Mindfulness Can Improve Strategy Too
Posted by Smita Navare on May 3, 2016
Over the course of a couple of decades, meditation has migrated from Himalayan hilltops and Japanese Zendos to corporate boardrooms and corridors of power, including Google, Apple, Aetna, the Pentagon, and the U.S. House of Representatives. On a personal level, leaders are taking note of empirical research documenting meditation’s potential for reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, and improving emotional regulation. Mindfulness meditation — the practice of cultivating deliberate focused attention on the present moment – has caught on as a way to bring focus, authenticity, and intention to the practice of leadership. Harvard Business Review contributors Daniel Goleman and Bill George have described mindfulness as a means to listen more deeply and guide actions through clear intention rather than emotional whims or reactive patterns.
As UCLA’s Richard Rumelt, a leading expert on strategic planning, writes in his book Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, one of the quintessential components of good strategy is the ability to take a step out of the internal storyline and shift viewpoints. “An insightful reframing of a competitive situation” he writes, “can create whole new patterns of advantage and weakness. The most powerful strategies arise from such game-changing insights.” To craft strategy on the basis of what Harvard’s Richard Chait and other scholars have called generative thinking, it’s not only necessary to identify a coherent set of policies or actions in response to a problem or opportunity, it’s also necessary to elucidate the full range of values, assumptions, and external factors at play in a decision-making situation. It’s essential to step back and ask not only whether the team has identified the right plans or solutions but whether they have identified the right questions and problems in the first place. All this requires space between stimulus and response.