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Perspective

Better business processes with mindfulness

Stream in a very green, sunny forest. The perfect spot for a day out in nature and to have some meditation, or mindfulness in business.

By on 23/09/2017

Mindfulness in business is all about being in the here and now. Then we’re better able to understand and respond to whatever is happening. This is exactly the mindset required to constantly improve and refine your business processes.

 

The opposite of mindfulness is mindlessness. Being absent minded, or off in fairyland, seems the norm for many; just look at all the smartphone zombies who walk into things while tapping away on their mobile devices. It’s so bad that some cities have created separate walking lanes just for smartphone users. This kind of unnecessary and compulsive multitasking has almost become de rigueur. As a pervasive cultural phenomenon it, of course, crosses over into the workplace.

Maybe some places can get away with it. But if your aim is to constantly improve your business processes, then pushing back against mindlessness with positive habits and tools that foster mindfulness in business is essential. As they say, there’s no standing still in a river; you either get carried away by the current or you push through it.

Collective mindfulness in business will give you the power to constantly improve and refine the way you do things.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness goes back a long way. Way back to the Buddha himself. Ever since then it’s been a foundational part of Buddhist training. Recently, however, it was popularised and turned into a secular form of training that has been adopted by medical and mental health professionals, and even many corporate leaders. You don’t need to be a Buddhist to explore it. No religious beliefs required.

According to one of its modern-day fathers, Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”. That’s something we can all relate to. And indeed it’s a natural capacity we all have. The more we are in the present moment – rather than being carried away by thoughts about the past or future, or by our habits and impulses – the more agency we have to fully focus on what’s right in front of us.

These days there is a huge volume of scientific research and findings on mindfulness practice and its benefits. Reduced stress, improved concentration, greater equanimity, a more kindly disposition are some of the benefits touted to follow a sustained mindfulness practice. Daily meditation sessions and exercises are designed to train us to come back to present moment awareness again and again.

Mindfulness in business

Corporate giants like Google, Apple, Aetna, Intel, Target, General Mills and Goldman Sachs have embraced mindfulness and meditation in the workplace. As has the US Army, the Mayo Clinic and other organisations. Why? Well, according to The Mindfulness Initiative, a UK-based private sector working group, there is a number of benefits from mindfulness in business and organisations. In its 2016 report Building the Case for Mindfulness in the Workplace, it discusses the concept of “collective mindfulness”. When a group of individuals are cultivating mindfulness together, it results in benefits to each of them and to the functioning of the group as a whole.

According to the report, better teamwork, improved collaboration, performance, leadership, decision-making, creativity and innovation, and employee satisfaction are all potential benefits gained from mindfulness in business.

The Mindfulness Initiative defined collective or organisational mindfulness as being:

“The combination of ongoing scrutiny of existing expectations, continuous refinement and differentiation of expectations based on newer experiences, willingness and capability to invent new expectations that make sense of unprecedented events, a more nuanced appreciation of context and ways to deal with it, and identification of new dimensions of context that improve foresight and current functioning.”

Improve your business with mindfulness

The above definition is exactly the level of awareness, openness and commitment required to constantly improve and refine your business processes. Unfortunately, in a similar way, we as individuals check out of the present moment by drifting off into distraction, businesses and organisations often disengage and lose sight of the pursuit of constant improvement. They get stuck in autopilot. The way things are done becomes unquestioned. This leads to a kind of organisational avoidance, the exact opposite of what it means to be mindful. Mindfulness means taking notice, being open and responsive to change. This improves our ability, both as individuals and organisations, to learn, grow and find new, creative ways of meeting challenges and setbacks.

Essentials for mindful business processes

When it comes to business processes, there are some key things required for them to be optimal and constantly improving. In their own way, each of these comes back to mindfulness.

Without an active, present moment awareness, as mentioned, we slip into autopilot. In other words, we stop paying attention, and without this things usually deteriorate rather than improve.

#1 Involvement

Everyone in your team needs to be involved in understanding and helping to improve your processes. When people don’t feel involved, they tend to do things robotically. This isn’t great for employee satisfaction and limits the potential to find better ways of doing things. The more involved employees are, the more engaged they will be, which increases their ability to learn and find better solutions.

#2 Role clarity

Being clear about who is doing what should seem like a no-brainer, but it’s astounding how often this simple requirement for mindfulness in business is overlooked. This should be absolutely crystal clear to everyone on the team. Not only should your employees know their roles. But, they should also know which roles they are picking up the work from and to which roles they will hand it off to. This is why using swimlanes with dedicated roles is the most effective way of mapping your processes. It’s a central aspect of our Gluu platform.

#3 Co-creation

Mapping your business processes should not be a top-down approach. The problem with this is the process maps created this way may not reflect reality. People who design process maps might not know the most efficient way work gets done. The top-down approach risks creating the unfortunate situation that results when a new process concept is imposed on the people doing the work; they decide to just ignore it and do things the way they always have or, out of obedience, they decide to adopt it, but it causes more problems than it solves. The better way forward is co-creation. This requires more openness, involvement and clarity, all aspects of mindfulness.

#4 Responsiveness

Antithetical to constant improvement is inertia. Things being done away because that’s the way they’ve always been done. This is robot-mode. Underpinning good business processes must be a system that allows the team to respond – in the moment – to all the things that invariably come up. Can they give feedback, comment and interact with other team members to keep the processes they’re involved with on a good trajectory? Can the process owners see any comments or feedback and then respond accordingly to improve things? At Gluu, we believe this should be a must in the modern day workplace, especially for those aiming to create collective mindfulness.

Greater awareness with mindful technology

The most important form of technology for cultivating mindfulness is the oldest: meditation. Even two 10 minute sessions a day, morning and evening, has been shown to have positive benefits. But mindfulness is more than this. Meditation is a means to cultivate the ability to stay in the present moment for longer periods of time. So that you can notice and be able to respond in a wise way to change and unfolding situations. However, not everyone will be open to meditation. Some people, for example, prefer doing yoga and claim that it helps them stay present. Others find something similar from taking a walk. Different folks, different strokes.

Digital technology, while often a source of impulse and distraction, offers many things to help concentration and present moment awareness. These include mindfulness apps and extensions that remind you to take a few deep breaths or to take a break every hour. Others include special timers or apps that play relaxing music and images at preselected times during the day.

Given how much time we spend on technology in the workplace, it makes sense to use it to encourage mindfulness. We believe the Gluu platform is an important step in this direction. The aim of the Gluu platform is to get your entire workforce on the same page and pulling in the same direction. The whole platform comes down to creating clear awareness in the workplace. It makes it easier to fulfil the four essentials discussed above.

Mindfulness means business

To many people, mindfulness might sound a little too airy-fairy. Like some sort of dreamy state better suited to the clergy than real-world business people. However, this isn’t the case. Mindfulness is ultimately about behaviour. Cultivating mindfulness – learning to pay attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally – as an individual and as a collective change our behaviour, choices, and how we respond to whatever comes up. It helps us to become less reactive and avoidant, and more responsive and equanimous. 

Sure, establishing mindfulness in business represents a considerable investment. But what are you in business for? At Gluu, we’re in business for the joy and challenge of the process, the shared journey with our team and our clients, not just for the results. We hope you are too. Our aim isn’t to become enlightened Buddhas, but it is to cultivate a enlightened way of working. If your goal is the same, we suggest reading our guide on simple business process mapping. It’s a great place to start learning how to get the clarity and common ground required to achieve a mindful workplace.

We also recommend to check out Applied Mindfulness in Business and Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the video below:

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