Because there are lessons more difficult than others, we may need the teacher for a longer time and in a deeper relationship. Sometimes the lesson will come like a bolt and that person may come in and out of life.
“Every person we meet is our teacher and student.” iPEC Core Principle
We attract people into our lives for a reason, a lifetime or shorter and always for a two-way learning experience. They constantly add something to our life journey.
The nature of the relationship may determine which topic we are learning or teaching. For example, we may learn the dos and don’t’s of social interaction from our family and people at school. We discover how to behave at work from colleagues, managers, and mentors.
As we develop certain disciplines such as awareness and acceptance we learn about ourselves. We enrich our values, perspective of life, and tools to handle events that will come our way.
“The purpose of a relationship is to remember more of who we are… in relation to another.” Bruch Schneider, founder of iPEC
Covid has been a collective experience with numerous lessons and counting. I am now reflecting on the investment I have made in my current and past relationships. We now have other sources of ‘teachers and students’. And the importance of having a solid family structure is more apparent now than ever.
This week I reconnected with an old friend. We talked for a long time catching up with our current lives and strolling through memory lane of times that were simpler and more fun. This encounter made me realize how much I missed having her friendship all this time, how much we encouraged each other back then, and how those decisions we made changed our paths forever.
A few months ago my team was moved to another group resulting in having a new leader. I have learned so much from this relationship. It has been like an immersion on knowing myself, how I want to show up as a leader, and in changing the order of what is important in our jobs.
With every new and old encounter and relationship, I learn something about myself and how I want to approach life. I realized that trust and empathy are at the top of my list when I think about how to show up as a leader. My old friend reminded me about openly expressing thoughts and feelings. I tend to be more reserved and self-conscious.
Great leaders focus on people: what to learn from them and how to show up for each person. They know that each of us is a treasure of experience, views on life, values, and feelings. Amazing leaders channel their essence to create growth, encourage others to fulfill their potential, and to inspire them to take the leap.
At the start of the pandemic, when many of us were asked to stay home to stem the spread of the coronavirus, it seemed like a lot of people had one of two reactions. Some embraced sheltering in place, thinking to themselves, “Why not use this big ‘pause’ to do something I always wanted to do?” — whether that meant cleaning out the closets, picking up a home renovation project, or learning a new language. The rest of us — including me — had no such plans. My goal was never to come out of quarantine a different, more improved person. It felt like everything in the world was so overwhelming, and getting by — day by day — would be more than sufficient.
As time went on, however, many of us — myself included — came to realize that we can’t help but evolve and come away changed by these times. But rather than let change happen to us, we can be intentional and actively participate in our transformation.
Some of us will make small but meaningful tweaks to our lives. Others will strive for a larger, sweeping “reinvention.” There’s no one right way to go about change; the important thing is to be deliberate and purposeful, and keep moving forward.
Here’s what’s been working for me, as I take this opportunity to contemplate who I want to be and how I want to evolve. Perhaps some of these techniques can help guide you on your own journey.
Revisit your goals. I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions — not because I don’t think they’re useful, but because I don’t think we should limit ourselves to reassessing the trajectory of our lives just once a year. Why not do that right now? Consider this turbulent time in our nation — both with the virus and the seismic reckoning over racism that we’re in the middle of — an ideal opportunity to review what you want to accomplish and who you want to be.
We’re living through something we’ve never lived through before, and that gives us all the chance to look at our lives from a different angle. Do your personal goals continue to make sense and resonate with your values? Have your priorities changed? If you realize you need to pivot some aspect of your life, make that choice now rather than waiting for next month, or next year.
Reflect on the events of this year. Are there things you’ve learned, or that you’ve been thinking about, that have troubled you? Were you bothered by the lack of human connection you felt during quarantine? Did you crave a more active lifestyle when you were spending most of your time at home? Reflecting on what didn’t work for you can be a great tool to help you decide if you want to do something differently going forward.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was pretty much on an airplane every week for work. These past few months have been the longest stretch of time I’ve been home in approximately 10 years. I have discovered a new passion: I love being home. This experience has made me realize that I can be an effective leader, colleague, and influencer without getting on a plane each week. It’s better for me and my well-being, for my family, and for the environment. Now that I have realized this, it excites me to think: How do I evolve to do all the things I want to do, but do them in a different way?
Use your own personal data to fuel change. Your emotions give you information — in fact, I think of my emotions as data. During this time, whether because of COVID-19 or racial injustice or economic challenges or any other circumstance, what were the highs and lows of your emotions? And what can you learn from them?
Observingmy emotions has highlighted the importance of finding joy in everyday moments. I always believed in it, but I was often too busy to fully recognize the joy in little things and hold onto that joy. Before, if my puppy did something funny, I’d laugh in the moment — then move onto whatever was next. Now I laugh and realize that she has no clue about what’s going on in the world; she is just living in the moment and living her best life.
Educate yourself. Sometimes in order to create change — personal as well as societal — we need to commit to learning more about why things are the way they are. I am a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and access, and I am constantly looking for ways to further the conversationi around mental health .
Lately, as the pervasiveness of systemic racism has become a larger conversation in our country, I’ve spent a lot of time learning about the history of mental health in the Black community. Our mental health system needs to do better for everyone, and specifically for the communities of people of color. One way we can affect change is by elevating BIPOC voices in the mental health and well-being space. We can’t allow their voices to go unheard anymore.
Recognize your power. Even the most personal changes we make can have a powerful ripple effect through communities and our society as a whole. Think about the collective impact we could have if we all made one small positive change and put that out in the world. If we all decided “I’m going to travel less for work,” the impact that could have on the environment would be immense. Or if we each made the commitment to volunteer with an organization we’ve never worked with before, or committed to learning about racism and how we can all amplify BIPOC voices, the results could be transformative. Simply put, when we embark on positive change in our individual lives, everyone benefits.
Like the ripple on a lake spreading out, humanity is awakening at an ever increasing speed.
A snowball at the top of a mountain has the potential to become huge, just by rolling down the mountain and gathering more snow. In a short time, this tiny snowball can become a force to be reckoned with.
We humans are like this when it comes to exchanging energy and vision, and no matter how few people are involved at the beginning, there is the potential for massive change.
As consciousness seekers, we are in the midst of this process, and it is amazing to see people we thought might never come around, waking up to their truth. Each time we see this, we can count ourselves blessed to be living at a time when the awareness of humanity seems to be at a tipping point, as more and more individuals open their minds and change their ways.
For some people, this revolves around an awareness of the environment, for others it is a spiritual awakening, and for many it is both. A great change in consciousness is sweeping through us all, as we recognize that things are not what they have seemed to be, that there is more to our lives than meets the eye.
Many of us have the awareness and the energy at this time to break through old, outmoded ways of seeing things and to move into a new way of being in the world, and it is essential that we do so.
The beauty of living at this time is that even small actions have a powerful ripple effect, and the reverberations of what we do have the power to reach and open many minds.
It is as if a scale is about to tip in favor of higher consciousness, and each one of us has the power to bring humanity closer to that point with the smallest of actions.
Each time we move in the direction of our dreams and visions, we can visualize another small pebble dropping into the pond, or another gold weight on the scale, rippling and tipping our way to universal awakening.
The classic tale of the tortoise and the hare reminds us that different people take life at different speeds and that one way is not necessarily superior to another. In fact, in the story it is the slower animal that ends up arriving at the destination first.
In the same way, some of us seem to move very quickly through the issues and obstacles we all face in our lives. Others need long periods of time to process their feelings and move into new states of awareness. For those of us who perceive ourselves as moving quickly, it can be painful and exasperating to deal with someone else’s slower pace.
Yet, just like the tortoise and the hare, we all arrive at the same destination together, eventually.
People who take their time with things are probably in the minority in most of the world today. We live in a time when speed and productivity are valued above almost anything else. Therefore, people who flow at a slower pace are out of sync with the world and are often pestered and prodded to go faster and do more.
This can be not only frustrating but also counterproductive because the stress of being pushed to move faster than one is able to move actually slows progress. On the other hand, if a person’s style is honored and supported, they will find their way in their own time and, just like the tortoise, they might just beat the speedier, more easily distracted person to the finish line.
It’s important to remember that we are not actually in a race to get somewhere ahead of someone else, and it is difficult to judge by appearances whether one person has made more progress than another.
Whether you count yourself among the fast movers or as one of the slower folks, we can all benefit from respecting the pace that those around us choose for themselves.
This way, we can keep our eyes on our own journey, knowing that we will all end up together in the end.
“You want a revolution, I want a revelation. So listen to my declaration.” Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
These times of global turmoil demand personal and professional reinvention. With many others you will feel the urge of reinventing yourself.
This article is a mosaic of personal experiences, as well as valuable insights gathered from conversations with coaching clients. It is aimed to spark a reflective pathway to start a journey of reinvention.
Many of us (mostly those with careers in corporate America) usually reach a point (prompted by stage of life, stage of the business, or stage of circumstance), in which we ask ourselves why and how to move forward with our lives -personally and professionally. We have forged a reputation backed by solid and successful careers based on 3 or 4 tricks that we do very well and which have permitted us to score some serious successes. So why change? And why now?
The current COVID-19 new-normal is providing a state-of-the-art springboard for personal reinvention. It metamorphosed the world as we knew it in a few days, tearing down “the way things were” into a new norm. The nudge to reinvent ourselves is self-evident.
Many of us don’t have places to go back to, or careers to resume, or business opportunities to realize. As Eric McNulty (Harvard University) says, resilience is not the ability to bounce back, but to bounce forward.
So here we are, without a world to go back to, and unsure where to bounce forward.
Prof. Carol Dweck (Stanford University and author) has laid the invaluable concepts of fixed and growth mindset. In my appreciation a fixed mindset is “the world is as it is. I am as I am. And that is that.”. Growth mindset as I see it deals with the concept of “things transform. There are many possible futures, and I can change.”
This second framework constitutes a venue for exploration, a radical necessary activity to realize personal reinvention. As Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO) states, moving from a place of experts to a mindset of learners permits breakthroughs in technology… personally and professionally. When we are in the learner mindset, we are curious and ask questions; we allow ourselves to laugh at the incongruencies; we seek the company of others (and listen to them!); and we crowdsource our way forward.
Learning is about expanding what is known (the cozy, comfortable, predictable, “and who I am”), to allow ourselves some discomfort by trying and testing what we have never done. It’s about allowing revolution, revelation, declaration… or the three of them at the same time! It is moving from “this is who I am” to “this is what I am becoming” and opening endless possibilities.
This is a state-of-mind that practitioners in design thinking and futures thinking leverage systematically. It can yield surprising, expanded and inclusive results.
In my personal experience, the practice of yoga constituted a “via regia”. It has taught me to explore flexibility, find inner space, stretch where it seems I couldn’t, and see things from different perspectives as I do upside-down poses.
Finding a nurturing conversation between body and mind relays in four pillars: balance, strength, flexibility and opening. And most importantly, transitioning in and out of poses, finding and letting go in the flow.
Let me share 5 suggested-to-do strategies, certainly not new, that I “bundled” around the journey of personal reinvention, to prompt action for those that are ready to try:
Be aware of the company you keep: the motivational speaker Jim Rohn states that you are (at least in part) a result of the 5 people you more frequently and extensively interact with. Design who you will pick as partners for your journey, make sure your buddies embody curiosity, exploration, and a good sense of humor..
Design your day-to-day for exploration: if you want to lose weight, don’t leave a cake on your kitchen counter! Give yourself space and time to try new things, such as brushing your teeth with “the other hand”. That will start to create “memories” of “things done differently”.
Exercise!: whatever you do, use your full lung capacity, raise your metabolism, elevate your cellular vibration. It is easier to change when your body is prepared and willing to. Convert your body into your ally for reinvention.
Use frequently the “what if” mind frame, as in “what if I can respond differently?”, “what if she didn’t mean what I thought?”, “what if there is another way to solve this?”. Unstuck your brain from “there is only one possible way”, and start entertaining other possibilities.
Keep a diary: collect your thoughts, and see your new self revealing in the pages. Articulating in handwriting your thoughts will reduce anxiety and create some distance with emotions, and will prompt reflection and subsequent action.
Last but not least, when in doubt, revert to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words: “Every wall is a door”.
By Christian Greiser, Jan-Philipp Martini, Liane Stephan, and Chris Tamdjidi
Does mindfulness foster an organization’s collective intelligence? A recent study conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Awaris demonstrated a connection: 31 teams (totaling 196 people) that participated in a ten-week mindfulness program showed an average increase of 13% in collective intelligence, as measured by tests developed by the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.
The concept of collective intelligence—the capability of a group of people to solve complex problems—is not new. But the increasing interconnectedness of knowledge work and the growing variety of problems have raised the profile of collective intelligence as a competitive differentiator. So, companies need to understand the concept more systematically and scientifically.
One key to unlocking the potential of collective intelligence is mindfulness—a state of being present in the moment and leaving behind one’s tendency to judge. Leading companies have introduced programs to unleash the power of mindfulness among their employees. But most of these companies have not focused explicitly on the opportunities to use mindfulness to foster collective intelligence.
Companies today must manage rapid innovation cycles and the deep interconnectedness of knowledge work. To address the challenges, many companies are investing in setting up cross-functional, agile teams. But to transition to truly dynamic ways of working, a company must fundamentally transform how cross-functional teams interact and collaborate. This requires bringing forth an emergent property of their system: the collective intelligence of their teams
We define collective intelligence as a group’s ability to perform the wide variety of tasks required to solve complex problems. Collective intelligence is not dependent on team members’ IQ, knowledge, or ability to think logically or on the team’s composition. Instead, it is largely driven by team members’ unconscious processing: their emotional intelligence (people’s awareness of, and ability to manage, their own emotions and those of others) and emergent properties such as trust, emotional and psychological safety, and equality of participation. This description is supported by studies conducted by the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence and Google’s Project Aristotle. BCG’s experience across a large number of transformations to new ways of working and agile methods also points to emotional and noncognitive factors as the key drivers of collective intelligence.
Tapping into the Power of Diversity
Diversity is among the foundational elements of a team’s collective intelligence. In this context, diversity should not be limited to gender or functional and educational backgrounds. What’s required is a diversity of cognitive styles—that is, different ways of thinking about, perceiving, and remembering information or simply different ways of solving problems or seeing the world.
To tap into the power of diversity—with respect to both expertise and world views—a company must create an environment in which individuals are willing to risk stating their opinions and to be receptive to listening to others. This requires integrating a team’s diversity.
Teams whose members are not well-integrated exhibit many dysfunctions. Members often lack a sense of joint purpose and struggle to engage in teamwork. The failure to properly integrate a team’s diversity can actually diminish its collective intelligence.
Mindfulness Provides a Potential Solution
Companies already apply approaches that foster collective intelligence. They are increasingly proficient at setting up diverse teams, breaking down organizational silos, and implementing open information systems. However, companies often do not explicitly recognize how these efforts relate to collective intelligence and thus they fail to capture the full benefits.
Most notably, companies are not doing enough to identify and address inadequate emotional safety and trust among team members. That is because most companies are not sufficiently aware of people’s unconscious interactions and do not understand how unconscious factors influence team performance. Most companies also lack the skills and perseverance to constructively address issues related to emotional safety and trust.
Mindfulness provides a potential solution for meeting these challenges. Many companies have introduced mindfulness into their organizations, primarily to help their employees maintain well-being and improve their clarity of thinking, cognitive abilities, and ability to stay calm. However, only a few organizations (progressive entities including the European Commission, Google, Hilti, and SAP) have also applied mindfulness to transform the collective capabilities of teams.
Most people who regularly practice mindfulness have an intuitive understanding of its connection to collective intelligence. What’s more, the effect of mindfulness practice on collective intelligence is objectively measurable. Awaris and BCG conducted extensive research to confirm the hypotheses of this article. We measured the collective intelligence of 31 teams, totaling 196 people, from a large German automotive company and a political organization. We took measurements twice—before and after a ten-week mindfulness program. (See the sidebar “About the Study.”) After the mindfulness program, the teams’ collective intelligence—measured through four diverse problem-solving tasks—increased by an average of 13%. (See the exhibit.) Moreover, we found that mindfulness is significantly associated with emotional intelligence and that individual and group mindfulness scores predicted a team’s collective intelligence.
Mindfulness practice fosters collective intelligence by allowing us to redirect our mental attention skills (for example, capabilities of the working memory or our ability to focus on the task at hand) toward more expansive, awareness-based skills. More specifically, mindfulness practice strongly influences a person’s self-awareness of the body’s internal state (interoception) and mental processes (metacognition). Interoception and metacognition help us regulate our reactions to emotions and behaviors. By improving our ability to get in touch with our own emotions, we also enhance empathy—our ability to vicariously share the experiences of others.
By increasing self-awareness and empathy, mindfulness impacts two areas that directly promote collective intelligence:
Communication and Prosocial Behavior. Team members who embrace mindfulness are better listeners and can react in an emotionally intelligent way when tension or disagreement arises. Their style of interaction encourages other team members to speak up and participate in creative processes and allows them to integrate their diverse cognitive styles.
Leadership. Mindfulness training helps leaders improve their ability to self-reflect. Mindfulness is also associated with important leadership capacities such as flexibility, authenticity, and humbleness.
Three Steps to Applying Mindfulness
To use mindfulness to foster collective intelligence, a company must take three steps.
Provide mindfulness training. Mindfulness practice comprises a set of mental and emotional exercises that affect the functioning of the brain in a measurable way. Several proven methods of mindfulness training can help team members and leaders establish a personal mindfulness practice.
Anchor mindfulness in teams. Mindfulness can evolve from a practice to a state and eventually become a trait—when the various underlying skills have become embedded in a person’s mental and emotional makeup. Team interactions provide valuable opportunities to embed these skills. To promote mindfulness, organizations must clearly state that teams should practice three simple types of habits that foster psychological safety and collective intelligence:
Attention and Focus. Teams need to establish specific habits that promote attentiveness. For example, a team can observe one minute of silence before the start of each meeting. In addition, how team members deal with devices, listen to each other, and speak can significantly affect the degree of presence and openness in the meeting.
Care and Positivity. When people feel trust, efficacy, and appreciation, they engage and contribute. When they do not, they hold back and divert their energy to other things. As a result, demonstrating care and positivity in teamwork—noticing what colleagues have achieved and done well and appreciating their contributions—can be very important to improving the sense of bonding and community.
Emotional Awareness. Allowing emotions to surface and be expressed becomes a natural part of what it means to work together. Processes for surfacing emotions include having check-ins during which team members share how they feel emotionally before a meeting, as well as regular retrospectives in which members share their feelings on the interactions within their team.
Establish metrics and track behavior changes. Just as manufacturers meticulously track physical safety on their shop floors, companies should track emotional or psychological safety in their knowledge environments. As a starting point, companies can use surveys and interviews to ask employees whether they believe the company has clearly articulated that emotional safety and psychological safety are goals and whether they understand how to create such safety.
Learning more: About the Study
Thirty-one teams, composed primarily of people with managerial responsibilities, participated in a ten-week mindfulness training program that was specifically adapted to the work context. The study focused on investigating whether a team’s collective intelligence can be enhanced by mindfulness training of its members.
To measure collective intelligence, we used a set of four diverse tasks developed for this purpose by the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence:
Moral Reasoning. Teams received a case study of a problem that presented conflicting interests among several parties. We asked the teams to determine, from an ethical perspective, the most suitable solution for all parties. Responses were scored by the degree to which the groups considered the balance of competing perspectives in the problem.
Creativity. Teams had to build a complex Lego structure while taking into consideration tight constraints relating to size, quality, and aesthetics. The resulting Lego structure was scored on the accuracy of meeting those constraints.
Output Optimization. Teams were scored after performing a shopping exercise in which they had to maximize the quantity and quality of goods purchased while minimizing the costs of goods and time spent shopping.
Judgment. Teams had to estimate and agree upon quantities for 20 diverse questions (for example, “What was the highest recorded temperature in the US?”). Teams were scored based on the accuracy of their estimations.
The selection of the tasks was based on Joseph McGrath’s model of group tasks. This ensured that we covered major aspects of collective intelligence, such as decision making, task execution, generation of innovative ideas, and negotiation.
In the first session of the program, we randomly assigned one, or in some cases two, of the tasks to each team. We scored each team’s performance of its task. During this initial session, we also conducted an individual assessment of each team member’s mindfulness (using the “Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire”) and emotional intelligence (using the “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” test).
In the final session of the mindfulness program, we repeated the process. We asked each team to perform one or two of the tasks that it had not previously performed. We then scored its performance on the new task and conducted another assessment of mindfulness and emotional intelligence.
At the conclusion of the study, we used the arithmetic mean of the improvement of teams’ performance scores for the four tasks to determine the increase in collective intelligence. We also correlated the results of the individual assessments of mindfulness and emotional intelligence to determine the extent to which these two attributes are associated and predict collective intelligence.
About the Authors
Christian Greiser is a managing director and senior partner in the Düsseldorf office of Boston Consulting Group. You may contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jan-Philipp Martini is a consultant in BCG’s Düsseldorf office, supporting clients around the world on enterprise-wide agile transformations. You may contact him by email at email@example.com. Liane Stephan is a co-founder and managing director of Awaris. You may contact her by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Chris Tamdjidi is a co-founder and managing director of Awaris and is responsible for the organization’s efforts relating to neuroscience research and technology. You may contact him by email at email@example.com.
One possible next normal is that decisions made during and after the crisis lead to less prosperity, slower growth, widening inequality, bloated government bureaucracies, and rigid borders. Or it could be that the decisions made during this crisis lead to a burst of innovation and productivity, more resilient industries, smarter government at all levels, and the emergence of a reconnected world. Neither is inevitable; indeed, the outcome is probably more likely to be a mix. The point is that where the world lands is a matter of choice—of countless decisions to be made by individuals, companies, governments, and institutions