The next research theme I took to my focus group of experts was ‘How can entrepreneurs be supported to see the potential value of mindfulness to both themselves and their organisation?’
Here’s what they said.
Business adviser Sharon suggests there’s a need to avoid being prescriptive. “ It’s about not being prescriptive, it’s about recognising what mindfulness is for that individual within the work environment.”
Explain The Tangible Benefits
For entrepreneur Carl, emphasis needs to be given to the tangible benefits of mindfulness. “ I believe this comes down to time, unless there is a clear value, perhaps in a broader sense to the entrepreneurs, with tangible and real outcomes, they are unlikely to engage purely from an academic point of view.”
There Needs To Be Link To Ethics
Carl adds that there should be an awareness of ‘mental health washing.’
Make It Relevant
Carl believes there needs to be a move away from a mental health focus. “ You need to look at the wider benefits, its impact on relationships, productivity. Talk about it from their point of view.”
Bring People In From The Margins
Carl also sees a need to bring in people from disadvantaged backgrounds. “ In poor communities, I think there is no other option but to survive through enterprise. Take that from the margins to the norms and allow it to flourish in the mainstream, and again structural injustice around access to support can keep people in the margins, and there is huge opportunity to unleash great entrepreneurs in our poor communities if you allow people to do it and have it driven by them.”
Consider The Argument For Combining Mindfulness And Prosocial Agendas
Claire from an organisation supporting social entrepreneurs says there’s an argument for combining mindfulness and prosocial agendas. “ Actually, being mindful and prosocial are great assets for the modern-day entrepreneur and it is not this outdated notion of it being “Oh no, not something else you are expecting us to do.” I think that is the problem, you teach people there is a cost to being kind and respectful to suppliers and customers then you are immediately getting off on the wrong foot. The best way to do that is to demonstrate the success, the growth, the profitability, the viability, resilience, diversity, and success ultimately of being both mindful and prosocial because certainly all of the evidence that I get is that it makes for happier entrepreneurs and makes for more sustainable and better business.”
Business Adviser Sharon thinks that normalising mindfulness makes sense. “ I think a lot of misconceptions probably come from people not having it taught to them or spoken about to them in their day-to-day lives. I think if it is something people are naturally doing and have been doing, then it is something they start to understand a lot more, and this reduces the chances of those misconceptions.”
Be Clear On The Benefits
Entrepreneur in training Ali said there’s a need to be clear on the benefits of mindfulness. “ If you’re trying to sell it, be really clear on what the benefits are.”
Business Adviser Sharon sees the misconceptions around mindfulness as a stumbling block. “ The main stumbling block is the social norm of it all, what people think it is compared to what it actually is, so if you start with ‘this is how it can really help you, how it can change your life,’ then people will start to listen.”
Consider Its Application In Organisations
The focus group had a lot to say about the application of mindfulness in organisations.
Scott, from a business support network, acknowledged that mindfulness has become current in organisations with regard to managing thinking.
Business adviser Sharon says more mindfulness in organisations is a good thing. “ If there is more mindfulness in organisations to increase that mental awareness capacity then it is a good thing.”
Alex from a business support organisation wondered if being mindful would bring added pressure to businesses. “ What about the effort involved? Lots of businesses are under pressure and time is a scarce commodity for some people, and this pressure to be mindful about everything that is happening within your organisation does take a certain amount of effort.”
Entrepreneur in training Ali thinks that introducing mindfulness into a business needs to be something that entrepreneurs want to do. “ I think bring in somebody who is an expert in it and they can actually demonstrate and then it is up to the workplace to make their own informed decision, but you cannot force it on people. Then it is not natural, it is not going to work, it has to be something people want to do.”
Alex agreed with Ali’s statement, adding that their needs to be some flexibility. “ The other business difficulties and complexities organisations need to manage does not always mean you can set things in stone, there has to be flexibility there.”
Acknowledge The Limitations
Business adviser Sharon says it’s important to achieve balance by acknowledging the limitations of mindfulness. “ Where there is a deficiency then mindfulness helps all sorts of organisational cultures and then there is an optimal point, you have to have balance. There are mindfulness practices going on, you are aware of the importance of it and the development of the workforce…and it was too much of a good thing. It became detrimental when they were pumping it down people’s throats and there was not a lot of focus on anything else, knuckling down to perform the task at hand.”
Consider The Role Of Business Support
Sharon adds that there’s a need to look at how important prosociality is within the role of business support. “ Is it fundamentally part of what an entrepreneur should be? Should we be pushing it with start-ups or does it sit within business support?
It is not up to us, we work with them to set their own values and their own mission and goals, it is up to them if they adopt it or not. We can give clear guidance, but we need to understand what it is, but people are not going to practice unless they believe in it, because it is not part of their world, it is not for them.”