MIndfulness in innovation and human services


Over the beautiful Adelaide sun I had lunch with a old friend of mine. She participated in a recent workshop on Risk & Innovation I conducted in Adelaide and I was surprised to see her after more than 4 years. We met many years back over meditation practice and found her to be on a journey of mindfulness and focussed on creating a better life for herself through this.

For the past few years she has been continuously meditating, married a buddhist and is focussed on using mindfulness in the human services context and design & innovation context. That was the impetus for our meeting. She was wondering if I was interested in this idea and how we can prototype this.

I jumped at the idea. I have been practicing on and off mindfulness for a long time. In recent months, John Kabat Zinn’s (JKZ) program and books have helped me tremendously. This was music to my ears.

What is mindfulness? According to JKZ:

mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally.”


In Asian languages, the word for mind and the word for heart are same. So if you’re not hearing mindfulness in some deep way as heartfulness, you’re not really understanding it. Compassion and kindness towards oneself are intrinsically woven into it. You could think of mindfulness as wise and affectionate attention.

The ABCs of Mindfulness:

A is for awareness - Becoming more aware of what you are thinking and doing - whats going on in your mind and body. 

B is for just Being” with your experience.  Avoiding the tendency to respond on auto-pilot and feed problems by creating your own story.

C is for seeing things and responding more wisely.  By creating a gap between the experience and our reaction to, we can make wiser choices.

The world of human services or social change is filled with passionate people working on issues that are traumatic, hard and mostly wicked problems. This requires what she called self-care” and the ability to build resilience”.

The world of design and innovation requires observation, empathy, dealing with uncertainty and being open to ideas that are contrary to your current ones or new to you. Innovation requires us to be non-judgemental when learning from people and testing our assumptions.

Mindfulness works great in both cases. It is a fantastic way to manage yourself and creates a gentle and simple” approach to innovation.

This is a great opportunity and I am keen to explore in what contexts this would work best and where the most urgent job to be done” is. I can imagine using this in a caring context, with families and children, working with indigenous people and leaders of organisations who are keen to innovation and deal with wicked problems.

Adaptive challenges require adaptive leadership. I believe, Mindfulness will provide the adaptive capacity in ourselves to work at a higher plane than what we are currently doing and deal with the adaptive challenges.


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