On a wall in the Brighton Ski Lodge located outside of Salt Lake City, there is a tiny plaque that simply states "BE." For years, I would go skiing at Brighton and wonder what "BE" meant. It seemed like an odd statement. What was its importance? What was I missing? What am I supposed to "BE"?
It wasn't until after being introduced to Brené Brown's work did I finally understand the meaning of BE – BE present, BE vulnerable, BE authentic. BE human. BE mindful. That drive to BE has begun to penetrate business – a world shaped by process, standards, and hard numbers.
The Market of Mindfulness
The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
A mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
We see headlines like How Meditation Benefits CEOs, Does Mindfulness Training Have Business Benefits, Tech Addiction and the Business of Mindfulness, and Mindfulness as Leadership Practice in social media every day. With roots in Hindu and Buddhist traditions, mindfulness and meditation are promoted as ways to cope with stress, improve focus and productivity, and even make people better leaders. No doubt, mindfulness is a market.
In 2017, The Global Wellness Institute valued the Wellness industry, which includes Mindfulness, at $3.72 trillion. In the U.S. alone, the Mindfulness piece of that market was valued at $1.1 billion – up $100 million over the previous year, according to IBISWorld.
Companies are driving much of this progress, allocating huge budgets to mindfulness and meditation programs. They are embracing the idea that employees' mental health is tied directly to their individual performance and the performance of the company as a whole. Isn't it curious that so many companies are spending the money to improve human performance if the predictions are true that artificial intelligence (AI) is going to take over our jobs?
Perhaps it's a sign that human value in the workforce won't – can't – be replaced by machines.
Compare the 2017 value of the global Wellness market to that of the global AI market. Statista estimated its value at to be roughly $2.42 billion – a fraction of the Wellness market – and only double the value of the U.S. Mindfulness market. The implication is that even as we put more machines to work, the appreciation is growing for the uniqueness of humans and the value they provide to organizations that unleash that uniqueness.
If it's true that the humanness is the more valuable business asset, shouldn't more leaders focus on the wholeness of people – beyond Mindfulness programming?
The growing emphasis on Mindfulness is a start. The next step is to actively support the full range of human intelligences and bring them to bear. That means allowing for full, emotive, intuitive intellect to be encouraged and rewarded.
The 8 Intellects
American developmental psychologist Howard Gardner identified eight intelligence abilities that humans use to learn and master the world around us:
1. Logical-mathematical intelligence ("number/reasoning smart")
2. Linguistic intelligence ("word smart")
3. Musical intelligence ("music smart")
4. Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence ("body smart")
5. Spatial intelligence ("picture smart")
6. Naturalist intelligence ("nature smart")
7. Interpersonal intelligence ("people smart")
8. Intrapersonal intelligence ("self-smart")
In the current work environment, the most commonly recognized, engaged and rewarded is Logical intelligence – the capacity for math and science, pattern identification, and deductive reasoning. Certain categories of organizations, such as such as journalism (New York Times), the arts (London Symphony Orchestra), sports (NFL) or airlines (Delta) do rely on linguistic, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, and spatial attributes for competitiveness. For most organizations, however, these intelligence abilities are not intentionally sought out or valued.
The last two intelligences abilities, Interpersonal and Intrapersonal, are subsets of emotional intelligence. Interpersonal is the ability to understand the intentions, motivations, and desires of others. Intrapersonal is the capacity to identify our own motivations, intentions, and desires. Often seen as ‘soft' skills, these are rarely recruited capabilities. And yet, these are the emotional intelligences that practiced mindfulness can produce.
I would argue that to thrive in the future; leaders must create a workforce environment that recognizes, engages, and rewards the intuitive, creative, emotional intellects on par with the logical.
As leaders, we have the opportunity to create the conditions in which all intelligences are honored. Even as we integrate AI, we can actively support the human-ness and wholeness of our workforce.
What does the environment look like?
As the economic projections indicate, this effort includes Mindfulness training and resources. For many organizations, it also includes personality assessments. We need to be careful to distinguish between personality types and emotional intelligence. Types are valuable for structuring the workforce, predicting approaches to problems, and such. Feelings, on the other hand, are signals. Ignoring or devaluing them limits rational and logical intelligence.
We've gotten used to shutting off emotions in the workplace. (Perhaps that's why it took me so long to understand the value of BE.) Integrating AI into the workforce could exacerbate that real problem – or we could use the space that machines creates for us to take the time to ask deeper ‘why' questions, consider not only what we reason to be true, but also what we intuit.
“Think of energy almost like emotional electricity. It has a powerful way of uniting ordinary people, their connected spirit, to do extraordinary things.”
Make no mistake; we're not advocating for unbridled emotionality in the workplace. (That would be chaos.) This is about listening to our sensors – our gut – to make more fully considered business decisions. We have to make decisions so fast. AI is equipping us with decision-making data that supports speed. We also have to make sure decisions. Rational isn't holistic. AI can give us rational – it takes human intuition, creativity, and interpersonal and intrapersonal conversations to answer the deeper why so we can proceed with confidence.
There's a reason why Mindfulness is a market. It is an outcome. It takes practice. Particularly among corporate professionals, it's a lost skill. But perhaps as leaders create space for people to examine and engage their full creative, emotive, intuitive intellect, Mindfulness will emerge – with, or without, a team exercise, app, or oil diffuser spreading an ‘awareness scent' in the office. And when that happens, perhaps we'll all be more comfortable with the reality we only suspect at the moment – that machines can't and won't replace humans – unless we keep treating the humans as machines.
What is your experience with Mindfulness and emotional intellect in your workforce? Are you set up to encourage and nurture those qualities? Do they have value in the work you do?