Namaste: When you speak of the “whole” of life, say more about the kinds of things you have in mind.
Catherine: I am speaking of our lives personally, relationally, environmentally, technologically, communally, and globally. We think of companies as having stakeholders. Usually when we refer to a “stakeholder,” we have in mind those who have a financial interest in a company. However, the stakeholders in any company are much broader. They include the community in which a company operates, the people it sources materials from, the people it provides goods or services to, the people who work in the company, the environment in which it operates, and much more. An awakened company is in touch with the needs of all its stakeholders, not just those whose focus is the bottom line.
Namaste: Would you say that companies are more awake or less awake today than they have traditionally been?
Catherine: It’s a mix, but overall I see some promising signs that more companies are awakening, while others are becoming aware of the need to awaken, since they recognize that the way most businesses operate today simply isn’t sustainable. On the one hand we are seeing some extremely successful household names shift to awakened business practices, while on the other many companies seem to put in place more and more impersonal rules, give their people less and less power to make decisions, and increasingly function more like machines than communities of people. Rules trump personal service in all too many cases today.
Namaste: Doesn’t a company need to have set standards, or rules, about how it functions and how it relates to the public?
Catherine: Yes, of course. But this doesn’t justify a company becoming rule-bound and time-bound, so that it’s no longer relevant in terms of the customer’s needs or employees because those who are in touch with the public simply have no power to make wise decisions that are in the company’s best interests. An awakened company evolves to match the reality of this moment in time, as well as envisioning where the future lies. To achieve this, it seeks to empower its people, seeing everyone as a leader. In this way a company is responsive to the needs of the moment, as well as mindful of the future, and can switch gears when necessary. Awakening, then, isn’t a state but an ongoing process, so that the awakened company is anything but a fixed entity. It throbs with the life of real people.