Four Stages of Business Evolution through the Lens of Ancient Indian Wisdom

This article was originally posted on, here.
In the Upanishads and the Vedas, ancient Indian wisdom texts written over 2,500 years ago, the life of a human being is said to have four stages: studenthouseholderforest dweller and ascetic

These stages of human life are analogous to the stages through which modern business has progressed since the Industrial Revolution.

By reviewing the history of modern business with these stages in mind, we can see how the current upheaval of traditional business models fits within a coherent — and thus less anxiety-inducing — evolutionary path.

In ancient India, the four stages were as follows:

Being-Centered Leadership and Sustainable Business

This article was originally published by the Corporate Eco Forum, here

The great challenge of sustainable business is that even as global sustainability trends for climate change and ecosystems loss become more alarming, changes in corporate practices have not scaled at the required rate. Many senior executives seem to share this assessment—in a recent global survey of 1,000 CEOs, only one third felt that business was on track to meet these deteriorating trends.

Where do we look to drive large-scale change for sustainable business?

Levels of Change

Sustainable Business Initiatives Will Fail Unless Leaders Change Their Mindset

This article was originally posted on Harvard Business Review, here.

Ten years ago, sustainability issues were not considered business issues.  But today, most major corporations have a sustainability function.  Increasingly, companies are applying data-driven methodologies such as carbon footprinting, product indexing, lifecycle analysis, and ecosystem services valuation to support smarter decision-making and business innovation.

Yet, if the ultimate goal is to bend the arc of unsustainable business practices enough to make a crucial difference, we still have a long way to go.

How ‘being-centered’ leadership can drive capitalism

This article was originally published on, here.

In a recent GreenBiz article, Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia’s head of environmental affairs and creator of the “Responsible Economy” campaign, asked a fundamental question: “If [economic] growth is the elephant in the room, and if over time it’s unsustainable, and if it is the underpinning of our capitalist system … what would capitalism or an economy look like without growth or even with retraction?”

While Ridgeway’s question is multifaceted, one thing is clearAn economy where growth is not the driver would have a model of business success and leadership that is radically different from what we have today.

Ancient wisdom and new thinking on integrity (and how to avoid financial crises)

This article was originally published on The Guardian, here.

The likely $13bn (£8.9bn) fine imposed on JPMorgan by the US government has created a lot of buzz recently. The company was accused of passing off loans underlying mortgage-backed securities as low risk to one set of investors, while simultaneously betting with other investors that they were highly risky. It appears that the vast majority of these loans originated from Bear Stearns, acquired in March 2008 by JPMorgan. Ironically, this was done at the behest of the US government to keep the financial system from collapsing.