The Latest Management Fad?
"Mindfulness" is one of those buzzwords in management today. How do we get to the heart of what putting it to work in the workplace can really accomplish? Paul Atkins and Jochen Reb, co-editors of Mindfulness in Organizations have some suggestions.
Like it or not, mindfulness, or open, present-centred awareness, is increasingly moving from its contemplative roots into the mainstream. It seems that hardly a day goes by without a new media report on the benefits of being mindful. In the corporate world mindfulness training programs are becoming increasingly popular. This trend is fuelled by highly visible organizations, such as Google, Intel, or General Mills, offering mindfulness-based programs for their employees. This has led some to proclaim a “mindfulness revolution”; yet others might wonder if we are simply witnessing the latest management fad with more and more organizations jumping on the bandwagon, without knowing where it is heading.
To give some substance to this discussion, we have recently edited Mindfulness in Organizations. The book brings together leading scholars to explore the role mindfulness might play at the workplace. It covers foundational issues, such as the history of mindfulness and mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) and an introduction to methodological issues; the role of mindfulness in various areas of organizational life, such as identity, decision making, negotiations, work-life balance, and leadership; and applications such as mindfulness in coaching and teaching mindfulness in business contexts.
Overall, the various chapters provide the most contemporary account of empirical and theoretical research on mindfulness in organizations. We believe that by doing so, the book not only serves academics interested in research on mindfulness; it can also give organizational practitioners and leaders deeper insights into whether mindfulness might be worth exploring in their organizations and for themselves. In other words, it puts organizational decision makers in a position to make more informed decisions about whether to join the “mindfulness bandwagon”.
We believe that the chapters in the book show the considerable substance beyond any hype that may exist around mindfulness. The many benefits to individuals and organizations demonstrated by the emerging research suggest to us at least that mindfulness is here to stay but of course, only the future will tell.
Interestingly, some may actually hope that interest in mindfulness fades and that all the hype will be over soon. Mindfulness has its roots in contemplative traditions, most prominently in Buddhism. Especially among practitioners who consider mindfulness an essential part of their contemplative, spiritual, and/or religious practice, there is a concern about “McMindfulness” or the effort to make mindfulness an easily digestible commodity for modern, profit-driven organizations. Such practitioners often wonder how a practice that is fundamentally about being, about letting go, about non-judgment, and about non-striving fits into modern corporations that appear all about doing, go-getting, judging, and striving?
Such concerns are important and reflect a long history of spiritual and philosophical ideas being subverted to support modern capitalism. However, we are more optimistic. Provided facilitators and designers of mindfulness programs are engaged in mindfulness practice in their own lives, and are up to date with the research as presented in Mindfulness in Organizations, we believe that mindfulness can be brought into organisational life in a way that is rich and authentic. Understanding of research can complement the experiential foundation that is developed through own practice and efforts in being mindful. (And for researchers of mindfulness, engaging in a systematic, sustained and iterative practice will help them remain connected to mindfulness at the experiential level). We believe that it is through the sincere efforts of everyone involved that mindfulness can both retain both true to its essence and practically applicable in different and secular contexts such as organizational settings.
Overall, we hope that our book will be a valuable resource for both researchers and practitioners. We further hope that it will inspire others to conduct much needed research on mindfulness at work. We are only taking the first steps in understanding the processes and power of mindfulness in organizations. There is a lot of work to be done tailoring interventions for different organizational contexts such as leadership development or change management. We are delighted by the passion of practitioners and researchers taking on the challenge and joy of studying and practicing mindfulness in the workplace with creativity and authenticity.