The Focus Behind the Fable

Co-Authors Ed Offterdinger & Catherine Allen Discuss Social Contribution, Conscious Development Culture, & Writing a Book Together

Every conscious business leader has their own Conscious Capitalism story. There’s almost always a moment, a conversation, a significant challenge that arises and they realize—they are different from business-as-usual capitalists. This is what happened to Andrew Hyde, the protagonist in Ed Offterdinger and Catherine Allen’s forthcoming business fable: Conscious, Capable, and Ready to Contribute: A Fable: How Employee Development Can Become the Highest Form of Social Contribution.

We were able to catch up with Ed and Catherine to find out more about their new book and to ask a few questions about their insights into conscious development culture and the book’s meaningful alignment to Conscious Capitalism. Ed is the co-founder and chairman of AO People Partners. He is the former CEO of a large consulting and accounting firm who currently practices as a leadership coach and strategic business advisor, working extensively with private and public companies in a wide variety of industries. And for his whole life, he has dreamed of writing a novel.

Enter Catherine Allen—co-founder and CEO of AO, and Ed’s long-time friend. She is passionately dedicated to helping leaders and organizations lean into the power of developing the full potential of people so that they may drive business success, personal success, and meaningful social contribution. She believes that putting more focus on supporting employee learning and growth is the best way to address strategic, systems, and people challenges and opportunities within their organizations. In other words, the perfect co-author for this book.

This journey together started when Catherine showed up at Ed’s house and said, “I have this big idea. What if the ultimate benefit of all professional development is social contribution? And what if people development in the workplace became a recognized and incentivized form of social contribution?” As Ed says, “I already knew that development of people is the best way to ensure business success. Catherine’s premise seemed fresh and exciting. I wanted to know more.”  

Ed told Catherine, “Let’s go for a walk and you tell me about it.” 

That was what we wanted to provide readers—a very practical way to get started having conversations with fellow leaders about what’s important in a development culture, what’s possible from a purpose standpoint.

Over the course of many conversations, learning from their work with clients and research, they both agreed: it was time to write down what they had to say. 

Catherine describes the book as both a fable and practical advice for business leaders who are interested in pursuing a conscious development culture within their company. 

“We wanted to write a book that was very approachable to leaders, who could see themselves in Andrew’s story, but then they would be left with this feeling, of ‘well, how do I go about creating this type of culture?’ Or ‘walk me through again what Andrew and his team did?’” Catherine says. “That was what we wanted to provide readers—a very practical way to get started having conversations with fellow leaders about what’s important in a development culture, what’s possible from a purpose standpoint.”

Both Ed and Catherine recognized their strengths in creating this book together. Catherine was eager to address practical needs that leaders have when it comes to creating and sustaining the conditions for a conscious development culture to take root, and so she concentrated on building out the how-to section of the book. Ed jumped on Catherine’s suggestion to write a fable about a troubled company whose leaders realized that they needed to make the conscious development of their people core to their mission—and the amazing results they achieved when they discovered that employee development really is the highest form of social contribution.  

And so Ed began to craft the compelling narrative of a CEO named Andrew Hyde. This fictional protagonist would later be the one to introduce Ed to Conscious Capitalism. “One day I was thinking about what type of organization Andrew Hyde would run, and then I remembered Conscious Capitalism,” Ed says. “I already had John and Raj’s book, so I went to the Conscious Capitalism website and discovered the CEO Summit and I was qualified to attend. I arrived, and like so many others before me, I thought, ‘I found my tribe!’ It was as simple as that.”

The story Catherine and Ed wanted to tell was so much more than just a story. Their message that companies today can play an important role in supporting the developmental growth and well-being of working adults through creating a Conscious Culture that was people-centric and striving for a higher purpose was the catalyst for writing the book—and publishing it. 

Much like the purpose behind this book, AO focuses their consulting work on investing in people development. This is more than basic professional development work, as they help companies identify what capabilities their people need to really thrive and then develop around those capacities. Ed explains, “When you develop people this way, you get more successful business results and you have more successful people. The broader social contribution impact when employees benefit from meaningful learning and development is often under appreciated. If you equip people with the right capabilities, or what we call “mind skills and people skills,” and you send them into the world, they create jobs, give more to their communities, and become better spouses, better friends, better parents, and better citizens.”

Catherine agrees: “The decision about the form of the book, and who’s doing what, that all grew out of a desire to share a message. The fable has a purpose, and behind that purpose is this idea [of conscious development]. We created the book to share the idea. The way the book unfolds, collaboratively, is because of that purpose.”

Conscious, Capable, and Ready to Contribute is a vehicle to help leaders understand the full impact of developing their people. Andrew, the protagonist and featured CEO of the story, experiences conflict within his company, and he eventually identifies the solution in the form of Conscious Culture. It’s a novel like any other in the sense that there is a protagonist, villains, supporting characters, conflict, and resolution. But it’s a novel with built-in lessons about how to be a better Conscious Capitalist.

Build your company so your people will want to come, flourish, and stay forever, knowing that someday they may leave.

The book includes a number of Conscious Capitalism lessons.

One of the first lessons Andrew learns is: You can’t go it alone, other people matter, and their input is necessary for your success. Ed explains, “He tries to solve the problems on his own, but he gets himself all jammed up with his wife and his business partner. It takes a lot of things going wrong for him to realize that he needs other people to help him dig out of the mess.”

Andrew also discovers a lesson about people development: Build your company so your people will want to come, flourish, and stay forever, knowing that someday they may leave. Ed and Catherine expand on this concept of people development in the AO Conscious Development Employee Life Cycle. Ed explains, “Essentially you ought to build your company like your people are going to stay forever, but you also must assume they’re going to leave. You ought to think about what you want them to say about their experience at your company and consider what you can do to equip them with tools for them to succeed in their careers and to contribute to society.”

Catherine says that while the protagonist, Andrew, introduces the idea that people development can itself be a company’s higher purpose, the how-to section of the book “directly speaks to leaders who want to talk about what’s possible with shifting into this kind of culture” and the practical concepts leaders need to create a “conscious development culture.” 

As you can imagine, this book blends both the practical and fantastical to give readers a sense of what’s possible and purposeful within their own business journeys. The protagonist, Andrew, goes on to discover quite a few Conscious Capitalism lessons, with insights about Conscious Culture, Higher Purpose, Stakeholder Orientation, and his own Conscious Leadership.

 “Our message in the book is so simpatico with the tenets of Conscious Capitalism,” Catherine says. “It’s really an illustration of Conscious Leadership and Conscious Culture, with a particular focus on the employee stakeholders. In the fable, readers experience how Andrew and his partners incorporate the tenets of Conscious Capitalism in their business.”
Without giving the whole story away, Andrew discovers that if you double down on your people, it solves most of your problems. Like any good fable, the moral of the story revolves around the heart of humanity—how we treat one another and how we treat ourselves.

Conscious Capable and Ready to Contribute: A Fable

How Employee Development Can Become the Highest Form of Social Contribution

By Ed Offterdinger and Catherine Allen

This book is the inspiration to change and a practical guide to show you how to connect all the dots and make real culture change happen at your organization. Your team is already spending more time at work than just about anywhere else—why not harness that time for the betterment of your company, people, community, and world?

Available now for preorder. Publication date is 9/20/21.

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