Pine branch in the forest covered with snow

2016 was the year of clean up at Conscious Brands- a year of refocus and exploration of who we are, what we do, and remembering why we are doing it.

Our Sustainability Leadership Training Program was an awesome exploration of building sustainability in the core of a growing, expanding organization.

In July, CB got clear on our new vision of ‘Harmony’ – we define Harmony as a flourishing, responsive and regenerative economy. This shifted from our old vision of ‘Activating Sustainability’ which we saw a little dated and limiting, but still important as sustainability is part of a Conscious Brand.

In August we were honoured to be invited to speak at MegaFoods first annual ZingMojo conference. This two day summit was intended for industry thought leaders to join together and inspire each other in creating real solutions to keep the natural retailer at the center of health and wellness in their community. By bringing the best minds in natural together, MegaFoods (Food State) have the superpowers to create change towards industry challenges like: mass slippage, price and margin, trust and transparency and next level thinking. We’ll help chart the way forward to a proactive way of healthy living for all. (You can hear a recording of Conscious Brands’ talk at ZingMojo HERE – Rob starts talking at the 1:12 mark.)

In September at CHFA East, we took a different approach to our involvement and became more intimate by facilitating a 3-hour conversation with 7 industry leaders on the topic of “What is the greatest need for our entire industry?”

We dug deep into themes such as: prioritized training, objective perspective to show better ways to do things, common voice in messaging within the market, and commitment to differentiation.

We asked “If you could choose one course to help you commit to being a better business, what would that be?”
Some of the ideas we heard included:

  • Facilitating professional development within my leadership group
  • Building leaders, not managers (we already have good managers)
  • Navigating/adapting within transformational change to continue to be meaningful
  • Hiring for fit (i.e. clarity with what you are looking for and using techniques to find it, typically hire for technical skills vs. personality fit)
  • Managing energy and information around an exponential future
    • bring clarity among the confusion and inundation (beneficial)
    • succinct message
    • internet of things (e.g. amazon threat)
  • Embedding thinking of running a business to move beyond environment and society to the culture and individual

Finally, each of the leaders explored an area of focus that resonated including ‘facilitating leaders versus managers’, ‘navigating transformational change and remaining meaningful’, ‘hiring for fit’ and ‘purchasing processes/systems’

In October we were off to New Hope’s Esca Bona (literally, “Good Food”) conference in Austin, Texas. This brought together 278 leaders (or “food renegades”) –  young entrepreneurs, industry pioneers, CPG leadership, retailers, activists, suppliers, marketers, investors, and everyone in between.

For three days we gathered to collaborate on the mission of changing the food system.

This was our first year attending and we will definitely be heading back. From the speakers, to the venue, to the food-  it was all aligned to convening, collaborating and disrupting.

You can listen to a recording of the inspiring talks HERE

We of course loved the talks and learnings, but real joy for us was found in the half day blitz put on by Future Partners – a company dedicated to ‘thinking wrong’ as a problem solving system intended to help us bust up the status quo.



We explored the challenge: ‘How might we fix the broken food system so that food is healthier, more sustainable, and more just by 2025?’ (hmm seems to be a trend…)

We discussed how we might use each of the following to address our challenge:

  • Plant Revolution
  • Ethical Meat
  • Healthy Food for All
  • Regenerative Agriculture
  • NourishTech

Future Partners did a great job of running us through the process of “thinking wrong” (which reminded me a lot of a process we run clients through; it was nice to be on the other side in a participation role.)

There is an obsession—from schools, executives, and consultants – with thinking RIGHT; a constant focus on best practices, optimization, ROI, and metrics. These have become the standard by which we’re told we should measure ourselves and our impact. When we are certain which problem to tackle, and we know how to solve it, think right practices are incredibly useful. They help eliminate waste, improve quality, scale solutions, and increase productivity.

However, think right practices have their limitations- they provide the answer to a very small subset of challenges—those for which we are certain of the problem and know the solution. Thinking right is wrong when we’re seeking solutions beyond the status quo. When it comes to discovery, innovation, and changing the game, adopting the mindset of a scientist or an artist with a hypothesis is much more likely to yield insights and new possibilities than conventional, think right business practices.

‘Thinking Wrong’ is a vital tool to help us successfully navigate the uncertain and unknown- we need a new language, new frameworks, new techniques, and new tools.


The Outcomes

120 Food Outlaws were hell-bent on fixing our broken food system.

Together we imagined more than 23 disruptive solutions to our food challenge.

Both Zing Mojo and Esca Bona were great experiences that dovetailed nicely into our November Art of Hosting event.

One of our favourite takeaways was the Cynefin framework – a decision making model that allows you to incorporate complexity into your decisions.

Moving from the known to unknown, and really seeing where Conscious Brands sits in the frame work, while supporting the Future Partners idea that ‘To successfully navigate the uncertain and unknown, we need a new language, new frameworks, new techniques, and new tools.’


Conscious Brands plays in a complex world – our solutions and process are emergent and sometimes a little messy. There are definitely places in organizations that are complicated, where best practices like Lean, Sigma Six, BRC, Life-Cycle Analysis, Carbon Foot-printing are needed. But, really really at the core of what we do is take complexity and make it simple. And untimely, co-create an economy that is flourishing, responsive and regenerative – Harmony.

We are at the end of a year as well as at the end of an era. As a society we are transitioning from childhood to adolescence. We are growing into a new voice, finding ourselves in a new awkwardness with a larger group of new voices in the conversation… the entry of mass. And it is all a good part of evolution. Change is a constant, and it is up to us how we respond.

One of Conscious Brand’s guiding principles is ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go further go together’. We look forward to going further with you and the industry in 2017.


May all that you do have Harmony.



PS – We hope to see some of you in Anaheim at Expo West in March where we are hosting a 2-hour generative conversation around the topic of ‘Co-creating an industry of conscious companies’ – More soon!

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *