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Mindful : April 2013
business Many of us know firsthand that the knowledge economy values how well we use our minds more than how many things we make each hour. It’s ideas we need. Invention. Innovation. Creativ- ity. That’s the fuel of our rapidly chang ing global economy, yet the work world still largely operates on old notions of productivity: work faster, think faster, and use as many tech tools as you can to increase your efficiency. People skills, even in this age of “emotional intelligence,” are more expected than cultivated. A nd the idea that the workplace could (and should) be a place where people flourish and develop sets heads nodding in ag reement, but are we really making that happen? After teaching executives in MBA programs about mindfulness for over a decade, I’m convinced that productive huma n action is about much more than getting stuff done. My students and I have tried to explore the underlying drivers of real productiv- ity, which go way beyond better, faster information technology. It seems to us now that beyond cloud computers and brilliant smartphones, the secret to productivity lies within and between us. It’s about a calmer, more open and undistracted mind, greater self-awareness, and an enhanced capacity for self- transformation—not to mention disciplined passions and stronger human relationships. This isn’t exactly a new idea. Long before it be- came a topic at sold-out Silicon Valley conferences, mindfulness was identified as a business need. It just didn’t go by that name. The preeminent man- agement guru Peter Drucker struck on mindfulness principles early in his career, and he put it this way in his 1968 book The Age of Discontinuity: “Trained perception and disciplined emotion are as pertinent to the ability to earn a livelihood as they are to the mature human personality.” He believed that people who are able to see clearly gain an advantage over those unable to step out of outworn, habitual ways of perceiving—especially when faced with chaos. Before they can manage anything, Drucker argued, “ma nagers must learn to manage themselves.” Nevertheless, managerial and leadership educa- tion is still la rgely focused on the external, rational, and technical, while the myriad shifts and pressures of the 21st-century work world seem to cry out for a more rounded approach. Cultivating the percep- tual, emotional, and interpersonal aspects of human beings—all key elements of mindfulness practice— strengthens capacities we need to live a nd work effectively. And far from being an exotic Asian im- port grafting itself onto the Western mindset, mind- fulness fills a long-felt but little-understood gap in the education of executives and entrepreneurs. What results when people practice mindful- ness in cubicles and boardrooms? What happens, for example, if enhanced awareness causes them to question the very organizational culture they commute to each day? Is mindfulness at work actually transformative or merely palliative? Could newfound awareness cause some employees to chuck it all? To search for answers beyond what I could find in my own backyard, I talked with some of those who are blazing this trail to a new way of building and doing business. Admittedly, as someone who teaches mindfulness to businesspeople, I have my biases, but if mindfulness means anything, it means examining our underlying assumptions and what we’re doing as we’re doing it. I want to do just that, and encourage others to do so as well. The very act of bringing mindfulness to business requires us to keep asking the question: Is mindfulness good for business? Beyond outside-the-box thinking Can a 99¢ cake mix catalyze profound personal transformation? It can if you’re Janice Marturano. The once in-house attorney who steered General Mills’ complex acquisition of rival Pillsbury found herself pushed past burnout when the three-month negotiation stretched into a brutal 18-month process. Deciding the fate of, among other things, boxed cake mixes meant that 10,000 jobs were on the line. Facing enormous pressure—her govern- ment counterpart had a nervous breakdown— Marturano also dealt with the death of both her parents during that time. When the deal was finished, a depleted Mar- turano repaired to a leadership retreat led by Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and founder of the renowned Center for Mindfulness in Worcester, Massachusetts. The weeklong experience of resting, replenishing her streng th, and cultivating g reater → OVERHEARD AT THE OFFICE “The biggest impact has been on my ability to quiet my mind. It’s allowed me to increase my focus when my team is presenting ideas to me.” Joe Ens, VP, marketing, General Mills 54 mindful April 2013