July 27, 2018
Editor's Choice: Conscious: The Power of Awareness in Business and Life
Conscious: The Power of Awareness in Business and Life by Bob Rosen & Emma-Kate Swann, Wiley, 272 pages, Hardcover, July 2018, ISBN 9781119508458
Bob Rosen and Emma-Kate Swann’s new book, Conscious, is basically a 272-page admonition and instruction guide to stay woke. Yes, I realize that a 37-year-old, socially awkward, heterosexual, cisgender, white male writing “stay woke” in a business book review could be the death of the phrase, but I think it’s accurate here.
“We have reached a time in history,” write Rosen and Swann, “when our ability to adapt is struggling to keep pace.” They compare the disruptions we are facing to a forest fire, which can devastate everything in its path, yet bring forth new life at the same time. They identify six main disruptors—speed, uncertainty, complexity, technology, competition, and globalization—that we face as a society today, but they also acknowledge how “[b]roken families, racial tension, and sexual harassment, trade wars, national tensions, and climate change are exacerbating the situation.” The best way to address all of those challenges is by being conscious, which the authors define at one point as “awareness in action.” Surveying the scene, they write:
Our world is skidding toward a new economic and social era where the cost of unaware people is too high to pay. We need to wake up. To grasp the true meaning of being conscious, you are going to have to Go Deep and discover your inner world. Think Big to see a world of possibilities. Get Real to be more honest and intentional in leadership and life, and Step Up to your highest potential.
The bulk of the book is designed around strengthening those four reflective abilities, and in teaching us that “the real power of awareness is found when we master action and introspection together.” Its main goal is to help you become more aware of yourself, of others, and of your environment, and through that awareness be able to adapt to the changes around us rather than resist them, to act on that awareness in a way that is transformational for ourselves, our companies, and our communities. One of the first things we need in order to do that is a little humility, to stop thinking that we already know everything, or know better than others. “Our obsession with being the smartest person in the room,” the authors write, “gets in the way of adapting to the future.” We have to be honest with ourselves about what we don’t know. We have to become comfortable with uncertainty, “comfortable being uncomfortable,” open to new experiences and new information, and open to changing our mind when presented with that new information. To adapt, to be our best selves, we must blend confidence and humility:
By expanding our minds, enriching our experiences, and shaping our destinies, we discover our purpose in life. Being conscious enables us to approach life as a journey. Equipped with everything we need—an open mind and heart, confidence and resilience, and our capacity for greater consciousness—we embrace the uncertainty of life. Conscious is the accelerator for effective change. The more conscious we are, the faster we adapt, and the higher performing we become.
On this journey, the authors will teach the importance of, and how to: Tap into your innate wisdom; Build emotional resilience; Allow yourself to be vulnerable and imperfect; Be aware of your attachments, and mindful of others; Accept uncertainty and the anxiety it manifests as a fact of life, and use it as productive energy to make it work for you instead of against you; Activate a growth mindset, a “both/and” rather than “either/or” way of thinking; Recognize and nurture the talent of others; Incorporate diversity, inclusion, and alternate perspectives in the search for innovation, and so much more. On that last point, they write:
As we learn to truly respect our differences in age, ethnicity, and gender, as well as in education, religion, and politics, we broaden our capacity to see the world. We become more mentally and socially agile, gain access to more ideas and choices, and expand our potential and performance.
The also write about how to handle the deluge of information we’re all met with every day, and how important it is to be conscious of how we consume it:
There’s a lot of discussion these days about “alternative facts.” Too much information makes it easy to confuse the reality. Are you using fact-based assertions or opinion-based assumptions? One is verifiable; the other is not. In our fast-paced world, reality does matter.
Because we get so much of our information—both at work and away from it—online, we need to make sure the digital ecosystem we exist in isn’t an echo chamber of our own way of thinking, and that requires conscious, deliberate effort. “We need to teach our computers to broaden our context,” they suggest, “and bring us information that will help us expand our minds.”
They write about how to leverage your personal ecosystem—your brand, your relationships, and your network—in a way that shows gratitude, is generous to others, and productive for all. They explain why learning about people, and about yourself, is as important as learning new technologies and new business practices, why developing relationships is as important as developing strategy, and why the ability to learn is as important as the ability to solve. They reveal why, in a world that requires constant adaption, “[s]haring trumps hoarding, cooperation trumps heroics, and generosity trumps self-interest,” why love trumps fear, and who you are trumps what you know. They show us how our challenges are our greatest opportunities, and in uncertainty lies our greatest possibilities.
They ask that we consider our legacy not in terms of how we’re remembered, but by what we contribute to the world, and to those around us. “It’s up to you,” the authors write in closing, “to carve your legacy not in stone but in the hearts and minds of the people who you have touched.”
“Being conscious,” as they say, “is the new smart.” Stay woke.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books, and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.