VA book festival “Business Breakfast”

I had the pleasure of attending the opening “Business Breakfast” for the Virginia Festival of the Book, (thanks to Matt). I love that Charlottesville has this type of event – supposedly the most successful book festival to come into existence in decades. C’Ville has more bookstores per capita than any other city in the country.

The guest speaker was Patricia Aburdene, author of Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism. This concept is one that I have been interested in for sometime, but have danced around without having the catchy phrase, “conscious capitalism.” This idea may have a friend in Google’s “Do No Evil.”

She addressed four trends that she sees as “next” – two of which –

  • The rise of conscious capitalism
  • Boom in socially responsible investing

really resonated with what is happening in one segment of the real estate industry. Specifically, the green movement. Think about it – to paraphrase her – social change happens when there is a confluence of new values and economic necessity. This is happening right now.

One core of good business is selfishness – the good kind. Doing something for the good of others, solely for the good of others, is not sustainable. Allowing free enterprise to prosper, grow and lead market trends will hopefully lead to a successful market. Do you think that those running Nature Neutral are in business solely for the altruistic gains – the karmic payback? Doubtful. Profit is an extraordinary motivating factor. The market for green materials, sustainable housing and alternative fuels will be huge. Sure, there is a “feel-good” factor, but “feel-good” will only carry an idea so far. There has to be a motive beyond philanthropy. There is a profitable market here – there is no doubt.

I have read neither book (yet) but there seemed to be some inherent parallels between Ms. Aburdene’s theories and those of Crunchy Cons.

One of the most compelling statements she made was that the “moral rebirth of capitalism cannot be achieved through regulation – you may end up with a culture of compliance, maybe – the rebirth must come from the people – from the grassroots” (quoted as accurately as I could). A bit idealistic? Yep. A hair wishy-washy? Perhaps. Achievable and possible? Absolutely.

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One nifty feature that Amazon now has is a concordance page – a word cloud that shows the 100 most popular words in a book.

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2 Comments

  1. TrvlnMn March 23, 2006 at 21:24

    I read the post twice and it wasn’t until I started formulating my comment that I realized I was reading “Conscious Capitalism” as “Conscientious Capitalism.”

    Either way it strikes a bell with the cynic in me.

    I think of all the things I’d like to see in someone I do business with, the things I’d value, and then think of the things I’d like people to think of me.

    Then I look at the people I’ve known who are really rich, at the top of their proffession. The one’s who’ve attained a level of sucess most people only dream of, and realize how little of those attributes those people have.

    Then I wonder what the ratio of principles and integrity are to financial success? How much of that helps and how much hurts and limits? I also wonder how much of those positive values are adopted after the fact.. after one has reached a level of success and prosperity.. after one has become firmly established in one’s industry (if not a captian of that industry).

    I’d imagine some of this depends on the type of business one is in. In all the longer I think about it the more complicated it becomes.

    Success and obscene wealth somehow seem to be mitigating factors in precipitating forgiveness in/from society for those without (or with very little) principles and integrity.

    I’ve probably diverged a bit from where the original point I intended to make. Which is- the cynic in me says ‘warm and fuzzy’ and ‘feel good’ are nice… but one has to have a level of success and establishment before one can comfortably embrace them.

    (note: I mention ‘principles’ and ‘integrity’ in this post.. they were included as an addition to the discussion. I didn’t want anyone reading this to assume those were what I meant with the terms ‘warm and fuzzy’ or ‘feel good’. Warm and fuzzy is pretty much everything else idealistic that people would like to see from business).

  2. Jim Duncan March 23, 2006 at 23:05

    I do not necessarily disagree with you that the concept (and post) elicit a dose of healthy cynicism and skepticism, but I think that good business and success can be achieved and still maintain a good conscience. Just because that kind of success has not achieved the prominence of those lacking integrity and strong principles doesn’t mean that it is impossible.

    Change has to start somewhere. What she was “preaching” was neither groundbreaking nor earth-shattering. What was interesting was her audience. If some of the audience take and act on even a nugget of what she was saying, then I hope that some good will come about.

    Success (business or otherwise) should not be mutually exclusive.