McMindfulness & the CIO

George Colombo, Author | 7/23/2013 | 25 comments

George Colombo
When Curt Franklin and I first discussed what I'd be writing for E2, both of us wondered if the subject of mindfulness would meet some pushback from the rigorously rational CIO community. As it turned out, we needn't have worried.

From the beginning, there's been a great deal of interest and a considerable amount of engagement around a relatively "soft" topic. That's not to say, though, that there hasn't been pushback against the concept of mindfulness as a business productivity topic. It came, though, from a somewhat unexpected source.

In a widely discussed blog post, San Francisco State University management professor Ron Purser and author David Loy (both Zen teachers), expressed misgivings about the proliferation of "a stripped-down, secularized" version of techniques that have ancient and religious roots. Purser and Loy argue that the mindfulness featured in most corporate environments, removed from its ethical and Buddhist framework, is not only inadequate, but also potentially counterproductive for neophyte practitioners.

I'm an enormous fan of David Loy's, but I'd like to suggest that there's a perspective that he and his co-author might have overlooked. While the current mindfulness movement -- often disparaged by critics as McMindfulness -- certainly doesn't deliver the same benefits as the fully contextualized mindfulness that Purser and Loy prefer, it represents an introduction to concepts and techniques that might otherwise remain undiscovered by an overwhelming majority of corporate managers and workers. Perhaps McMindfulness can't get someone very far along a transformative path, but it might be precisely the thing to get him or her out of the starting gate.

Purser and Loy acknowledge but don't otherwise address the fact that there's a potential downside to keeping mindfulness tightly coupled to its Buddhist heritage. Such an approach would likely keep mindfulness training out of the workplace altogether. It could result in foreclosing the participation of potential practitioners who might one day decide to learn more about Buddhist teaching on "self-restraint, wholesome mental states, and ethical behaviors."

Sure, employers might have self-serving reasons for sponsoring mindfulness in the workplace. As Purser and Loy point out, we've seen that before. I believe, however, that regardless of someone's motivation in getting started, exposure to mindfulness can create its own momentum. After all, the real "hook" of mindfulness practice is experiential, not intellectual. Not in every case, but in some cases, at least, practitioners will use McMindfulness as a launching platform for a bigger journey.

Let's assume that, as a CIO, you've embraced -- in theory -- the benefits of grounding your department in mindfulness. Are there any circumstances under which you'd consider implementing a mindfulness program that acknowledged and embraced the practice's roots in Buddhism?

For many E2 readers, I suspect the answer would be no. (If you'd like to weigh in on this question in the Comments section, I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts.) The question that remains, then, is whether or not there can be real value -- to individuals and to companies -- in a program that's been "secularized." I'd submit that the answer to that question is yes.

A physical fitness program that that doesn't contemplate an Ironman triathlon as its ultimate objective can still deliver plenty of benefits for companies and their team members. And every once in a while, a team member will embrace the concept and wind up at the starting line in Kailua-Kona. I don't see any reason why mindfulness programs wouldn't work the same way.

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Susan Nunziata   McMindfulness & the CIO   7/30/2013 10:38:55 PM
Re: MCMindfulness
@BradJensen3: Well said indeed.

I find it very difficult to explain mindfulness and you have nailed it completely.

My human tendency it seems to me makes me  always want to reach out and hold onto things, aform an opinon about things, judge things. What I try to learn through mindfulness practice is to appreciate the moment and let it go without judging or claiming or retaining.

I find that when I get myself stuck in a mental box, it is usually because I am choosing (consciously or unconsiously) to try and hold onto something instead of letting it go.

Susan Nunziata   McMindfulness & the CIO   7/30/2013 10:31:16 PM
Re: Mindfulness is to mind, like breathing is to lungs..
@wlaffin: Beautifully stated.

And excellent real-world examples of how mindfulness practice can help us improve our performance and, in fact, enhance the very way we choose to live in the world.

It's too bad that "soft" skills are all too often dismissed in our turbo-charge business environments.

SunitaT   McMindfulness & the CIO   7/28/2013 9:32:42 AM
Re : McMindfulness & the CIO
There are many explanations to practice mindfulness practice. Mindfulness helps us to improve focus, concentration, and accuracy, enhance the excellence of communications and relationships. This heightens the clearness of our thinking and intentions, improves efficiency and security, strengthen trust and self-confidence.
George Colombo   McMindfulness & the CIO   7/26/2013 5:32:22 PM
Re: Mindfulness is to mind, like breathing is to lungs..
@wlaffin, well said. 
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wlaffin   McMindfulness & the CIO   7/26/2013 5:29:57 PM
Mindfulness is to mind, like breathing is to lungs..
Phil Jackson used mindfulness to build his NBA teams (Bulls and Lakers) into winners.  We all have minds.  We can make a conscious choice to be mindless or mindful.  A Zen master might argue that there is a bit of mindlessness required for real mindfulness.  Either way, its a tool.  A soft skill.  A life skill.  If you really want to be awake to your experience of life, at least a few of the 1,020 some odd waking minutes we're given each day ought to be spent being centered and asking 'go inside' questions to yourself of and about your daily experience.  How deep you go will vary based on time available, opportunity, need or desire... but to miss out by not even opening the door to mindfulness is like being given a treasure chest and never looking inside.  How many of us have gifts still left unopened from our birthday, from the day we were born.  Open your mind, go inside, discover, experience... then share.  What else is there?
singlemud   McMindfulness & the CIO   7/26/2013 3:21:16 PM
Re: getting the right to get them interested
That is a good point. I might need to play mindfullness.
geeky   McMindfulness & the CIO   7/26/2013 7:06:16 AM
Re: getting the right to get them interested
@Pedro: Playing with the mind is not that easy but what I feel is you take better decisions when you are relaxed. That is when you get to know and try to figure out the possibilities and the alternatives if things go wrong just in case.
Pedro Gonzales   McMindfulness & the CIO   7/25/2013 10:24:22 AM
getting the right to get them interested
I think mindfulness programs are great. I think this could be like Yoga, Yoga has its roots in mediation and Hinduism but it has now become very popular wellness program.  As a way for people to get interested they can separate the Buddhism aspect, but for those who want to learn more.  They can be directed to more information.
nimanthad   McMindfulness & the CIO   7/24/2013 10:37:49 PM
Re: MCMindfulness
@Brad: Good point since the mind is the place which controls our feelings. Its upto us to follow the directions which the minds gives you or ignore them.
George Colombo   McMindfulness & the CIO   7/24/2013 1:18:48 PM
Re: MCMindfulness
Very well put, @Brad.
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