Conscious: A book review by Bob Morris

Conscious: The Power of Awareness in Business and Life
Bob Rosen and Emma-Kate Swann
John Wiley & Sons (July 2018)

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Pogo the Possum

In Plato’s Apology, Socrates is on trial for impiety and corrupting youth, for which he was subsequently sentenced to death. At one point he suggests that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” I was again reminded of that observation as I began to work my way through Bob Rosen and Emma-Kate Swann’s book. I agree with them (and Socrates) about the importance of being aware of who we are, where we are, and what is happening in our world as we proceed through each day.

Now much more than ever before, there are powerful distractions that compete for our attention. Rosen and Swann characterized six of them them as the “main disruptors”: Speed, Uncertainty, Complexity, Technology, Competition, and Globalization. “How we respond to these forces can be energizing and create unlimited opportunities, or they can be demoralizing and sabotage our best efforts. How conscious you are of yourself, your relationships, and your surroundings will make all the difference.”

Rosen and Swann wrote this book to help those who read it to adapt, accelerate, and transform. More specifically, the information, insights, and counsel they provide can help almost anyone to avoid or overcome four self-defeating tendencies:

o Too shallow: “We don’t go deep enough into our human psyche.”
o Too narrow: “We live in steel bunkers and can’t see our way out.”
o Too safe: “We are afraid of change and prefer to avoid the uncertainty around us.”
o Too small: In your view of yourself and the world is too small, you won’t have connections, possibilities, or solutions.”

See Pages 8-9 for additional comments about each. Also, check out Part II, GO DEEP to Discover Your Inner Self; Part III, THINK BIG to See a World of Possibilities; Part IV, GET REAL with Your Accelerators and Hijackers; and Part V, STEP UP to Your Highest Potential.

With regard to “hijackers,” Rosen and Swann focus on five: being excessively self-critical, having a cynical attitude, being or attempting to be too controlling, staying aloof, and harboring an overly competitive mind-set. “Hijackers function a lot like Homer’s sirens [in The Odyssey]. We are easily lured by them and end up being tossed on the rocks.” I hope supervisors, especially, pay close attention to — are keenly aware of — Rosen and Swann’s observations and suggestions in Chapter 20.

Major companies as well as individuals can lack the highly developed awareness that success requires. For every Walmart, there are Kresge, Sears Roebuck, and Montgomery Ward. Walmart created or reacted to a major paradigm shift in retailing, the others did not. Sam Walton realized that the future had already begun to arrive (albeit distributed unevenly according to William Gibson); Walton’s counterpart CEOs at other companies did not.

In his classic work Future Shock (1984), Alvin Toffler suggests, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Rosen and Swann offer an excellent case in point. “Google is a learning machine. Its purpose, products, and people live the mission, always looking forward to pioneer what’s next.. The search engine started Google, and the company evolved into an expanding ‘alphabet’ with subsidiaries as diverse as health, care, autonomous vehicles, satellite imaging, venture capital, fiber optic infrastructure, and artificial intelligence.” As they also point out, Warren Buffett spends 80% of his day reading. How important are learning, unlearning, and relearning? Years ago, Ann Landers (Eppie Lederer) observed, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

Near the conclusion of their lively and eloquent narrative, Bob Rosen and Emma-Kate Swann stress the need for conscious people in any organization to collaborate on making it healthier by increasing consciousness at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. “It’s up to you to carve your legacy not in stone but in the hearts and minds of the people you have touched.” If you need an operations manual for that great initiative, look no further.

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