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A new spirit at work

Leaders around the world are moving to transform the business world with an infusion of spiritual values.

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Signs of spirituality in the workplace keep turning up: thousands of prayer or meditation groups; company-sponsored chaplains; conferences and executive training sessions that experiment with spiritual practices or how to incorporate values into decisionmaking.

Yet as corporate scandals capture headlines, this groundswell of activity has begun coalescing into a movement not just for personal growth but for fundamental organizational and cultural change.

A small global network of corporate leaders is emerging that is forging a new vision for business. As the world's most dominant institution, and the one most capable of rapid change, business must take responsibility for promoting not simply private gain but the common good, these leaders say. This means redefining business to focus on people and on decisionmaking based on values - like integrity, respect, intuition, and creativity. The shift involves going beyond maximizing profits to considering all stakeholders: employees, customers, vendors, shareholders, and the community.

Many see the push for change as the desire of people to lead lives more in tune with their spiritual values. "The pain and frustration around the workplace and the anger about corporations has grown dramatically," says Judi Neal, head of the Association for Spirit at Work (ASAW). "People want to find more meaning in work and to see business transformed to run on different principles."

While the goals sound similar to those in the growing social responsibility movement, the aim is for deeper change. Some leaders perceive a profound shift in the fundamental assumptions about reality - one that involves a new view that consciousness is causal and gives much greater import to individuals' inner experience. "Instead of what you see is what you believe, it's what you believe is what you see," says Rinaldo Brutoco, president of the World Business Academy (WBA), a California-based organization of executives and entrepreneurs (www.worldbusiness.org). Mr. Brutoco sees scientific materialism yielding to a respiritualization of society.

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