Promoting equanimity means creating systematic ways to help individuals and teams remain level headed even in the most chaotic and uncertain times. It is necessary but not sufficient to use mindfulness techniques to help individuals reach a more balanced and level headed outlook. Such a mindfulness strategy is toothless unless it is complemented with process-based methods to help the organisation’s members within and across teams interact in a balanced and open-minded way, come what may. Our own experience and a grown body of research suggests that when the going gets tough in an organisation after training some of its employees in mindfulness meditation, these individuals fail to keep up practicing and benefiting from mindfulness because the organisation collectively moves towards mindlessness, short-sightedness, and defensiveness in the face of volatility and complexity. Equanimity can really only permeate team interactions and the organisation’s culture if it is treated as an organisation-wide challenge – and opportunity.
Teams need to define, create and embed processes that proactively prevent any situations from becoming heated or defensive, and specifically promote an open dialogue across team members before organisational problems escalate. Structural mindfulness interventions help here, in other words those that build on personal mindfulness techniques in order to generate mental space, open-mindedness, and balance between individuals and teams. This in turn enables teams to become aware of different perspectives of the same situation and learn to routinely examine each of these calmly, honestly, and systematically.
In recent studies with the military here in the UK, it has been quite noticeable that the rank structure stifles mindfulness. Although not all organisations adhere to such rigid structures there is still often an underlying hierarchy where the highest paid, or loudest voice in the room, wins the day. Therefore organisations need to adapt their culture to promote the view that everyone’s opinion matters and that it pays to bring different perspectives into the room. If organisations were more mindful then the concept of whistle blowing may well disappear.