Search Inside Yourself

Tech companies find their inner Zen

Sharon Gaudin, Computerworld: A software engineer walks down a hallway at Intel, not thinking about the emails he needs to send or that he has a meeting later in the day about a new project.

Instead, he’s focusing his thoughts on his breathing and how the light feels as it comes through the windows in the hallway. His cellphone isn’t in his pocket. It’s back on his desk.

When he meets with colleagues to work on a critical software problem, he has pushed away any distractions, his mind is clear and still, and he’s focused solely on the problem in front of him …

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Yourwellness magazine follows up google meditation programme

Digital Journal: In the hope of increased innovation, Google is offering its employees meditation and mindfulness courses, CNBC reported September 20th. According to their article, “Ommmm! How Silicon Valley values meditation,” Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” course has been taken by more than 1,000 employees and currently has more than 400 on the waiting list, and is geared towards teaching emotion management which could ultimately increase productivity and creativity. Programme creator Chade-Meng Tan commented, “There are people who came to me that say they got promotions because they came to my class, people who say they feel a lot better physically, mentally and emotionally,…

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Knowing every breath you take

Mirabai Bush, New York Times: In 1972, I was a 30-year-old American traveling in India, with the smell of incense in my hair and mantras repeating in my ears. Back then, if you had told me that I would someday be training employees of corporate America to apply contemplative practices to help them become more successful, I would have said you’d been standing too long in India’s hot noonday sun.

Yet not long ago, I was standing in front of employees at Google in Mountain View, Calif. They were dutifully following my instructions to feel the sensations of their breath as it passed in …

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Why meditation has a place in business

Mindfulness is being championed by a growing number of high-powered firms, including Google.

Chances are that you’ll be interrupted before you finish reading this story, especially if you’re at work. It might be a phone call or a text message, a tweet or an e-mail. It might even be a real, live co-worker tugging at your sleeve. (Has it happened already? It’s OK. I’ll wait.) Studies suggest the average worker is interrupted once every 11 minutes; it takes on average about 25 minutes for that worker to get back on task. It’s just one of the everyday strains on the modern worker, and just one reason why some companies are incorporating meditation practices into the workplace, in a bid to preserve their employees’ productivity, never mind their mental health.

Increasingly applied in western psychology, the practice of mindfulness comes out of the Buddhist tradition of meditation, and is championed by a growing number of celebrities, athletes and executives. A report funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research defines mindfulness as “a kind of non-elaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is.”

If that sounds far out, its proponents insist it produces very tangible workplace benefits. “When we’re mindful, we’re able to work from a presence of mind that enables us to be effective and efficient,” says Maria Gonzalez, co-author of the new book The Mindful Investor. Her Toronto-based Argonauta Consulting trains executives in mindfulness techniques. She says the practice creates a greater calm, helping workers better manage stress (and with U.S. companies losing an estimated $200 billion annually on stress-related workforce issues like absenteeism and subpar performance, that can make a big difference to the bottom line). What’s more, it improves workers’ ability to concentrate and focus. “The workplace benefits are enormous,” says Gonzalez, whose clients include BMO Financial Group, Ontario’s Hydro One and the Conference Board of Canada. “There’s personal resilience, and the ability to sustain performance. You’re able to prioritize better, your time management is better. You have an enhanced ability to understand client needs. You’re also much more creative, and come up with better solutions.”

The highest-profile example of a company investing in workplace mindfulness remains Google. One of the search giants’ original employees, a software engineer named Chade-Meng Tan, has invested a portion of the loot he garnered from Google’s IPO to research the scientific basis of meditation’s benefits. “The short story was, I wanted to create the conditions for world peace in my lifetime,” Tan says of his efforts. In 2007, he created the Search Inside Yourself program under the sponsorship of Google University, the company’s in-house employee education apparatus. That program, which Tan estimates has served as many as 500 Googlers, led to his current role as Google’s head of personal growth.

Search Inside Yourself focused on developing workers’ emotional intelligence, and educating them about the scientific underpinnings of material that can seem a touch New Agey. It incorporated instruction on mindful breathing and listening techniques that would offer personal benefits for its students, but with an eye on improving the company’s bottom line.

“We do not just teach empathy and compassion practices,” says Tan, “we also relate them to the skillful exercise of team leadership and also use those practices as a foundation for developing business-relevant skills like conducting difficult conversations and developing trust in teams. The idea is to make the business and employees far more effective (and hopefully, more profitable) by developing emotional intelligence company-wide. ‘Spiritual wellness’ and happiness are just the unavoidable side-effects.”

Google has since created meditation spaces around its campuses, and employees have organized classes. Of course, most of the business world still needs convincing of the merits of mindfulness, but Tan is optimistic it will gain traction. He cites the example of HP, which years ago was considered an oddball company for its notion that treating employees very well could increase profitability. “Today, it’s taken for granted by everyone, at least in Silicon Valley,” Tan says. “Similarly, one day, there will be a company that will demonstrate that having employees practise deep mindfulness and compassion is very good for business, and eventually, it will be taken for granted everywhere. I hope that company is Google.”

[via Canadian Business Online]
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