Steve Jobs was a committed Zen Buddhist. Apple, AstraZeneca, Comcast, Deutsche Bank, Google, Heinz, Hughes, McKinsey, Nortel Networks, Proctor & Gamble, Raytheon, Texas Instruments, Unilever and Yahoo are all reported to use mindfulness meditation by www.london-meditation.co.uk.
Chade-Meng Tan, one of the early Google Engineers has written a book published on 10 May called “Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)”, which describes his 20% time project to create world peace, which turns out to start with inner peace. And the route to inner peace is through mindfulness and meditation.
I have been working on a project recently to articulate the business case for meditation based on it’s contribution to innovation, for a global business. Meditation contributes significantly to some of the key pre-conditions for innovation, especially in areas like self confidence, focus, empathy and collaboration. When integrated with a structure geared to innovation with things like: a suitably long term focus, a clear process for evaluation of ideas and a clear process for implementation, meditation is a potent contributor to a culture of innovation.
One of the examples I came across in my research was this: In 1983 R. W. Montgomery, the owner of a chemical plant in Detroit, instituted Transcendental Meditation with fifty-two of the company’s one hundred workers. These ranged from managers to employees who worked the line. A program was implemented where each meditated for twenty minutes before coming to work and again for twenty minutes in the afternoon on company time.
The results were well recorded. In three months, employees stated they had more energy and were able to handle stress better. They also had fewer physical complaints and lower cholesterol levels. Over the next three years these results improved and expanded. It was confirmed that absenteeism fell by 85%, productivity rose 120%, injuries dropped 70%, and profits increased by 520%.
We appear to be at a remarkable place at the moment, on the cusp of something really momentous. In spite of, or perhaps, because of all of the terrible and bad news that is going on, there is a corresponding growth in the number of truly heartening, amazing and inspiring things going on as well.
When I started this work 11 years ago, authenticity in business seemed seriously unrealistic. At the time most corporations appeared to operate without soul in an unfettered race for more, with little or no regard for the social or environmental consequences. Nine years ago I wrote about a number of small and exceptional businesses that were operating differently, who made their profits by doing something valuable for society. I never really imagined being able to do that work for large corporations without compromising my own values to an uncomfortable extent.
My experience today is that the corporate world has changed beyond recognition. Of course there are still plenty of companies operating in the old paradigm, but I am working with some of the largest and most influential companies in the world, without compromise. We are working on all of those ideals based in personal authenticity and bringing your whole self to work including all of your values. In these corporations it is completely possible to make a living by being yourself – more than that – it is explicitly requested from the most senior levels of management.
The growing acceptance of meditation in the corporate world is both further evidence of this shift and an acceleration of it. What will happen if Meng’s 20% project is successful? If you like the sound of that, what might you do to contribute?
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