Finally ..it hits the fan!

Why the financial crisis is really good news (at least for some of us)…

So far, I’ve been holding off writing anything about the financial crisis. There’s plenty of information and advice in whatever you read and whoever you talk to. However, clients, business partners and friends repeatedly asked about the Conscious Business Institute’s take on the crisis. We also feel that many of the analyses and recommendations out there do not really address the difficulties and worries that many of us experience. So, here are some of our thoughts and nuggets of wisdom.

The crisis has been on the horizon for a long time. We are speaking about the radically changing economic climate in our leadership speeches and public appearances for well over a year (see http://www.consciousbusinessinstitute.com/resource.html and click on “The Economics of Change” for an audio excerpt). But I do agree that it’s quite a different experience to see the storm clouds on the horizon and being whipped around once it hits. So, let’s not spend more time on what we could have done, differently. Rather, let’s look at the current situation, what to expect, and how to deal with it.

We don’t believe that the crisis will be over anytime soon. We are NOT in a finance crisis. This finance crisis is merely one of the many “bubbles of dysfunction” in our economic system that popped to the surface, and we believe there are more to come. We are all familiar what happens when a dam bursts: after the weakest link breaks, it is hard to keep the structure intact. This means, that we are likely to see more dysfunctions bubble to the surface, creating additional pressure, fear and crisis. I just returned from a dear friend in Carmel, California, who has spoken about this financial crisis for many years. He has actually taken his house off the grid, bought some chicken and is starting to become as self-sustaining as possible. Necessarily so? I am not sure, but behaviors like this contribute to sociological and economic shifts in our society.

To put it into larger perspective: researching leading cultures throughout the past 2 millennia – the Roman Empire, The British Empire, The Egyptians, for example, we find that all of these cultures went through similar transitions from a production based economy, to a service based economy, to a knowledge based economy, and, lastly, to a finance based economy. After being a finance based culture, there’s a pattern of collapse that is common to all of these cultures. And guess where we are…

So, what’s good about this crisis?

This crisis brings the truth to the surface – the dysfunctions that are deeply engrained in our system. It is a rare opportunity for change, and as outlined in previous blog post, this change is not only necessary, but actually desired by a large percentage of our population. All we want, though, is that change to happen without experiencing pain or struggle. But I am sure you intimately know from conflicts in personal relationships: Change always comes with friction – with resistance – and often with pain. If we really want to make space for a new, more healthy and inspiring economic and leadership paradigm, the old one has to crash – and with that some of our material attachments to it. So, the question to ask is not “When is this crisis finally over?”, we think a more productive question is “How can we effectively manage the resistances, the pain and conflicts associated with it?”.

How can we best deal with the financial crisis as a company or as individuals?

This crisis is a rare opportunity to grow. Learning to flow with this crisis allows us not only survive as businesses, but to flourish once the crisis passes. Everyone of us (as individuals and business leaders) has a choice: we can either fall back into the “old model” of dominance and subservience and fear-based behavior patterns, or we can use this opportunity to look at the underbelly of things: to become aware of constraining fears, behavior patterns and issues that are triggered by this financial crisis, and use the slow time of the economy to sharpen our team and our personal abilities.

Personally, I recommend the latter strategy, which has actually worked out quite well for us. I am actually grateful for the financial crisis. In fact, thank you, Richard Fuld, for running Lehman Brothers into the ground. We have spent much time working on the dysfunctions, and thanks to you and your colleagues, this financial crisis has put us in an extremely good position to work with businesses and executives (If you are interested how, please check http://www.cbi-executivebriefing.com).

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Welcome to the Conscious Business Institute Blog

We believe that it is time for a new business paradigm to emerge – a paradigm that is based on integrity, honesty, trust and cooperation, instead of the prevalent model of dominance and subservience. We find that businesses embracing this new paradigm can provide an environment for their managers and employees to combine personal and financial success with inspiration, empowerment, fulfillment and personal growth – a key for attracting and retaining the best talent for your organization.

In my life as an Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist, I have found that 9 out of 10 people are disengaged from their job. Most people are yearning for a way to work and live in a more fulfilling and balanced way. …and I was one of them. When I was a Venture Capitalist, I thought: “How can we invest millions of dollars in companies if most of the people are disengaged. How much money are we wasting – and how much potential and life-force gets lost along the way?”

Let’s be honest: the current model for a “successful life” that is propagated in our society only works for a tiny fraction of our population – maybe 5 or 10%. Everybody else is struggling either with money or with time. That, in my eyes, is not a very healthy model.

If organizations want to stay alive – let alone thrive – they need to reevaluate the way they conduct business. The United States is facing radical changes, which could well create a “new poverty” in this country. The global resource crisis and the mortgage crisis (including the recent collapse of some of the most well-established financial institutions) are just two examples of the changes we need to deal with. I believe that if we want to build healthy and thriving companies, we must start to compete on a different level. We must learn how to engage people so that they want to become involved with our businesses – as investors, employees or customers. To remain successful, we must learn to engage people emotionally, because we are not in a position to compete in traditional ways with emerging nations such as China or India.   

We have founded The Conscious Business Institute (CBI) to provide leaders and individuals with answers to some of the most pressing questions about their businesses and their personal lives; questions that consume a great deal of our daily energy and – although they are the big white elephant in the room – remain mostly unanswered. These pressing questions are around money and business matters, but in most cases spill over into our personal lives: our personal relationships, our well-being, our level of engagement, and other aspects of life. Our approach is different in that it combines real-world business matters with deep insights into human nature. We believe that what the future holds for you or your company depends on your level of consciousness, so if we really want to make a difference, we must address the issues in our businesses and personal lives at this underlying level.

This Blog will address some of the most widespread issues we have found working with many hundred businesses and executives. We will write about operational issues, such as, Next Generation Leadership principles, fundraising, IP protection or people engagement, as well as personal issues, including purpose, stress, conflict management or work-life balance.

We look forward to your suggestions and feed-back.

Peter Matthies