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THE LINK BETWEEN MINDFULNESS AND INNOVATION

Posted by Mark Tuckwood 7 August 2018 Innovation Consultancy

Mindfulness is having something of a moment, with more and more people swearing by it as the key to a healthy, balanced and successful life. Yet what is the link between mindfulness and innovation? Can mindfulness be used as a tool to drive creativity? Is it best linked to a certain type of innovation? Here are just a few things you should know:

WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?

Before launching into the connection between mindfulness and innovation, it is useful to take a moment to look at its definition.

For Psychology Today, mindfulness is best understood as encompassing a number of different elements. At its core is suggests thinking of mindfulness as ‘pay[ing] attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.’ Yet the article stresses that what is most important in this definition is ‘the emphasis on being “purposeful” [which] is crucial as a counterbalance to the automatic pilot default that inhabits our mind most of the time.’

Given that there is a tendency to go about your daily routine in a very passive way, completing one task after the other simply because they need to be done, mindfulness can offer an alternative approach to many aspects of life. So what is the link with innovation? 

MINDFULNESS CAN INCREASE CREATIVITY

According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), ‘there’s a fundamental contradiction when organizations ask employees to maintain a fast pace of work and be creative.’ The latter takes time, attention and head space, and so, as HBR suggests:

‘When [team members] don’t have the time or space to incubate novel and clever ideas, they may miss out on opportunities to reframe a problem and see new possibilities for potential solutions.’ 

HBR conducted a study to see if mindfulness training for team members could help alleviate this contradiction between the fast pace of work and the need for creativity. The study asked teams to perform an ideation session, and then take a break to undertake ten minutes of mindfulness exercises, and then return to the idea generation. HBR found that ‘seven out of ten people increased the number of creative ideas they had in only 10 minutes.’

HBR therefore believes given that ‘we know that mind training can nurture key areas in the creative process, […] with mindfulness techniques we have an opportunity to strengthen the creativity of our work teams.’ By employing mindfulness techniques to improve your problem solving ability, your capacity to perform well during the insight and incubation stages will therefore be increased and lead to greater capacity for innovation.

MINDFULNESS CAN SPUR SOCIAL INNOVATION

According to an article by Gretchen Ki Steidle, founder of not-for-profit Global Grassroots, for Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), ‘mindfulness [is] the single most important design tool of the leading change agent today.’

Steidle suggests that, when it comes to social innovation, mindfulness can ensure that an organisation stays true to its mission statement and core values on a daily basis. Arguing that ‘organizations should always review their intentions and decisions in light of their over-arching mission statement,’ and ensure that ‘intentions are set consciously from the ground up,’ meaning ‘it is more likely that the resulting actions, structures, and systems will support the optimal path for the common good.’ 

By fostering a heightened awareness of the purpose and values that underscore your organisation as a whole, it is possible to translate this into concrete actions that form the basis of your organisational culture. In doing so, this will ensure that the quality of your ideas is already aligned with your wider strategy, as opposed to generating more ideas but then losing them at the later stages because they do not tie to your end goals. In the case of social innovation this is key to fostering positive change that ties with your ethical stance and declared aims. 

Whether you are looking to boost creativity or operate in the field of social innovation, mindfulness can be a helpful tool to boost your capacity to solve the problem at hand and generate valuable ideas. Want to find out more about how you can boost your innovation capacity? Follow the links below to see how think can help.

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