For years now my writing has focused on nuts-and-bolts business stuff, reflecting my somewhat perverse affinity for breaking down and tackling bureaucratic and legal processes. As much as I do enjoy geeking out on process stuff, more and more these days I find myself thinking about the more personal aspects of business — trying to understand various business dynamics and some of the psychology behind them.
And taking it a step further, I’ve been really interested lately in philosophical approaches to understanding and handling business situations, especially with a mind to finding ways to stay true to our principles, stay ethical and basically pursue success and profits without being/becoming (please pardon my bluntness) an asshole. Of course, if you’re not a jerk, then in most day-to-day situations it’s easy enough to not act like a jerk. But other times I think we find ourselves in challenging situations when it’s hard to decide on a course of action, particularly when those actions might negatively impact someone — perhaps several people, or even yourself.
So I find myself reading and thinking about mindfulness in business quite a bit. Things like, recognizing the impermanence of power, the illusion of control, the importance of compassion even in conflict, and the considerable effect that fear has, especially for people who chart their own course and/or pursue ventures with considerable financial and other risk.
I’m certainly not the first to muse about mindful business which is getting more attention these days along with mindfulness practices in general, which is great. A recent Wall Street Journal article looked at the trend within business schools:
While the idea of mindfulness originates in the serious practice of meditation, B-school faculty say it has many applications for executives who aren’t looking for a spiritual fix but simply want to clear their heads and become aware of reflexive, emotional reactions that can lead to bad decisions.
It isn’t a lack of intelligence that causes executives to make poor decisions, but a lack of awareness of the feelings that drive their reactions, [Harvard Business School Professor William George] said.”It’s the inability to admit your own mistakes, or your fear of failure, your fear of rejection, your desire to be seen as Mr. Perfect, or Ms. Perfect in front of groups, that’s what leads to failure,” he said. “It’s amazing to me how executives in their 40s or 50s who are running giant enterprises can get really into this.”
After spending a few months reading and thinking about the topic, I also think it’s no coincidence that interest in mindful business coincides with the surge in interest in sustainable business practices for businesses of all types, not just “green industry” businesses. It seems that entrepreneurs these days are interested not only in business practices that are sustainable for the earth and their communities, but for their personal lives as well.
So I’m starting to see mindfulness in business as a sustainability issue on a personal level. If running your business makes you feel miserable, and/or erodes your personal relationships, it doesn’t bode well for the business over the long haul. By being mindful about how we operate our businesses — on a global, community and personal level — I think we’ll be more likely to build the type of foundation that sustains enduring, broad success.