Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Mind, Body, Business

Society is looking to companies to address social and economic issues.

Source: Pixabay

How do we establish business priorities?

Shareholder value once stood tall at the benchmark of corporate achievement. Today, the value of a company may be based upon its core values and those contributions to society. Michael Gelb, a writer who applies innovative thinking to personal and organization development, has taken a keen look at this topic. It seems to me that Gleb is translating several powerful marketplace trends to help shape the future of business. Beyond the timely aspects of technology and exponential innovation, the role of humanity may emerge as a driving force in building tomorrow's shops and corporate unicorns. His new book, The Healing Organization, looks to awaking today's and tomorrow's leader to a new business model. And according to him, save the world along the way.

I've been impressed with Gelb's thinking on creativity and innovation. I recently had the chance to dig a little deeper into the idea of "conscious capitalism" and his unique concept of the Healing Organization.

What is "The Healing Organization?"

In his 2019 letter to CEOs Larry Fink, head of BlackRock, the biggest asset management company in the world, wrote: “Unnerved by fundamental economic changes and the failure of government to provide lasting solutions, society is increasingly looking to companies, both public and private, to address pressing social and economic issues. These issues range from protecting the environment to retirement to gender and racial inequality, among others.” Healing Organizations are those who are embracing this challenge to apply the dynamism and creativity of business to find solutions to our greatest challenges.

Why is this important, especially now?

Pressure on corporate leaders from environmental and social activists has been mounting and we can see the effect in the Business Roundtable’s recent headline-making announcement that the doctrine of shareholder primacy has outlived its usefulness. The Business Roundtable, and many others, are beginning to understand that we must reorder our priorities and put people and the general welfare first. The good news is: companies who do this discover that they become more profitable in the long term, as the research of my co-author Professor Raj Sisodia and his colleagues demonstrates convincingly.

Is this being applied in corporate America today?

Yes. Herb Kelleher founded America’s most profitable and beloved airline, Southwest, on these principles, and many other great companies such as Detroit’s DTE Energy, Eileen Fisher, KIND Healthy Snacks, Hillmann Consulting, and Hyatt Hotels, have followed suit. This is a trend that is becoming a megatrend as the children of Boomers assume senior leadership positions. In a recent survey, 65% of Millenials said that the primary purpose of business should be helping to solve societal problems.

What led you to shift from writing about Creativity and Self Development to Conscious Capitalism and Organizational Change?

When I graduated from Clark University with a double major in psychology and philosophy I set criteria for what I wanted to do with my life: It had to be something healing for others and for myself. Inspired by Rollo May, F.M. Alexander and Abraham Maslow, I immersed myself in the study of creative thinking, mind/body coordination and self-actualization, completing my Master’s in Psychophysical Re-education at Goddard College in 1978. My thesis got published as my first book, BodyLearning, shortly thereafter and companies began to invite me to speak about developing the potential of their leaders. Around this time it began to dawn on me that business was the most influential institution in our world, for better or for worse, and that perhaps I could make a difference by helping business leaders become more conscious, creative and compassionate.

I developed a 3-day seminar entitled High-Performance Learning that I taught for many years for companies like AT&T, DuPont, IBM, and Merck focusing on optimizing individual creativity, learning ability and what today is called mindfulness.

In 1997 I was asked to lead a series of these seminars as part of the Executive MBA program at George Mason University, to help participants learn the skills they needed to lead innovation efforts at work. Raj Sisodia was the director of the program and we became friends. In 2006, Raj sent me a copy of the draft manuscript of his seminal book Firms of Endearment: How World Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose. Raj and his co-authors made a compelling business and academic case for what soon became known as Conscious Capitalism.

We formulated the idea for The Healing Organization organically through the dialogue that emerged from our collaboration to promote Conscious Capitalism. All my previous books are about the skills one needs to be a creative, self-actualized person and an innovative leader and this one brings it all together in a bigger context. And, it’s much easier for individuals to express their creativity and achieve self-actualization when they work in a Healing Organization.