustainably with minimum waste. Processes knowledge is gained through real time feedback enabling process innovation to occur.
HIGH CONSCIOUSNESS – the business leadership has full grasp of the holistic process map of the organisation. It understands its business systems and all critical sub-processes. It is highly aware of the place of the business as a sub-system of the meta-system that represents its environment stretching out in process flows towards the four corners of Planet Earth. (And, perhaps, beyond). The business understands the potential of all processes, identifies synergies and ways to manage processes is the most energy efficient way. The business is aware of all process domains – human, technological, physical, environmental. The business is aware of the innovation potential of processes. Process maps exist, are real time, accurate and useful to decision making and planning/strategy making.
MEDIUM CONSCIOUSNESS – the business has the main elements of the whole process “picture” and regularly analyses and becomes aware of process changes. There are process maps but these are recent rather than real time. Different people and groups in the organisation have different local process consciousness but it is an effort to bring these together to create a holistic overview when needed.
LOW CONSCIOUSNESS – processes are rather self-enclosed and there are no reliable maps of how processes fit together and flow into each other. The business finds it hard to think systemically – both internally and externally. The business tends to be more aware of functions than processes. Process knowledge is located with local experts and senior managers have a low quality and awareness of critical business processes, receiving “after the fact” reports.
METRIC 9 – Performance Consciousness
– businesses engage in “performance activity” – of products. and/or services. Consciousness of what the business is trying to perform and also what the scale of unacceptable, to acceptable to exceeding acceptable is a key aspect here. The business needs to have a deep “quality” consciousness, knowing what excellence means to customers and stakeholders at any give time. Performance conscious is both ongoing and also “step”based. The business needs to be able to identify milestones of performance over time and to create performance “chapters” in its ongoing story. The business needs to know what excellence means, period by period. But it also needs a real time awareness of performance at the micro level, enabling it to continually improve and also adapt to change and unforeseen circumstances. The business is “agile”, able to identify performance changes and create quick response performance improvements where needed. The business is also able to sustain performance over time.
HIGH CONSCIOUSNESS- the business is highly aware of what excellence means in its sector. The business has feedback systems in place to know how it is performing at micro and macro levels. Distorting factors are kept to a minimum. Performance is not talked up. Pressure and stress that damage individuals and the business are seen as distorting factors. The business is aware of how each sub process, its internal and external environmental activities impact on performance. The business has a real time picture of performance across all business processes and is able to sense feedback from inside and outside the organisational boundary. The business clearly knows what performance means in its market and sector.
MEDIUM CONSCIOUSNESS – the business has a narrow set of measures and definitions of performance. It has some real time access to performance data but much comes a bit after the fact. High performance tends to have been set on a year on year basis and there’s a limit amount of live sensing of changes in performance. Performance tends to be in the form of “reports” that lag a few weeks or even months behind real time. Performance management tends to be hierarchical and clunky.
LOW CONSCIOUSNESS – the business doesn’t really know how well or badly it is performing until fairly or even too late. A culture of fudging the figures may be in place – performance may be ‘talked up’. Bonus systems distort performance awareness and a narrow set of metrics may be in place. Performance reporting is more opinion than hard data. The business doesn’t really know what the customer or stakeholder definition of excellence is.
METRIC 10 – The Business Truth Sense
This metric focuses on the business’s ability to be objective – internally and externally. There is no distortion or lag in information and knowledge which feeds accurately into skilled, live decision making and leadership. The business is trusted and is seen as reliable in what it says it does. Customers choose the business because they believe in its truthfulness. Feedback systems focus on truthfulness, not primarily for moral reasons, but because truthfulness creates the objectivity needed to make clear, effective decisions in ways that create wealth and prosperity for the business.
HIGH CONSCIOUSNESS – a highly conscious business has a truthful picture of its internal and external environments. Data and information is accurate and up to date. The business culture is based on openness and honesty and information is shared in ways which help to deliver excellent products and services. Information systems feed back in accurate real time to enable effective short, medium and longer term change management. The business has an objective picture of itself, its customers and its stakeholder community. Here the business is able to explore challenge and questions informed by access of relevant and helpful information, knowledge and wisdom. It is able to draw on multi-disciplinary viewpoints as needed. It has reach into both internal and external knowledge and experience bases and accesses real time data as needed to ensure that decisions are based on a and truthful input. The people in the organisation have a high degree of self awareness, practice reflection, do not collude with mediocrity. Honesty and openness are core business values. The business does not tolerate secrecy, misinformation and politicking. The business values, celebrates and even rewards honesty and truthfulness. Grapevines are useful and seen as relevant informal ways of conveying thoughts, feelings and impulses. People develop themselves to become aware of their own subjectivity. Reflective practice is employed in an business that sees itself as a “learning” organisation.
MEDIUM CONSCIOUSNESS – the business has partial objectivity. There is some subjective decision making and information systems are largely accurate but some of the subjectivity distorts the picture. The business is largely open and honest but there are some “taboo” areas where things are not as open as they could be. Truth is distorted by organisational “myths”, though attempts are made to bring these out into the open and to scrutinise them. There is a lot of opinionating in the organisation which is largely reliably informed, but not always. Sometimes people in the organisation put a “spin” on messages, internally and externally. Some people in the business aren’t aware of their own subjectivity. There are some hidden agendas,
LOW CONSCIOUSNESS – the business is very selective with the truth. It no longer recognises its own spin. Data is often distorted in a culture of spin and mistrust. The business does not collect information reliably and there may be a collusion of mediocrity ( a talking up of mediocre performance and a fear of being honest). The business embodies a gap between what it thinks it is doing, what is says it is doing, and what it is often doing in practice. It often believes its own fake publicity and is shocked when a crisis reveals what was really going on. There is a culture of mistrust. Openness is often seen as a weakness in leadership and management.
My own personal definition of evil is this: when you know your motive in real time and still choose to harm yourself or another. You can be highly conscious in the above model and still choose to be greedy or socially caring. It’s possible to score highly and be a greedy bank.
However, my own starting point is that human communities are essentially socially purposed on benevolent values – on looking after each other. There is a strong impulse in humanity for us to not destroy the planet. Businesses such as banks therefore are finding that they cannot operate in isolation from their customer bases, and the communities in which they operate. The problem lies more with shareholder models based on a sole focus on financial return.
In the above model, you can’t score highly if there is a disconnect in your spatial consciousness and in your integrity consciousness. You will become unpopular in your markets. Customers may desert you. Thus performance will be affected too. In the model there’s a core belief that high consciousness scores will engender socially and environmentally responsible businesses because, by definition high consciousness = high integrity.
I have not loaded the model with “goodness”, with ethics or “greenness”, because I believe that in most, but not all cases, these will emerge from scoring high on the model, because you can’t score highly without high integrity, temporal and spatial consciousness.
SO here’s the fundamental assumption: A highly conscious business can act for good OR evil. However, because businesses operate spatially, in local, national and global systems of human beings, they will tend towards the good.
Comments welcome. Draft copy. (C) Paul Levy CATS3000.
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