The practice of mindfulness has been used for thousands of years. Today, the concept of “being present” has been resurrected as a megatrend that’s quickly changing our collective state of mind.
Mindfulness is cultivated through meditation and other practices that teach you how to live life in the moment. The practices that make mindfulness possible have crossed over from a lifestyle choice to a business strategy adopted by leading corporations. With proven studies demonstrating the benefits of mindfulness, four driving forces make a compelling case for corporations to start using mindfulness now.
Financial Crises & Lost Trust in Management
The global financial crises caused by Enron and Lehman Brothers showed a lack of oversight in large corporations. This oversight created a downfall in trust management, leaving people questioning the integrity of the leaders ruling the corporate world. These leadership failures called for a new brand of leaders with a focus on social responsibility.
The Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility found that 42% of online North American consumers were open to paying more for products and services provided by socially responsible brands. The swing toward corporate ethics is also evident in a study by Ocean Tomo, which found intangible assets amounted to 84% of the market value of today’s companies, compared to 17% in 1975.
Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter coined the phrase “shared value,” in reference to the connection between the health of a company and the health of the community in which it works. These changes in perspective mean there are many non-financial factors today that will contribute to the value of a company. It’s more important than ever for listed companies to disclose information that will help influence investors beyond the book value.
According to Janice Marturano, the author of Finding the Space to Lead, mindfulness trains companies and staff to “cultivate focus, clarity, creativity and, key here, compassion, all in the service of others.”
Although companies want to find solutions that work for the organization, leaders also want to take advantage of the ripple effect caused by having strong ethics and purpose. Marturano uses General Mills as an example to show how mindfulness can impact social responsibility. In hand with donations totaling $3 million each week, General Mills also diverts 84% of its solid waste and has introduced 10 sustainable items to its ingredients list. These types of objectives help to rebuild the trust of the community as well as investors.
VUCA is an acronym created by the U.S. military to describe the highly traumatic conditions of war, and it stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. The term is used today to illustrate the life-work environment, where technology has placed society on call 24/7 with an endless barrage of information and communication.
Constant multitasking forces us to try to manage our life-work balance while our brain is only capable of working sequentially. This persistent demand on the brain creates stress with many of the same effects of VUCA.
According to Management expert, Bronwen Reese, trauma is not only experienced individually but also on a social level. Her study found that mindfulness can allow a more measured response in the face of stress. Reese’s mindfulness studies looked at the effects that an 8-week program of 2-hour sessions per week had on participants. It found that mindfulness can transform the VUCA conditions and changed:
- Volatility into vision
- Uncertainty into understanding
- Complexity into clarity
- Ambiguity into agility
Participants also reported:
- A significant improvement in their lives
- Broader awareness and more focus to set realistic goals and avoid stress even if their goals were not met
- An enhanced sense of well-being
- Increased job satisfaction and motivation
- Broader perspective to take in a situation and react with greater choice
Through mindfulness practices at home, participants found the effects of their mindfulness training lasted well past the training session.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
A 2015 study projected that over 30% of jobs would be filled by robots by 2025. Although AI will replace many mundane tasks and analytical processes, the human element will still be a necessity. Mindfulness provides the skills required for humans to reach their full potential in the face of AI, stressing traits such as compassion, kindness, gratitude, and love.
At the fifth World Government Summit in Dubai there were three ways mindfulness training was predicted to help prepare the workforce for AI:
1) Develop Compassionate Thinking
Mindfulness allows us to become open to our inner experience, fostering empathy. That helps leaders avoid preconceived notions and be more empathetic to workers in distress.
2) Provide Modern Skill Sets
Mindfulness allows us to turn off the autopilot of our minds and use our awareness to interact and provide skills that robots cannot, such as consciousness, empathy, and compassion.
3) Live More Meaningful Lives
AI will allow us to turn away from toil and focus on training our hearts and minds. Mindfulness keeps us in tune with who we are, preparing us to pursue our life’s work. We will use our humanness to become a better society focused on caring.
AI will also affect teamwork. Atlassian reported that 75% of cross-functional teams are considered dysfunctional. Participants listed the following concerns AI will have on teamwork:
- AI is poor at communication (26%)
- AI is hard to work with (24%)
- AI offers inconsistent performance (18%)
- AI will challenge them to learn and do more (23%)
- AI will provide complementary skills (19%)
- AI will inspire them to generate new ideas (17%)
Mindfulness can prepare teams to interact with AI by improving performance, adaptation, communication, and idea generation through enhanced creativity.
It just takes a quick search for “mindfulness” on PubMed to see the extent of the scientific research going into this megatrend. In general terms, according to Mindful Studies, the benefits of mindfulness include:
- Stress reduction
- Reduced rumination
- Decreased negative affect (e.g., depression, anxiety)
- Less emotional reactivity and more effective emotion regulation
- Increased focus
- More cognitive flexibility
- Improved working memory
As well, a growing number of high-profile corporations are using mindfulness training, including Apple, General Mills, Google, Nike, and Deutsche Bank. Mindfulness can contribute to the bigger purpose of companies, helping to develop strong social responsibility, combat the effects of VUCA, and offer a smoother transition as AI is on the rise.
All of these issues are detrimental to businesses, the workforce, and the environment. With hundreds of corporate giants fully engaged in mindfulness training, it makes good sense to introduce a mindful culture and raise up mindful leaders into your business sooner rather than later.
We have more valuable articles like this one in our Ultimate Guide to Mindful Leadership.
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