Elevating consciousness: the new business edge?

Sean Kelly, President & CEO of non-profit group Kendal presented today at Mary Furlong’s Washington Innovation Summit and briefly touched on his newest community, Enso. This is being built in Healdsburg, CA in partnership with the San Francisco Zen Center, and it has generated tremendous excitement. They expected to get 400 expressions of interest within the year after announcement - they got that in four hours.

We got talking at drinks afterwards and I was struck by his commitment to building a higher purpose for his staff and his residents, which reminded me of how Chip Conley describes his efforts to raise his staff, guests and investors up Maslow’s triangle, reported about in one of his books, Peak. Kendal is now building a collaborative, "collective intelligence" platform to help tease out good ideas from people all across their organization, from the guests, staff, janitors and C-suite. Someone then asked whether this “elevating consciousness” was all well and good but businesses needed to make money. Sean said those in the industry who didn’t seek to elevate, and be elevated in return, by their residents would be the ones paying the price, as outsiders are rapidly developing new models that will be based on much more than “three meals and a cot”.

It's inspiring to have a different conversation from the usual "this tech gadget will stop X falling...". I expect to hear more from Kendal and will be interested to see whether and how the wine-country zen culture gets diffused across the rest of the organization.