Chris Laszlo: Gateway to Flourishing Consciousness

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Chris Laszlo is  an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Fowler Center at Case Western Reserve University. He is also the Faculty Director for Research and Outreach there. He authored several books including Embedded Sustainability: The Next Big Competitive Advantage (2011), and Sustainable Value (2013). Chris also a contributed to Flourishing Enterprise(2014) along with John Ehrenfeld, Judy Brown, Roger Saillant and others from the Weatherhead School.

I managed to grab Chris for a brief but very interesting chat during the Flourish and Prosper Conference last week at Case Western Reserve University.

Justmeans: Maybe you could talk about how some of the ideas being raised at this conference relate to your work.

Chris Laszlo: John Ehrenfeld and I were reflecting this morning about the power of ideas. We have this idea that sustainability was reaching a point of diminishing returns and that we need reframing, which John has been doing. One thing really new is the idea of tying in reflective practices as a way to get people to feel more connected to each other and to the world. That leads to caring and that leads to a more robust sustainability business agenda which creates value for business and society and that raises awareness and then you’re in a virtuous circle. But it all starts with reflective practices.

JM: Reflective practices. Could you elaborate?

CL: One of the things that’s in the book is the idea that the reflective practices, like meditation, for example, are important not just because they allow us to stop multitasking and be quiet and still. Stilling the senses and getting more centered also might help us to tap into a universal consciousness. That idea hasn’t fully emerged in this conference. I don’t think people quite get that. They get that reflective practices can be essential in today’s crazy multi-tasking world. And they can see that having check-ins before meetings, having a meditation room, breaks to go outside to spend a moment in nature, can all have benefits. But why those reflective practices can lead to you feel more deeply connected to yourself, to others and to nature is still a black box to most people.

JM: Go on.

CL: New scientific discoveries are showing us that the ultimate nature of the physical universe is not materialistic, it’s not made up of billiard balls grouped together in empty space, but that  there is this interconnecting field of energy, the quantum field. And furthermore that there is an extraordinary degree of coherence at every level: at the quantum level, at the biological level and at the cosmological level. We know there are only a small number constants that constrain the dynamic balance of life. The same thing is true with the Big Bang. If the universe had had an expansion rate slightly faster it would have just flown apart, but if it were much slower, it would implode. There’s so much fine balance in the world.

JM: And this is something we might want to develop a relationship to.

CL:  I think there’s a growing view among scientists that what the great spiritual thinkers have said, in many different civilizations and many different times, that behind the material world is a spiritual world. Think of the concept of Brahma from the Vedanta, or Tao from Taoism, or Asha from Zoroastrianism, or even the Kabbalah has this notion of ein soft ,a  state beyond the ordinary.  And now you’ve got physicists like Dr. John Hagelin,  Sir Roger Penrose, and Stuart  Hammeroff, which are starting to say that consciousness itself is not this electrical activity of axions or dendrites, but actually at a much finer level, there are microtubules in the brain that are accessing quantum information.

JM: So is there something essential that we’ve been missing?

CL: The problem is that as human beings we have gotten so damn smart with our left brain in processing what our five senses are telling us, that we may not be able to be receptive anymore, to this much finer level of information that comes not from the five senses, but comes from this lattice of micro-tubules in the brain that tell us about the ultimate nature of the universe that might be highly coherent.

JM: So learning to tune into this…

CL:  It will be an interesting challenge in the years ahead. If we really want to change consciousness of people so that they behave as if we are deeply interconnected, not just metaphorically, not a kumbaya kind of interconnectedness, but a physical  kind of interconnectedness. We are part of energy field, we are what quantum physicists call an excitation of the energy field. I would like to see this brought in to the field of management, as crazy as that might sound. Most management thinkers and practitioners will find that difficult, and yet, I wonder if that’s not where the real leverage is. Do you know Donella Meadows’ last article, about the places to intervene in a system?

JM: Yes, the leverage points.

CL: I keep reflecting on fact the that this may be the number one place to intervene, The greatest leverage point is not to make the return on investment (ROI) case for sustainability. It’s to change people’s consciousness of the nature of reality.

JM: So can you help me tie this to sustainability or flourishing?

CL: When you have this awareness of interconnectedness, if I feel deeply connected to my life purpose but I also feel deeply connected to you, again, not just metaphorically, but somehow realizing that we are part of a unity, and that nature is not there to be exploited for my benefit but that I am part of nature, which is, by the way, the way that human beings thought about this for tens of thousands of years until the Bronze Age ended. If we actually all felt that way, I think there would be a different sense of caring. So when you care deeply for others and future generations, that’s when you are more likely to want to support robust flourishing agendas in business.

JM: And that mindset would somehow be inherently more sustainable because it would be about trying to preserve and maintain even as we grow, but it would be rooted in caring.

CL: Exactly. So you would be changing what leaders are being, and not just what they are doing. Because with the typical McKinsey approach, and what I did for over ten years, is you want to change what people are doing, is you want to reinforce a new logic. The logic is that market forces have changed, declining natural resources, radical transparency, increasing expectation, we now have a new market reality, so you have to do differently, you have to conserve energy, you have to de-carbonize, you have to treat people differently because it’s smart business. So, okay, I did that for a long time. But it wasn’t getting us far enough fast enough.

If you want to go to a flourishing future, you have to change consciousness, you have to change what people are being. And luckily, I don’t have to make anything up, because there’s all this great work in science, and these perennial insights from spiritual traditions that are guiding us, and they are all converging to a point of higher consciousness.