IONS’ Legacy Initiatives Advance Socially Conscious Business


IONS’ Legacy Initiatives Advance Socially Conscious Business

      Business, like science, craves its numbers. It measures success in profits, progress in percentages, and outcomes in their relationship to the bottom line. And as a healthy society contributes to business, so business contributes to a healthy society by reinforcing the values of social good. However episodic the progress over the last 40 years, business owes much of its success to such “esoteric” ideas as work-life balance, decentralization, management by objective, and creativity training. Thanks to frontier thinkers in consciousness science, many business leaders have come to recognize the potential of people to contribute to workplace wellbeing, take responsibility for their own social and emotional intelligences, navigate change with personal resilience, and reflect when a situation is complex. Business has proven nimble enough to respond to change and to try new ideas, but there continues to be tension between old and new paradigms of a company’s responsibility to its employees, its stakeholders, and the public at large.

A History of Advocacy and Vision

Historically, the institutions of science and business have found common ground at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), where mathematical measurements are as valued as the intangible contributions of consciousness to business as an agent of social good.


Beginning with its founding in 1973, IONS has been supported by successful business leaders who saw how they could leverage business to promote a healthier society. Those foundational visionaries who provided startup funds and supported some of the Institute’s original explorations into consciousness included industrialist Paul Temple and his wife Zoe; Henry Rolfs, a land investor and developer, with his wife Zoe Rolfs; and Willis Harman, senior scientist at Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International), a pioneer in introducing the importance of consciousness to business, and the first president of IONS. These men and women, assembled by IONS co-founder and Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, laid the groundwork to bring the values of consciousness science to bear on business philosophies that were shaping society.


IONS began working with new ideas about humans’ relationship with the future and gave the first hints of how intuition and psychic experience can influence abilities like decision making in business. IONS’ research and discussions on remote viewing, for example, led to a seminal research program at SRI. This work spawned a publication by American physicist Harold Puthoff called Mind Reach, which reported on the hard science of psychic ability, and further SRI research on envisioning scenarios for the future, funded by the Kettering Foundation.


Dr. Edgar Mitchell and John White published an anthology of researchers whose work in psychic experience elevated discussion about a social-global paradigm shift that could come by studying the powers and potentials of consciousness.


IONS funded the 1981 Woodlands Meeting in Texas, where boardroom thinkers gathered to explore some of the earliest practical implications of human consciousness research for social, economic, and political systems. This meeting focused on how decision-making by corporations that was contributing to dangerous ecological and societal trends, could be changed.


After serving as president of IONS, Willis Harman continued to advocate for the role and responsibility of business in relation to today's critical moral, environmental, and social dilemmas. He wrote Higher Creativity: Liberating the Unconscious Mind for Breakthrough Insights.


The World Business Academy (WBA) was founded through the influence of IONS’ early research as well as discussions that continued from the Woodlands meetings. The WBA remains a vibrant global, membership-based, nonprofit, nonpolitical organization that calls for a fundamental redefinition of business as a social partner.


Harman wrote Creative Work: The Constructive Role of Business in Transforming Society and his seminal classic Global Mind Change – a worldview assessment of paradigm shifts in business, economics, politics, and science. These publications continue to be made available through the Institute of Noetic Sciences.

In the late 90s, IONS created a white paper called “The Närings Liv Project: Business as Nourishment for Life,” co-authored by a half-dozen IONS-connected thought-leaders, including Harman.


IONS supported the creation of the Wisdom Business Network, which provides an online forum for business professionals seeking global change.

An Emerging Nexus of Business and Consciousness

In the founding days of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, Willis Harman knew that social change had to be initiated by the dominant institutions of our culture. He knew that fundamental shifts in business and in science could mobilize the change agents who could carry these ideas out into the more granular elements of society. IONS continues that legacy of working with visionary industrialists, entrepreneurs, and business giants, including George Zimmer, founder and CEO of Men’s Wearhouse retail stores and a long-time member of IONS’ board of directors. With consciousness luminary Deepak Chopra serving on the Men’s Wearhouse board of directors and Zimmer’s philanthropic support of leading-edge science, the company consistently ranks among Fortune’s 500 and on CNN Money’s best 100 companies to work for. IONS Senior Scientist Dean Radin’s presentation in the Google TechTalks series remains the most popular in that storied company’s program.

As the decades go by and trends in business psychology wax and wane, IONS remains a consistent champion of the relevance of consciousness science in business, and has steadily applied its work to the advancement of business as a healthy part of society. IONS’ early involvement in promoting consciousness science in mainstream business forums is reflected in such emerging realms as green technology, micro-financing and socially-conscious investing, and even community give-back and social media marketing. As business continues to strive toward fully embracing the profound potential for individual expression and social healing, it shows growing enthusiasm for advances in consciousness science.