Mindfulness is an ancient contemplative science, which essentially has two elements: the formal which is called meditation and the informal where we apply what we learned during the formal practice.
In meditation practice we train our attention and cultivate curiosity, a beginners mind, focus on the present, acceptance, patience, clarity, courage, non-judging, letting go and compassion, which all support creativity.
So how can you use mindfulness to be more creative in your small business?
1. Listen fully
Google decided to discover what makes the best-performing teams. The answer turned out to be psychological safety. This means it’s important to create a business environment where everyone can participate and be heard. No shouting others down!
Action: in your meetings, focus on giving full attention to the speaker. Listen with openness and compassion. If your mind wanders off, bring your attention back to the person. When they stop talking, ask an open question: “tell me more about…”, “what do you think?” Resist instantly sharing your views.
2. Ask questions
If you believe you know the answer, you stop asking questions. It is a leader´s job to encourage a space of openness and not knowing. This includes asking questions and allowing people to challenge existing truths or assumptions.
Action: Bring curiosity to every situation. Don´t assume you know the answer or that something is a given. Constantly ask questions and challenge your assumptions. Mindfulness practice encourages openness and curiosity about what is arising in the moment.
3. Use your breathe
Whenever there are setbacks or uncertainty, there’s a tendency for us to revert to “caveman” territory. Business leaders need to be aware of this dynamic, and even if it is uncomfortable, keep in the control zone with the bigger picture in sight.
Action: When you feel triggered in any way, try this short breathing exercise: Take a few conscious breaths through your nostrils, inhaling deeply all the way into your abdomen. Exhale through your mouth with pursed lips. Count to two on your inhale count to four on your exhale. The key is to make your exhale slightly longer than your inhale.
4. Learn from the process
Focusing heavily on the results can be an obstacle to creativity. We need to experiment to create a perfect product. Remember the famous “Post-It note”? This was a by-product of an unsuccessful process intended to invent a superglue. If 3M had focused on the failure the ground-breaking “Post-It” wouldn’t have been made. A process orientation allowed 3M to go back to learn from what had happened.
Action:Become more interested in the process and see what you can learn from it. Constantly ask questions throughout the process, not just afterwards. Try a pre-mortem, thinking through all the different reasons why a project could fail. Practicing mindfulness naturally instills a process orientation as the focus is on our experience in the present moment without being fixed on particular outcomes.
5. Stop micromanaging!
Business leaders need to let go to avoid stifling the team´s creativity. Team or group skills are always better than the sum of individual qualities. If a leader tries to over-control the creative process there is no room for the unexpected to emerge. An unusual mash-up often gives creativity a boost, shaking up normal ways of thinking.
Action: Be honest. Do you have a tendency to try controlling everything and everyone? Mindfulness practice encourages letting go, by observing what arises in the present moment, without being attached to it.
Follow these steps to mindfulness. You’ll create a business culture where creativity will thrive and your team can be flexible and innovative.