Wisdom 2.0 Signals a Mindful Shift in Business Culture
At the Wisdom 2.0’s Business conference at Google’s New York City headquarters on September 12-13, 2013, participants gathered to explore ways to live with greater awareness, wisdom and compassion in the modern age. Founded by Soren Gordhamer in 2009, Wisdom 2.0’s mission is merging the paths of technology and wisdom. Conference speakers included New York Times’ David Gelles, ABC News’ Dan Harris, Huffington Post President Arianna Huffington, CEOs from major U.S. corporations ,including Mark Bertolini of Aetna, Chad Dickerson of Etsy and Scott Heiferman of Meetup, and others such as Congressman Tim Ryan, Goldie Hawn, Actress and Founder of The Hawn Foundation, and Sharon Salzberg, Meditation Teacher and Author. Their talks covered topics such as “The State of Wisdom in the Workplace,” “Real Happiness at Work,” “Fostering Community and Culture in Company Life,” and “Building a Wisdom-based Business Culture,” to name a few.
The new business paradigm is here. Increasingly, we are hearing the words compassion, wisdom, loving kindness and mindfulness with the latter in particular entering both individuals and businesses’ lexicons. There is a movement of people who are driven to make this world a better place for all and many believe that mindfulness, meditation, yoga and other contemplative practices are vehicles we can use to get there.
Mindfulness as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at UMASS Medical Center, is “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” MBSR is an evidence-based, 8-week mindfulness program experienced by over 20,000 people since 1979. Mindfulness research has been published for more than 30 years with peer-reviewed scientific studies on mindfulness growing from 77 in 2005 to 397 in 2011. Evidence is mounting that mindfulness can reduce stress and stress-related medical and mental health symptoms as well as enhance emotional wellbeing and quality of life.
There is no doubt that reducing stress in the workplace is highly beneficial to both businesses and their employees. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health finds that stress-related ailments cost companies about $200 billion a year due to increased absenteeism, tardiness and the loss of talented workers. Stress is linked to 70%-90% of employee hospital visits while job tension and stress are directly tied to a lack of productivity and loss of competitive edge.
In our technology-driven world, the call to incorporate mindfulness in our daily personal and professional lives has never been greater. People are looking to regain their connection to others and experience a greater sense of connectedness to their inner selves and outer world. Cultivating attention and awareness through mindfulness allows the workforce to live their lives with a greater sense of skill, connection, openness and balance. Mindfulness can help employees by:
• Responding, instead of reacting, more appropriately to managers and colleagues that they have previously found difficult
• Improving focus, clearer communication and decision making by taking a few minutes of mindfulness at the start of a meeting
• Improving teamwork and team relations
• Increasing creativity and decreasing burnout
• Fostering enhanced self awareness of the mind-body connection
• Aiding in mood regulation and immune system management
• Improving a wide range of physical and emotional concerns
• Monitoring stress levels and taking effective steps to address it
Many companies have embraced mindfulness programs into their leadership development and worker health and wellness programs, including on-site yoga classes and meditation workshops. According to Aon Hewitt, an HR consultancy firm, over 25% of employers in the U.S. to date have integrated mindfulness into the workplace, including: Abbott Laboratories, Aetna International, American Red Cross, Ameriprise Financial, AOL Time Warner Inc., Apple Computers, AstraZeneca, BASF Bioresearch, Cargill Inc., Comcast, Deutsche Bank, eBay, Fortis Bank, General Mills, General Motors, Google, Green Mountain, Hughes Aircraft, IBM, Keane, Lucent International, McKinsey, Medtronic, Nortel Networks, Pacific Investment, Prentice-Hall, Procter and Gamble, Promega Corporation, Raytheon, Reebok,
Starbucks, Texas Instrument, Toyota, Unilever, United Health, and Xerox.
In 2010, Aetna started offering its Mindfulness At Work program as well as a 12-week yoga program, Viniyoga Stress Reduction. These programs are available to Aetna’s 34,000 employees with over 6,000 employees having taken one or both of these programs. Research from the mindfulness programs shows that participants regained 69 minutes per week of productivity, equating to an 11:1 return on investment. Mark Bertolini stated in his talk at the NYC Wisdom 2.0 Business conference that Aetna now offers this program to over 6 million people through their employer-sponsored health insurance programs.
There are many mindfulness programs, articles and books focused on secular approaches to using meditation in daily life as a tool for better work and leadership, parenting, teaching, governing and other walks of life and work. Mindfulness meditation is being offered in the military, eldercare, hospitals, healthcare and wellness industry, national sports leagues and our school systems, from elementary schools to major business universities.
And there is even an app for that, including The Mindfulness App, buddhify, Headspace and GPS for the Soul. As Sharon Salzburg stated, “meditation is the ultimate mobile device: you can use it anywhere, anytime unobtrusively.”
Sheila Wall, MSW, is principal of In Synchrony LLC in Norwalk, CT, and teaches the MBSR program in Newtown and Rowayton, CT quarterly with new programs starting in January 2014. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-216-6243.
Wisdom 2.0 Business Conference You can view all the presentations from the NYC conference in their entirety at http://tinyurl.com/lqnwr4v.