Now more than ever, creative thinking and the ability to come up with innovative solutions to today´s challenges is crucial for business success.
With mindfulness being increasingly used to unlock creativity throughout businesses we’ve asked author Palma Michel, to share practical tips on how you can use mindfulness to improve your business:
1. Manage your nervous system
Reflection: How do you currently deal with uncertainty?
Learning how to manage your nervous system is crucial to remain calm and levelheaded during times of uncertainty and pressure.
When we are worrying about uncertainty or are feeling under pressure we tend to have a tunnel vision, fall into habitual and reactive patterns and are unlikely to come up with our most creative ideas.
There is a tendency to also become closed, defensive and blame others and the behaviour is impulsive, focusing only on the short-term without being able to see the long-term implications of ones actions. This behaviour is caused by an ancient part of our brain, the amygdala, which basically makes us operate as if we were still cavemen fighting for our survival.
Our nervous system treats a worrying thought about the full inbox or budget meeting in a similar way to when our ancestors feared the attack of a tiger while hunting in the bushes.
To the extent this is happening, we fall into a fight-flight-freeze reaction and our executive brain, which is responsible for long-term thinking, strategic thinking, a positive outlook and concentrated focus shuts down.
- The quickest way to get out of the funk, shut down your caveman brain and interrupt being caught in incessant thought spirals is to take a breathing break. When our amygdala is on, our breath becomes shallow and we are breathing from the chest. Instead, take a deep inhalation through your nostrils and try to direct your breath into your abdomen. Elongate the exhalation by making it twice as long as the inhalation, which kicks into the body´s natural relaxation response.
- Daily meditation practice (10-15 minutes) changes our brain for the better, so that the amygdala flares up less often and when it does, we have a better capacity to notice what is happening and can make a conscious choice to respond rather than unconsciously react to a situation.
2. Hone your listening skills
Reflection: When was the last time that you truly listened to your team or customers with curiosity and an open mind?
Listening is completely underrated as a business skill. From my experience everyone wants to be heard and seen, yet many leaders speak more than they listen.
Most leaders also think they are far better listeners than they really are; for example finishing other people’s sentences or just waiting for your turn to speak can stifle your team’s confidence and creativity. In a similar way it is crucial to listen with an open mind to what your customers really need.
- Bring your full attention to whoever is speaking. When you notice that your mind is jumping ahead to the next question or there is a tendency to finish the person´s sentence, bring your attention back to the speaker and allow them the space they need to express whatever needs to be expressed. Once the person finished, don’t immediately jump into giving your perspective or answering how this relates to your own experience, but rather ask an additional question to clarify.
- Listen more to your customers, by actively reaching out through social media and including them into your creative process by for example asking them about which packaging design they prefer, what they like and don’t like about your product, and so on.
3. Ask more questions
Reflection: When was the last time that you questioned your business model and business processes?
The moment we stop asking questions and think we know all there is to know about our customers, business model, employees, or our industry we risk becoming complacent.
A lot of what we do on a daily basis and as a business is habitual and on autopilot. Once a habit is formed, we no longer question it. Sometimes it takes a newcomer to a business to ask why are we “doing X” for us to notice that it no longer makes sense in the current environment.
Asking questions interrupts the autopilot and brings us back to the present moment. Every innovation and creative process starts with a question. It is in this space of openness, of not knowing, that something new can emerge.
- Get into a habit to routinely question everything including your own thoughts or assumptions about a situation. Try to look at your business with a fresh perspective and ask the questions you would ask if you were knew to your organisation.
- You could start for example by looking at your supply chain: a lot of processes were implemented before sustainability was a “thing”, but there could be looming reputational and financial risks there.
- Switch from results-orientation to process-orientation. Instead of just looking at the end product, be equally concerned with how did we get there and what can we learn from the process for the future.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Palma Michel. Palma is an executive coach and author of ‘The Authority Guide to Mindful Leadership; Simple techniques and exercises to manage yourself, manage others and effect change’ published by SRABooks. Find out more at www.authorityguides.co.uk
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