Book Summary: Conscious Business, How to Build Value Through Values

A Project Manager's introspective journey through seven core values that are essential to doing good business.

by Ian DiBruno

At Promptworks, we hold our teams to a high standard. While staying humble, we generally take pride in “doing the right thing” for our clients, whether that be for their business goals, product strategy, or product development. That means stopping to resolve an issue that may otherwise go unnoticed or taking a step back to think through the long term impact of a particular design or technical decision. This may seem obvious, but there are a lot of development partners that simply won’t go the extra mile. Why not?

The book Conscious Business by Fred Kaufman took me on an introspective journey through seven core values that are essential to doing good business. Throughout the pages, the author touches on qualities that I see in my project teams every day.

Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values

Author: Fred Kaufman

Consciousness is defined as “the state of being awake and aware of one's surroundings”. In Conscious Business, Fred Kaufman takes this human lens and applies it to everyday business situations, covering lessons in leadership, communication and more. Below are my summaries of the lessons in the book.

Unconditional Responsibility

This lesson paints a contrast between the “victim” and a “player” mindset. Do you take responsibility when you miss a deadline? Or do you point a finger at anyone else in sight to avoid the blame? If you act with Unconditional Responsibility, there is accountability and room for improvement in the next go around.

Essential Integrity

This lesson explains Essential Integrity as a consistent adherence to your personal code of values, especially when dealing with situations that are out of your or your team's control. When things don’t work out as planned, can you step back to avoid anger or blame and recognize that you all did the best you could? Another way to frame this value is to ask yourself, “did you do right by your values and the interests of your team?” in a given situation.

Ontological Humility

This acknowledges that everyone has their own version of reality made up of their own life experiences. When you can distinguish that your truth is not always the truth, but your own understanding of it, you can give others grace in the spirit of mutual learning.

Authentic Communication

Breakdowns in communication can significantly impact relationships and projects alike. Plainly, we don’t always communicate what we think in our heads effectively. This chapter spends time exploring the gap between our thoughts and words when faced with a challenging situation or colleague. While it’s not easy, we should spend time developing awareness of the things we think but don't say, reflect and determine if those thoughts align with our core values, and then address the situation with a goal of mutual learning.

Constructive Negotiation

When faced negotiable situations, Fred prescribes taking the mindset of winning with the other rather than over the other. After breaking down conflict into its core component and explaining different types of conflicts, he encourages the reader to establish a BATNA, or a Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. This will serve as a guiding point for when to walk away from the deal. You should also take the time to reflect on what you really want, and lastly think of the same perspective from the other party.

Impeccable Coordination

This chapter is centered around trust and the ability to follow through on commitments. The book surfaces the key components inherent in a commitment and the parties involved. When you ask something of another person, do you ensure that they acknowledge that they heard and understood your request? Were the terms of your request clear to them? If you’re not clear on these terms up front, you're bound to pay a price down the line.

Emotional Mastery

This last chapter is for true introspectives. It’s dedicated to breaking down emotions, how they relate to our physiology and specifies all the “feelings” we may have in our workplace interactions and also guidance on how you might navigate them.


At the end of the day, relationships and people pose the biggest risks to business success. This book gives the reader a refreshing perspective on workplace interactions that you may run into every day. I heard about this book on a Product Management podcast called “In Depth” from the First Round Review.

If you work in Product, I recommend this podcast as they provide tons of tactical advice. And if any of these lessons resonated with you, I highly encourage you to give Conscious Business a read.

Interested in reading Ian’s other book reviews on product roadmaps, or managing software development and project teams? Check out our Project Management tag for more!

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