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Corporate Mindfulness - Hippy Jargon or Real Business Practice?

written byErickson Coaching Internationalon 21/08/2013

If you keep your ear to the ground, you may have heard about a movement called, Corporate Consciousness. No? What about Corporate Mindfulness? Still no?  

One thing we bet you have heard of is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). If CSR is an initiative, Corporate Consciousness is an ideology. It goes beyond the weekly recycling run, charity donations and planting of trees. Employing Corporate Consciousness is about a culture of knowing the higher purpose of your company. It provides methods to develop an organic culture of constantly “minding” the set goal.  

More and more people are speaking out about what is important to them, backing social initiatives and investing in making good change happen. We salute these people. You know who you are.  

Until the recent Internet boom, gaining traction to change a social issue was painstakingly long and arduous. Now with lightning fast communication and mass social media dissemination, one can accurately transmit messages that real people can make real, informed decisions on. Not surprisingly, this has led to a serious change in the way companies do business. Companies cannot hide anymore, they simply cannot afford to. Negative publicity that can be easily shared and discussed by the public is a minefield for public relations and marketing teams. This was the preverbal ‘stick’ that got CSR into the boardroom.  

“Stakeholders are demanding more socially aware management and consumers will push for this by closing their wallets to companies that don’t comply” (Sisodia, S.R., et al 2007).  

Many reputable long-standing organizations are systematically changing the primarily profit-orientated cultures, in favor of more responsible, ethical, authentic and joyful ones that align all stakeholders to the organization’s higher purpose. Coca-Cola is a prime example of this, ramping up sustainability programs over the past five years. In 2010 Coke gave WWF Canada $500,000 in aid of fresh water preservation, protection of polar bears, and to sponsor the organization's Earth Hour initiative. President and CEO of WWF Canada, Gerald Butts (cited Houpt, 2011) notes that "Coke is literally more important, when it comes to sustainability than the United Nations." Coke’s higher purpose is to “create happiness”. Coke achieves this in a myriad of ways, including giving back to communities through their foundation, focusing on water stewardship, healthy and active lifestyles, community recycling, and education. More and more, Coke’s profits can now be seen as a by-product of this purpose.  

In 2011 alone, The Coca-Cola Foundation invested more than $76 million in 257 community organizations around the world. Bill Clinton (2012) wrote in the Financial Times, “The most effective global citizens will be those who succeed in merging their business and philanthropic missions to build a future of shared prosperity and shared responsibility.”  

Large proportions of newer, more progressive organizations are embracing and living their Corporate Consciousness – going well beyond acting in a socially or environmentally responsible manner to creating a primary purpose and objective for their business. They know this makes a difference to the bigger picture and drives positive, nurturing and responsible behavior in every aspect of their operation. They have impeccable personal relationships with community leaders and stakeholders central to others’ wellbeing and happiness. Their goal is to make a positive difference in the tangible and intangible needs of all stakeholders – and their company visions is directly LINKED to this purpose.  

A good example of this type of organization is Whole Foods Market, who goes far beyond simply giving back to their communities to being active members of them. Whole Foods’ (2013) vision is to, “promote the health of stakeholders through healthy, humane and sustainable eating”. This vision drives their entire operating model. Whole Foods also pioneers other positive corporate values. Elements such as food quality standards, organic farming, seafood sustainability, and animal welfare standards are not a part of their corporate social responsibility but initiatives within their business model to support their vision. Whole Foods love what they do. Imagine if every company operated with the mantra of, “do what you love well and the money will come”.  

“Easier said than done?” – A fair thought.

  One of the ways that Erickson helps clients deliver on their true purpose is by living ours. We know that coaching makes a positive difference in peoples’ lives, both personally and professionally. Using methods such as Corporate Mindfulness, we have taken our pioneering knowledge in this discipline to instigate coaching conversations with companies and individuals across the globe.  

“Mindfulness is a quality of human consciousness characterized by an accepting of and enhanced attention to the constant stream of lived experience. Being mindful increases engagement with the present moment and allows for a clearer understanding of how thoughts and emotions can impact our health and quality of life” (Black, D.S. 2010).  

In other words, Mindfulness lets you reflect on the present moment, taking the time to step out of thinking in the past or future, allowing you to organize, rationalize and calm yourself before returning to the task at hand – relaxed with clarity of thought and focus. In doing so, you are re-aligned with your higher purpose.  

Though Mindfulness has only recently dawned on mainstream business, its roots are millenniums old. The practice stems from Buddhism, however it is not an exclusively Buddhist practice, nor a religion of its own. It does not involve prayer or a belief system; instead, it simply provides the tools to be aware. Bill George (2013), a leadership professor at Harvard Business School believes that the West is reaching a meditation tipping point, of which Mindfulness is a serious contributor. In an article for the Huffington Post, George (2013) notes that Mindfulness is scientifically sound, giving credit to University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher, Dr. Richard Davidson. Davidson has successfully demonstrated the correlation between Mindfulness and changes in the regions of the brain related to learning, memory, and emotion. According to the Huffington Post (2013), other studies have shown that Mindfulness is as effective for treating depression as antidepressant drugs.  

One multinational Corporately Conscious giant who advocates Mindfulness in the workplace is Google. Google is renowned for their innovative approach to helping users find relevant information on the Internet. Their higher purpose lies in the freedom of information and Net Neutrality, two highly energized topics at the moment. Google understands the importance of Mindfulness, so much so that they run a course aptly named, Search Inside Yourself. The course was created by Chade-Meng Tan and refined with the help of nine experts in the use of Mindfulness at work. The course consists of three steps: attention training, self-knowledge and self-mastery.  

As Caitlin Kelly (2012), a writer for the New York Times states, “If it sounds a bit touchy-feely, consider this: More than 1,000 Google employees have taken the class, and there’s a waiting list of 30 when it’s offered, four times a year.”   It is apparent that the proof is in the pudding when talking to Richard Fernandez, director of executive development at Google and a psychologist by training: “I’m definitely much more resilient as a leader,” he says. “I listen more carefully and with less reactivity in high-stakes meetings. I work with a lot of senior executives who can be very demanding, but that doesn’t faze me anymore. It’s almost an emotional and mental bank account. I’ve now got much more of a buffer there” (Fernandez 2012 cited Kelly 2012).  

It is safe to say that when trained and implemented correctly, Mindfulness can be an effective tool for business managers and leaders, and is particularly necessary for allowing us to tap into a higher purpose.  

Vancouver has long been a hotspot for diversity and acceptance. Mindfulness is nothing new to many Vancouverites (and indeed Ericksonians) in this field. However, the application of Mindfulness in a corporate environment is groundbreaking. As pioneers in change and human development, Erickson Corporate is at the forefront of these trends. As such, Erickson Corporate is looking for British Columbia-based Corporately Conscious organizations to join us for a two-day Corporate Mindfulness Summit in Vancouver on November 8th & 9th.  

Even though Erickson has been training aspects of Mindfulness to companies and organizations via other leadership and management courses around the world, this is our first foray into a stand-alone Mindfulness course. We have gained valuable feedback through conversations with current clients and wish to extend these conversations to forward-thinking, corporately conscious organizations in British Columbia. We want to help you uncover the link between Corporate Mindfulness and Corporate Consciousness.  

We are pleased to announce that Erickson founder and CEO, Marilyn Atkinson will be leading the Corporate Mindfulness exploration workshop. Marilyn trains thousands of individuals and organizations around the world each year, and is no stranger to Mindfulness.  

The outcomes for participants of the Summit include:

  • Increase self-awareness and creativity.
  • Increase focus, concentration, and attention to detail.
  • Enhance interpersonal communication.
  • Increase mental well-being.
  • Identify, qualify and communicate your organization’s higher purpose.

We also greatly look forward to discussing ways in which your organization strives to achieve your primary purpose. We finish with a quote by Mark Skousen (2007) to ponder on:  
“Our society does not give nearly enough credit to business leaders who create jobs, behave ethically and provide products and services that enhance our lives.”    

Black, D.S. (2010). Mindfulness research guide: A new paradigm for managing empirical health information. Mindfulness, 1(3), 174.  
Caitlin, K, 2012. O.K., Google, Take a Deep Breath. The New York Times, 28 April. Online.  
Clinton, B, 2012. Charity needs capitalism to solve the world’s problems. The Financial Times, 20 January. Online.  
George, B, 2013. The Tipping Point for Mindfulness. The Huffington Post, 21 June. Online.  
Houpt, S.H, 2011. Beyond the bottle: Coke trumpets its green initiatives. The Globe and Mail, 13 January. Online.  
Sisodia, R, 2007. Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose. 1 Edition. Pearson Prentice Hall.  
Whole Foods. (2013). Mission & Values. Available: Last accessed 21st Aug 2013.  

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