How Mindfulness is Creating Better Organisations
To date, much of the research looking at the effectiveness of organisational mindfulness has focused on individual benefits. More recently attention is turning to how mindfulness can benefit company culture on a wider scale. I recently talked with Dan Siegel, author of the best selling book MindSight, about the implications of his research and how a better understanding of optimal mental wellbeing will transform how we manage and lead businesses in the 21st century.
Understanding Mental Wellbeing
One of today´s foremost experts in mind and brain science, Dr. Dan Siegel has spent over 20 years studying what it means to be mentally healthy, and to enjoy that much yearned for state of ‘wellbeing’. Siegel has been struck by the fact that decades of clinical research into mental health has mainly focused on mental dysfunctions while finding little on what it actually means to enjoy strong mental health. His subsequent work in this area is beginning to have far-reaching implications on how we lead and run businesses in the 21st century.
The Key is Integration
Siegel’s research blends neuroscience and biology into a new discipline he calls “interpersonal neurobiology”. Although it is well accepted that the mind plays a major role in both our physical and mental well being, what is now being understood more clearly is that the key to avoiding mental dysfunction (and maintaining mental health and wellbeing) is all about integration.
But integration of what?
Chaos and Rigidity
Siegel's research revealed that mental afflictions are caused by two primary factors: chaos and rigidity. Too much mental chaos and an individual suffers from extreme states of anxiety. On the opposite end of the scale, too much rigidity and he found people who suffered from problems like depression and OCD. Every challenging mental state he found was able to be plotted on to this spectrum, with surprising accuracy.
Flow – The Movement of Energy & Information.
With further investigation Siegel discovered two key components that determine any of these mental conditions - energy and information. Enabling the flow of energy and information while avoiding extreme chaos or rigidity (in other words how integrated your system is) turns out to be the greatest predictor of proper functioning or wellbeing.
The Implications for Business
Mindfulness, defined as the state of attentive presence, uses the mind to regulate that flow of energy and information to provide an optimal state of mental agility and wellbeing. This effectively is the integration that Siegel discovered in his scientific study of the mind which, when managed correctly creates and maintains that state of wellbeing needed to function optimally.
For businesses today, where leaders and teams are increasingly struggling to cope in an environment that is pressurised, always-on, information overloaded and full of distraction, this ability to manage our attention and awareness in an integrated way is the key to optimal individual performance as well as a major driver of team and business success.
Mindfulness at the Heart of Business
The first step in this transformation of how we live and work in this always-on world is well under way as both individuals and companies learn about and embrace the benefits of mindfulness. As mindfulness becomes mainstream, a new generation of mindful companies will allow for better integration, operating from a clear framework of deeply held values. From here, the goal is not just to create better organisations, but to enable us all to become better human beings.