Awakening a force for good with John Montgomery


John Montgomery is the executive producer of Awakening a Force for Good, a full-feature documentary film about how business can create positive change in society.

Prior to being inspired to make a film, John has been an entrepreneur, corporate attorney, management consultant, author, and executive coach. He has represented over 1,000 startups and was a co-chair of the legal working group responsible for California’s Benefit Corporation legislation.

In this conversation, I speak with John about how corporations lost their way and how they can become a force for good.

We also talk about what it’s like to recognize the future before anyone else does, overcoming resistance to a new movement, making compromises, and what it’s like to film a movie during Covid-19.


5:15 – “I felt like I had found my tribe. Here were people that were tinkering with the sponsoring thoughts of capitalism and weren’t taking the status quo of how we build companies and how we apply capitalism for granted, but were challenging the fundamental assumptions.”

6:10 – “Guys, I’ve seen the future of capitalism, and it’s Conscious Capitalism.”

9:30 – “One of them told me later, John, we really don’t want to change the world, we just want to make a living.”

19:00 – “At a meta-level, the traditional corporation is amoral. It has a very primitive conscience mechanism. Its conscience is the rule of gold: He who has the gold, sets the rules.”

19:50 – “We have normalized externalizing the negative costs of corporate behavior onto society and the environment. Essentially, we have a global economic system populated by corporations that are unwittingly prone by design to antisocial, sociopathic, and even criminal behavior because they optimize profit above all else.”

21:00 – “When a Benefit Corporation makes a corporate decision, it’s got to take into account the effect of that decision on all of its stakeholders. It begins to reverse the lobotomy of the traditional corporation and make it prone to altruistic behavior.”

23:30 – “The legislature of our early states served that external conscience function. All that changed in 1811 when New York combined free incorporation and limited liability and allowed any person who can ‘fog a mirror’ to incorporate a company without an act of legislation.”

25:30 – “You can see it play out in companies like Uber and Facebook where there’s really no moral compass other than maximizing profit for shareholders.”

32:20 – “The economic data shows that businesses that adopt a multiple-stakeholder model, such as that embedded in the Benefit Corporation… provides a far greater rate of return than the traditional single stockholder model.”

33:50 – “When you combine a multiple stakeholder model, principles of sustainability, and heart-centered leadership, that approach runs circles around how we’re building companies.”

38:30 – “The reality is a lot of the energy in Silicon Valley is focused on self-esteem, and belonging, and safety, i.e. making money, becoming successful so that you’re somebody and belong… the whole ecosystem is designed for those lower order values and needs in Maslow’s hierarchy.”

45:30 – “We wanted to show people a viable alternative and invite them to join in the creation of a viable alternative.”


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Thanks so much for listening!