Transforming Business Consciousness Through Mindset, Leadership and Decision-making

Contrasting Traditional with Regenerative Business Cultures


Executives and management with feet and mind anchored in traditional management beliefs and practices stand gazing directly at an increasing tsunami of pressure to adapt. On the traditional side, a limited decision-making consciousness dominates crafted by linear industrial business habits and outdated business school training. The traditional mindset comes with its ubiquitous set of beliefs and assumptions. On the business innovation and leadership side, now emerging with force, is the circular economy, self-managed governance, an energy revolution, technological innovation and a push for humans to contribute their full creative potential to something worth doing; worth achieving. In traversing the arc between present levels of consciousness and capacity to design with the flow of the emerging future exists a set of counter-intuitive contradictions that only a deeper dive into open-minded learning can put to good use.

To start, clarifying what is meant by consciousness and the current state of business consciousness will frame the here and now so that the leap from one state to another can be made to biosphere consciousness: where business regenerates depleted ecological systems and restores social inequities in an entirely redefined integral role of business.

Ervin Laszlo defines consciousness as the sum total of beliefs, assumptions, perceptions, worldview used to filter reality. Personal and organizational decision-making is based on what is perceived and how it is interpreted so consciousness directly impacts capacity to adapt, perceive accurately and respond appropriately

Work done by Richard Barrett[1] (values-based consciousness) presents the shifts in consciousness as a hierarchy of values from self at the bottom to service at the top. In essence, the shift demanded by business leaders at every level mirror that framework: moving through self-development toward being a leader in service of a purpose and visions much bigger than oneself. In fact, to achieve it requires the collective contribution of a diverse set of perspectives and a learned capacity to use adverse conditions to rise above through expanded consciousness.

To be clear the transformation process itself is anything but linear. It is more of a spiral and messy process that parallels the creative process. The benefits are hard to grasp because the cognitive mind is not inclined to make leaps of faith. It is trust, hope, and an intuitive sense that man must be better for the world that offers the platform for humans to engage wider and deeper intelligence by adapting to changing conditions. As long as fear steers the human experience, human intelligence is compromised and underutilized. Business is performing sub-optimally in the world today. Fortunately, that can change.

Different lenses of mapping consciousness exist. Bill Torbert’s action logic framework spans eight levels.[2] Roughly eighty-five percent of Americans operate at a state of consciousness where decisions are driven by short-term personal interest over longer-term sustainable decisions. Whatever statistics exist globally or for nations are proprietary. This research at least offers insight into why companies that introduce more agile methods of thinking and doing meet resistance from employees who are rewarded for minimizing risk-taking and limiting personal exposure.

Traditional Business Beliefs and Assumptions

Core Belief re Purpose: Business exists to drive the economy and generate wealth. Profit is its sole purpose which attracts short-term investors looking for an ROI. Values include financial equity, capital assets, and transactional relationships* (see Joseph Bragdon’s Profit for Life and Companies That Mimic Life).

Worldview: Separate and Disconnected (from society and planet). Work and Personal duality. Business value is assessed by shareholder value with executive compensation plans typically tied to increasing shareholder value. Linear processes dominate workflow and design with environmental inputs ignored (viewed as unquantifiable) and societal costs viewed as irrelevant (in exchange for performing the purpose of driving the economy). Capital assets are valued over the collective human well-being and creative contribution. Change processes employ linear reliance on fixing the parts of a workplace culture without the benefit of seeing the big picture. Change processes relying on the intellect and linear logic can only produce incremental results.

Dominant Thinking Style: analytical to see the parts and linear processes based on Newtonian science. The focus is on problem-solving to achieve predictable outcomes resulting in a what’s wrong with this picture emphasis. Habits tend to run the show without being questioned, e.g. The value of budgeting or planning, when external conditions render plans useless quite quickly. Attention is given to what is on the surface and to a narrower interpretation of what success is (profit) leaving opportunities ignored or dismissed. Thinking follows point A to B way of proceeding which is practical in some places but not all.

Leadership Beliefs and Assumptions and Dynamics: Leadership is attached to positions of authority which ignores informal influential leaders and power centers of much value in change initiatives. Consequently, leadership is confused with authority and authority is then used to as a source of status and to broker power inside the organization. Opportunity and adaptability are lost to internal politics to the point where a company can sabotage its sustainability through pure self-interest. Conformity to leadership/authority norms is valued over risk-taking initiatives and ethics (unconsciously). Executives and managers in a leadership role have a low level of comfort with uncertainty and so wrestle uncertain elements into more predictable form in order to apply traditional thinking. Internally, there is a sensation that everyone is running hard to get to the same place.

Decision-making Beliefs and Assumptions:

Core Decision-making Assumptions:

Profit is the sole purpose. For public companies, increasing shareholder value is the measure of success.

People are important but capital assets and business processes hold higher value and guide decision-making as well as change initiatives.

People need to be told what to do, and performance managed.

Fear or reward are viewed as incentives.

Personal professional growth is prescribed with some allowance for choice.

What is Trusted — Internal Dynamics

The rational intellectual reliance on data is valued over intuition which is considered flaky (unless you are an entrepreneur). Social and emotional data embedded in internal relationships, management mindsets, and metrics are ignored with the consequence that resistance to change is to be expected. Not surprisingly, resistance to change is also one of the top risks’ executives identified globally. ( There is a heavy focus on action over reflection and learning. Organizations develop deep patterns of decision-making that make all change initiatives and actions completely predictable leaving the company vulnerable to any change in external conditions. Put in the framework of masculine-feminine, traditional organizations are addicted to action, perfection, and predictability. Planning and traditional ways of controlling performance follow specific decision paths. Variance upsets the unconscious expectation of predictability and control.

View of Risk: Risk is viewed as something to mitigate disruption (in the aim of stability) or to avoid rather than put to use for growth or agility. Companies increase risk through risk avoidance then punish risk-taking fails. Mistakes are equated with failure so, for example, projects that are proving to be costly and unsuccessful are kept alive for longer in the hopes they may succeed. Procedural mistakes are to be eradicated, also eliminating opportunities for innovation[6](e.g. Six Sigma). Insights and outlier views are pushed to confirm or watered down so that they lose their value leaving the company missing opportunities for innovation while increasing exposure to risk. Whistle-blowers (one form of an outlier) are persecuted or prosecuted for revealing unethical behaviors. Stability can border on stagnation.

Relationships Internally, Customer and Community: Authority is used to control people to achieve performance. Overall trust levels are low to medium depending on where leaders and workplace culture stands in the evolutionary process. Collisions and conflict are often ignored to avoid dealing with negative perceptions of conflict and a high tolerance for bullying and bad behavior. Fear-based decisions drive relationship quality which is transactional. Employees are blamed for performance fails even when management or metrics set up failure as inevitable Customers can be forgotten or, worse, be manipulated given the focus on meeting internal metrics and goals. (e.g. Wells Fargo-Volkswagen). Feedback on how the organization is doing is provided solely by the bottom line. Employees/people working internally are considered the means to profitability and expendable. Investors operate in a transactional way without regard or caring about the long-term sustainability of the company.

Regenerative Business — Biosphere Consciousness Level of Contribution

Core Belief re Purpose: Business exists to serve, regenerate and improve the state of humanity and ecological health in the world toward biodiversity and all other life-support systems. Values include relationship equity, transformational relationships, human ingenuity, and ecological health.* (see Joseph Bragdon’s Profit for Life and Companies That Mimic Life) or LAMP Index[3].

Worldview: Unified. Holistic. Multidimensional perception. Work and life are integrally entangled. Business value is assessed on value contributed to the quality of life. A 10X level inspiriting goal benefiting society and nature focuses effort and decisions. Products and services are designed to serve that goal or to attain it. Internally, companies are designed to flow with dynamic external conditions with the engaged effort of people in and outside the company. Profit is the result of continuous learning and connection. Patient Investors hold a short and long-term view and are rewarded exponentially as the research exemplars show. Human ingenuity drives business leadership. Adapting to dynamic conditions uses the full breadth of intelligence combined with consciousness: intuitive + intellectual; sensory and empathic. Management, where it still exists, is modeled on biomimicry management embedding the principles of life into management practices from top to bottom.[4]

Dominant Thinking Style: integrative and creative. Based on understanding the creative process, personal growth/resilience. Adaptive. The focus is on creating solutions from what is emergent. Use of problem-solving skills where linear thinking is best applied but not relied on for everything. The thinking style is selected to suit the nature of the problem. With the focus on creative solutions there is future-focused orientation which, while the past is useful for learning, a future focus results in adopting a heads up, scanning in order to steer. Strong capacity for integrative complexity: “is the ability to develop and hold opposing traits, values, and ideas and then integrate them into larger ones.”[5]

Leadership Beliefs and Assumptions and Dynamics: Leadership exists at every level of responsibility. Positions of authority remain legally accountable; in practice, executives and management serve people and customers in the achievement of far-reaching goals with near-term progress steps. Learning is integral to the mindset; mistakes are understood to be part of the creative process. Leaders have a high level of comfort with uncertainty and work with what emerges as the base for what happens next. The organization invests in iterative experiments to find the best way in complex territory. The multiplicity of factors in the decision-making environment are seen as catalysts for raising decision-making and leadership consciousness to ever higher levels. A unified, biosphere consciousness is instilled as a high value throughout all levels of leading and deciding.

Decision-making Beliefs and Assumptions:

Core Decision-making Assumptions:

Higher purpose generates profit and prosperity as a result. Business is a force for good.

People power performance. People respond to an inspiring goal. The focus is on achieving a goal with meaning, connection to shared value.

Trust and transparency guide ethics.

Personal professional growth is implicit.

What is Trusted — Internal Dynamics

Rational decision-making is intentionally balanced with intuitive insight and conscious oversight to maintain vigilance on the dynamics. Personal and organizational awareness applies to set aside time to reflect, learn, adapt and adjust before moving forward. Foresight is a natural outcome giving the advantage of organizational readiness. The organizational form has changed from a formal structure to an informal series of collaborations between partners, customers, and alliances. Decision-making consciousness is leveraged by game science built into the innovation platform which is designed to solve big global issues extending beyond company boundaries (which may not exist) and perplexing innovation challenges.

Anyone can introduce surprises if the outer world is not enough, both to keep decisions from falling into fixed patterns (acknowledging brain science) and to stimulate consistently creative reflexes. The innovation platform for tackling global issues has several feedback loops connecting to the company, the tertiary sector, and citizen-led initiatives. Nation-states may be included.

View of Risk: Calculated risks are natural. Massive leaps of trust are also made where quantum jumps in both leadership decision-making and agility are required. Fails are used for learning and strengthening resilience (supported by research). Outliers and other sources of insight are engaged as a source of opportunity for radical jumps in way of operating or serving on a wider scale. Similarly, outliers keep an eye on what is emerging to stay attentive to where thinking and perception need to adapt.

Relationships Internally, Customer and Community: Diversity of viewpoint is used to optimize conversations and product/service design. Collisions and conflict are explored more deeply to find better solutions. Trust levels are high. Having difficult conversations without blame or judgment is part of achieving ambitious high concept goals. The organization, in whatever form it exists, operates with a semi-permeable to a permeable set of communication lines providing constant feedback to all levels of the organization. Controls provide input to decision-makers. Employees/people working internally generate genius leaps in concert with customers equally engaged in the company’s success. Investors cap their returns to a fair limit turning over next level returns to profit the community or society or the environment.[7]

The contrast presented in the above is not exhaustive nor is it trying to be. The intent is to illustrate the nature of the leap from a fixed to a growth mindset; from controlling people to releasing human potential, reclaiming presence and mindful response and agility in an exceptionally volatile decision-making environment.

DepositPhotos — Head Scratching Confusion

Counterintuitive Aspects of Transforming Business Mindsets from Traditional to a Unified Biosphere level Consciousness

To assume that it is simply a matter of flipping a switch from traditional to a unified biosphere level of consciousness ignores the conditioning business decision-makers have been trained to follow to an almost religious degree. What follows are a few of the counter-intuitive contradictions that hold patterns in place until a higher level of empathy and a more inviting opening is presented to traditional thinkers. Business decision-makers and leaders, no matter what their role or position, are under a lot of pressure to change and so stress levels and stress-related illness are at an all-time high. No one wants to leave their career on that note, restoring or maintaining personal health can be the best doorway for making the quantum leadership move.

To offer a perspective (and empathy) on the character of the mindset jump and what it feels to navigate the messy middle of mindset transformation watch this video:

Three counterintuitive aspects of the transformational process follow (there are more). Insights into the nuances of perception and consciousness are also included.

1. Belief: If you don’t focus exclusively on profit you won’t make any. In fact, you are probably against capitalism.

Insight: Focusing exclusively on profit means much money is wasted in the throughput both in terms of human potential lost to routine and meaningless goals (robotics and AI will disrupt this habit), and to the physical cost of energy. The focus is on only one half of the balance sheet. Progressive companies focus on cost savings, not cost-cutting by applying brain science to decisions and communication. Traditional companies focus on cost-cutting instilling fear in command and control managed workplaces. Employees wonder: Will I be cut next? Fear takes the pre-frontal cortex offline completely compromising decision-making.

Money is literally being burned up and lost when it could be saved. A fixed focus on profit means the factors that produce the number are ignored. A disconnection between cause and effect, as well as capacity to move from a high-level view to perceiving deep dynamics, restrict flexibility, foresight and limit growth. By focusing on a higher purpose holding a wider benefit to society and the planet, more of the intelligence residing in a company is inspired to contribute. People can actually take their whole selves to work. Cost savings in terms of stress-related illness will be realized. Finding overlooked areas where the company is burning money without noticing can be realized through the help of all inside the company. This is the advantage of trust, engagement, and workplace health. Consider the difference to investors ROI over a twenty-year period between Pfizer (487%) and Novo Nordisk (1651%)

[Graph from Jay Bragdon’s House of Denmark presentation in 2011.]

2. Belief: If you focus on targets and set goals, you’ll achieve higher performance. Related belief: Fear produces higher performance.

Insight: The universal principle: Be open to outcome, not attached to it, applies to these times both at a personal and organizational level. When working in complex dynamic conditions there is nothing predictable about outcomes. In fact, much energy is wasted trying to control the uncontrollable. When an actor goes to an audition with a win or lose mindset where winning the part is the sole measure of success, it becomes one demoralizing after one let down after another. But when an actor takes the approach to give each audition his/her best shot, without attachment to outcome, then a winning outcome is in the experience itself [8]. Organizations, taking an iterative approach, illustrated by Agile software development an applying an agile mindset, can replace fixed planning with allowing for uncertainties and to optimize opportunities as they arise.

Some managers use fear as a management tool using the assumption that terror will pressure people to meet arbitrary goals. Instead, stress-related illness, depression, and anxiety result in creating an additional cost to the organization and to humanity. As noted earlier, fear compromises the executive functions of the pre-frontal cortex taking them offline. Intuition is also suppressed leaving the organization and the individual with no foresight or compass in uncharted waters. Logically, empathy and care restore a connection to a meaningful and supportive workplace community where great things are possible when supported by a higher quality of life at home and work.

3. Belief: If you stop controlling people you will lose control.

Insight: There is some confusion between control and controls. All organizations need controls to keep track of progress, but they do not need to be run by them. When management can step back to see how the company is doing it is the high-level goals that will provide clarity. Controlling is an indicator of low trust which results in stifling human creativity. This is a nuanced discernment available at expanded states of leadership consciousness. On a personal level, letting go of control and the need to be recognized as a leader marks the shift away from needing to be in control of others toward working together to achieve a shared high-value goal. The goal becomes the focus rather than controlling how it is achieved. The value of controls to provide checks and balances where needed is not negated at all.

Navigating the Messy Middle

Finding a way through the messy middle of business transformation to be more in tune with ecological and social responsibility takes bold humans willing to grow, learn and expand. The path includes wading through the challenging parts, creating new solutions each step of the way knowing that on the other side is business that is a force for good; able to be better in and for the planet and all who live on it. More advanced skills are required, including cognitive agility, valuing sensitivity and empathic consciousness. There is a major mindset shift between one state and another as noted in the companion article: What if Leaders Evolved Their Decision-making Consciousness? Can we collectively share the responsibility to meet the challenge of restoring and regenerating collective and planetary well-being? Can business rise to a higher leadership role?

Copyright 2018 Dawna Jones — From Insight to Action
Contact Dawna to explore the mindset adjustments in the messy middle of transforming business cultures.





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[7] An idea raised by Joshua Vial of Enspiral in a coffee conversation with the author, Dawna Jones.


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