The Benefits of Mindfulness

Prof. Ribera on how to train your mind to be more productive


The Benefits of Mindfulness

A recent post on the BBC website highlighted the growing prevalence of "mindfulness." A database search of British newspapers showed that media mentions of "mindfulness" have skyrocketed over the past 10 years.

More than a passing fad, "mindfulness" is a centuries-old mind-training technique that lately seems to be making serious inroads in the business world, as IESE Prof. Alberto Ribera and consultant J.L. Guillén attest in the current issue of IESE Insight magazine.

In this day and age of multitasking, instant messaging and constant connectivity, coupled with growing pressures to do more with less, managers are finding it increasingly hard to concentrate. The result is often a disordered mind, reactive behavior, and unduly high levels of stress and anxiety.

In their article, "Mindfulness: Multiply Productivity Through Undivided Attention," the authors draw on research and coaching experiences to explain how "mindfulness" training can be used to strengthen a broad set of executive functions to boost productivity, improve decision-making and enhance well-being.

They cite numerous examples of companies that have experienced positive results by cultivating "mindfulness" among their workforce through specific company programs, including General Mills, Google, Procter & Gamble, Apple, Yahoo! and Unilever.

Allied to "mindfulness" is the concept of "flow" – a term coined by the psychology and management professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi to describe the overwhelming pleasure that people experience when they fully immerse themselves in a particular task they enjoy.

Executives whom the authors interviewed described "flow" in various ways: sublime moments of inspiration; being completely absorbed in an activity for its own sake; losing all notions of time and self; a feeling of enormous satisfaction that you’ve done something you never thought you could do before.

Their article offers tip for managers on how to create the conditions considered prerequisites for "flow" to happen in the workplace, with the goal of helping employees to experience a profound sense of fulfillment and achievement in their work.

As the authors note: "Whether you enjoy your work or not depends largely on your own attitude. Developing the ability to reframe reality and see the hidden potential can help you see work as an opportunity to surmount challenges, develop fortitude, collaborate with others and improve the world. This is something that senior executives should model and promote throughout their organizations. This may mean that they have to change their traditional approaches to the development of leadership competencies."

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IESE Insight is a quarterly research-based magazine, published in separate English and Spanish editions. Its premium content is linked to articles from the IESE Insight knowledge portal, which contains research and teaching materials, opinion articles, business indices, audiovisual materials and an extensive database of more than 20,000 scholarly references.