Thoughts on Mindfulness & Meditation in Business …

I attend many entrepreneurial events. Recently a new-agey type prattled on about the courage of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Michael Dell to drop out of college and follow their dream. She could help you find your courage … barf.

I am certain Steve, Bill and Michael’s professors and parents back in those days never used the word courage when they announced their plans to leave school and set out on their own. Arrogant, conceited, dumb-ass or ignorant were closer to the key words in their responses.

they were ignore-ant, the way only youth allows

Reality is they were ignore-ant, in the true sense of the word, the way only youth allows. They knew nothing of, nor cared about, the reported challenges they would face. More importantly, the unknown was less daunting than participating in the current state of affairs.

Once we are older and have seen success and failure, sometimes close up, and it becomes harder to have that ignore-ance of youth. There is a reason the VC and old guard of tech primarily focuses on 20-somethings to mentor and fund. They cannot recapture that combination of ignorance, drive and talent, but they can certainly recognize it and it is profitable.

The grown-up version of ignorance is Not-Knowing.

The go to practice for Not-Knowing is meditation. A little bit of meditation (or other practices) allows you to relax your normal solid position. When you are grasping to an idea, there is little room for new ideas and creativity. Ongoing practice, leads to integration of non-grasping and letting-go into your nature.

Non-grasping doesn't mean you never take a position, it means you can let go of an idea or concept. Maybe you let it go for a meeting, so you can actually listen. Maybe you let it go forever, because it no longer serves you.

Non-Grasping -> Not-Knowing -> Creative Space

In a work place with large numbers of people, implementing a meditation program will get a wide variety of results. Therefore, a selective version, usually labeled mindfulness, is typically implemented. Done well, one thing you can count on a mindfulness program doing is reducing drama among the troops. So mindfulness has its place and benefits, a happy team can be a more productive team.

Increasing creativity and empowering people is the domain of other types of meditation practice.

Controlling the direction meditation takes for individuals is predictable… it will be a broad spectrum.

Being a company, you can always skim the cream of the creatives off the top and fire those with issues that surface. However, your culture and maybe even your company is at risk in how you handle the upset. You must be truly committed to the program, not just applying the latest management thought.

I am aware of a situation where an engineering team using a Zen practice, pulled a project time-line in by critical weeks during a one-day off-site. The key was getting the team to see that they could take more risk and therefore, offer options that were not on previously on the table. The business heads did the math and the risk was worth the reward. The off-site ended with everyone feeling good.

It was a great plan for about 24 hours.

Then fears of being the one blamed and fired came back. Insecurities temporarily overcome returned and the wheels came off. In brief, the Company culture did not align with the risk the ‘Team’ had accepted while away. The ‘Personal’ returned to the forefront along with fear and insecurity. The the executive who organized the retreat was fired in an attempt to control the chaos that hit the team.

It was too late however, Pandora’s box was open. People were accused of withholding what they had offered up during the off-site. I have no follow up visibility, but I am certain the team had to be disbanded and many probably left the company.

Please consider these five points before starting a program in your business:

1) commit to a long term plan, integrate meditation into your culture
2) arrange for coaches, to manage personal and group upset that arises
3) make therapy accessible, for traumatic issues that may arise for some
4) create space and boundaries for employees to process what arises
5) create a process for employees to escalate their creative ideas

May your lives go well …