As I Was Saying...

George Colombo, Author | 2/25/2013 | 25 comments

George Colombo
If you're one of E2's more fastidious readers, you might recall that I wrote a couple of blog entries over the summer. Just after the second one posted, my schedule was turned upside down when I signed on to run a local political campaign.

It's true that I was gone from E2, but I didn't stay away altogether. I kept in close touch with my friend Curt Franklin, E2's executive editor. During our conversations, we developed a joint vision of the beat I'd cover when I returned. Almost immediately, we honed in on a pretty specific niche -- one that has been a passion of mine for the last several years and one we believed would deliver unique and immediate value to the CIOs who spend time here on E2: mindfulness.

In case you haven't been paying attention, interest in mindfulness has been exploding over the last couple of years. Wherever you look, from the Harvard Business Review to HBO, it seems that everyone from athletes to CEOs has been discovering its benefits.

I believe that mindfulness can be beneficial to everyone. However, for a variety of reasons, it's clear to me that CIOs could be some of the biggest beneficiaries of the movement toward increased mindfulness in the workplace.

There are plenty of definitions of mindfulness. Basically, it refers to your ability to pay attention to and function in the present moment. If that seems a bit metaphysical, that's a fair observation. The basics of mindfulness were widely known thousands of years ago, and it became the foundation for Buddhism. But today's mindfulness renaissance is being driven far more by science than by spirituality. Perhaps it might be accurate to say that it represents an ongoing convergence between the two. In this forum, though, I'll be focusing on secular, science-based aspects of the topic.

Over the next several months, we'll look at how individuals and organizations in the IT industry use mindfulness to improve effectiveness and enhance long-term results. As a CIO, you'll see three broad areas where mindfulness can make you more effective.

  1. Your personal performance as an executive: Business leaders who practice mindfulness believe it significantly improves their judgment and decision making. It keeps them focused and enhances their ability to manage multiple tasks and priorities.
  2. The performance of your team: There's a mounting body of evidence that there are measurable benefits to providing mindfulness training (and space) for your team members. Both quality of output and job satisfaction can be improved.
  3. Your users' experiences: The data is scarce right now, but I believe we're not too far from getting hard data on how mindfulness translates into improved user experiences (and, in the case of internal customers, improved working relationships).

Enormous advances in neuroscience over the last decade or two have changed everything. We've learned more about the mind and the brain than we ever knew before by orders of magnitude. Things that we always believed to be true about the mind's inability to change or to learn have turned out to be almost exactly wrong. Just as importantly, smart people like David Eagleman are dragging hard data out of campus labs and into our everyday lives.

If you coached a championship football team, you'd try to make sure your team pursued the best strength training strategies on the planet. Similarly, if you and your IT team are going to be world class, it makes sense to stay connected to emerging strategies that will make your team members' minds work better.

That's what we'll be talking about a couple of times a month. I'm looking forward to hearing any questions you might have or, even better, hearing about your own adventures in mindfulness at work.

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Susan Nunziata   As I Was Saying...   2/26/2013 11:33:38 PM
Re: Practicing mindfulness
@kstaron: LOL LOL. Having practiced both yoga and meditation I can totally relate. Group meditation is especially challenging. In one class I took, one of the gents fell sound asleep and was snoring like he was sawing wood. I guess it was supposed to be a test of our ability to be "in the zone" despite what is happening around us.
Susan Nunziata   As I Was Saying...   2/26/2013 11:30:57 PM
Re: another benefit
@George: thanks for the recommendation. I'm not familiar with that book. I'll definitely check it out.
kicheko   As I Was Saying...   2/26/2013 8:47:39 PM
Re: another benefit
Prior to this blog, the only place i saw this word used much was where they say "Mind your head" because the roof is too close like in the artic-like offices or "mind the steps" because they are non-standard. But now that i think of it in this context, it does make sense that one be mindful as a takes having a lot of experience that you can now step back and just observe and understand the things that unfold in the IT life every day.
David Wagner   As I Was Saying...   2/26/2013 4:45:08 PM
Re: Practicing mindfulness
@kstaron- the only thing my body does in any pose is shake and fall over. :)

Seriously, maybe this makes me a bad person or an unmindful person or a cynic or a closed minded person, but the thing that bugs me about yoga or meditation or any mindful exercise is that it forces me to sit still and stop thinking of ten things at once. This is highly uncomfortable to me, and I find it unproductive.

But i suppose I'm willing to say that there is a state of productivity beyond what I've reached. But just thinking about yoga makes me antsy.
kstaron   As I Was Saying...   2/26/2013 12:18:14 PM
Practicing mindfulness
If you need a boost in learning mindfulness you may want to take a yoga class. My instructor is always saying things like "just feel what your body is doing in this pose."  I know I have a long way to go because my thought is usually "it's telling me to gt out of it!" Most forms of meditation also help in practicing mindfulness.
George Colombo   As I Was Saying...   2/26/2013 8:13:03 AM
Re: another benefit
@Susan, you're exactly correct... the state you're describing is closely related to mindfulness. You'll often hear it referred to as "flow," as term coined by a psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. His book by that name is a classic and well worth checking out.
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George Colombo   As I Was Saying...   2/26/2013 8:08:03 AM
Re: Mission Focused
@David, I think it would be more accurate to say that mindfulness can be developed or cultivated rather than taught. It's an experiential process rather than an intellectual one. But you're correct that, as a team leader, an open-minded audience makes the development process considerably easier.

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Susan Nunziata   As I Was Saying...   2/25/2013 11:11:22 PM
Re: Mission Focused
@Sara: Nailed it! 
Susan Nunziata   As I Was Saying...   2/25/2013 11:10:35 PM
Re: another benefit
@Dave: Maybe so. But there have been studies about how people who let themselves become engrossed in an activity -- whether it's running or creating art or editing articles -- are practicing a form a mindfulness. And one result is that they experience less stress. 
Susan Nunziata   As I Was Saying...   2/25/2013 11:04:27 PM
Re: another benefit
@Sara: That's smart. Having lived most of my life juggling multiple deadlines and demands on a daily basis, staying in the moment keeps me from dissolving into a stressed out mess. It requires constant practice. When I find myself really straying I take a 10 minute break and step away from whatever I'm doing. If I can, i go outside and look around and take in the life going on all around me unaffected by what I believe to be my insurmountable problems. I always return feeling more refreshed and focused.
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