Each month The Forum questions members of The Marketing Society on a hot topic. For more on membership, visit www.marketing-society.org.uk.
Despite only recently discovering mindfulness, I am a convert, now actively practising both informally and formally.
While it all sounds a bit new-age and it may feel like you need to wear hessian and sandals, tapping into the here and now has been proven to help reduce stress levels, and provides clarity of thought to enable problem-solving. Many corporates are now recognising the benefits by introducing programmes for their staff and actively encouraging participation.
With the added advantage that mindfulness can take many guises, the beauty is that anyone can find a way of incorporating it into their everyday lives in a way that makes sense to them. And for those organisations encouraging it, the benefit of increased productivity, engagement and creative thinking provides tangible evidence of the payback.
I’m a working mum. It’s a very fashionable topic right now, but also the reason why my every waking hour is full of tasks, mostly performed in parallel. I used to think this was an achievement, until I stopped sleeping.
I started practising mindfulness to give me the ability to switch off. However, I have found it invaluable professionally. It stops you completing tasks on autopilot, bringing a fresh perspective to the most mundane tasks. By clearing your mind of the incessant chatter and to-do lists, you have the clarity of thought to tackle the most complex projects.
Mindfulness encourages you to look at things as if you are seeing them for the first time, which encourages a more creative solution through bypassing pre-learned and reflex behaviour.
Most importantly, it makes me a nicer, more engaged person to be around.
I agree with elements of the concept of mindfulness, especially the idea of being present in your thinking. We are all a function of our thoughts. I use the analogy of a woodpecker pecking away in our head: the continual noise and repetition clouds out rationality and good judgement.
Through simply being aware of one’s thinking and, importantly, knowing one’s state of mind, we are far better-positioned to deal with the challenges of everyday life.
That does not mean we can simply eradicate negative thoughts from our mind; quite the contrary. We all have self-doubt, but it is the ability to see it as merely a "thought" that makes the real difference.
When one does this it is possible to silence the woodpecker, contextualise the thought and either develop or trash it.
There’s much to be said for reacting to the situation you’re in, not dwelling on history, but it means prioritising your heart over your head. Is this just a new take on the age-old dilemma between gut-feel and experience?
It’s a hard one for a strategist to reconcile – effective strategic planning is all about what happened before and what might happen in any given future – but the "light-bulb moments" happen when you cast fresh eyes on what’s happening now. As a consultant, it’s all about seeing things the staff can’t see because they’re too preoccupied with history. "Wait! What if that happens again?" That can hold business back.
I’m a firm believer that a good idea remains a good idea, even if it "failed" before – maybe the timing, execution or circumstance was wrong. Mindfulness could help unblock that thinking.
This is a term new to me – I had to Google it – so I may reveal myself as a mere wind chime in attempting to answer the question.
However, it seems that regularly taking moments for introspection and tapping into "how I feel about what I’m doing", and particularly clearing the internal voices to allow a fresh response to the here and now, helps maintain perspective and enable more balanced responses.
So while "practice" sounds self-conscious, I can’t see why mindfulness would not have a place in the corporate world. I’m not advocating adopting the lotus position on a desk and emitting loud humming noises, although I’m sure this would be a moment for self-awareness and focus of a different sort.
So, mindfulness ongoing? Yes, as long as the time is spent genuinely reconnecting with your mood and fully engaging in the matter at hand – and not time out reviewing the PowerPoint font-sizing.
The benefits mindfulness can have on any workplace should not be ignored. It helps boost concentration and deal with stress, anxiety and depression; issues that are commonplace within a high-pressure corporate environment such as marketing.
Through mindfulness, organisations not only promote a positive working environment, producing a happier workforce with fewer sick days and higher staff retention, but by teaching us to be present in the moment, the technique can lead to better decision-making and improved leadership skills and work relationships.
From our experience hosting the NABS Resilience Programme and our own mindfulness workshops, demand for using the method at work is high. With so many industry workers from all levels keen to incorporate it in their working lives, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes valued in any workplace.