Can businesses be mindful?

Most of us are familiar with mindfulness. Paying attention to the whole without judgement. Whether we practice it as a routine, or periodically under pressure, it is a valuable (if over hyped) approach.

Done effectively, it helps us sort signal from noise, and connect what we are doing to the service of the “something bigger” that is important to us in our lives and work.

So why, I wonder, is it so much more difficult to do at an organisation level?

In “Coherence” Alan Watkins talks compellingly about the science of the hierarchy of performance. About how our behaviours are rooted in our physiology (through the intermediate levels of emotion, feelings and thought). It is these levels that even simple mindfulness practice can help us access.

Research has shown that focusing purely on behaviours only works to motivate people to earn rewards, not to pay attention to the deeper, more important things that shape culture and sustainable performance.

Yet, when we turn up at work, suddenly performance and behaviours become binary. Maybe because of time pressures, or just the habit of being busy, we resist taking the time to go deeper, to consider how our organisations structure, its’ changing shape over time, and the echoes of people no longer there affect our feelings and ways of thinking.

So we end up in our own performance of Groundhog Day. Regression to a declining mean.

We are often told that today, people’s attention is the scarcest commodity. That may be correct, but perhaps the more important question is what we use that attention for. In a world of “solutions”, we maybe don’t pay enough attention to encouraging curiosity and reflective thinking at an organisational level.

I think it’s important. If we don’t renew, we fade – individually, and as organisations.

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