Did anyone watch the 2014 Superbowl?
It proved to be a momentous occasion for the Seattle Seahawks who swept away the Denver Broncos in a one-sided contest. As with every great sporting feat it is natural to ask the question, what was their secret?
The answer is usually a combination of several factors, and the same is true of the Seahawks.
And at least part of the story of their success involves the philosophy of their head coach, Pete Carroll – a man who counts Zen master D.T. Suzuki among his influences. Carroll is known for his unorthodox training regimes, including meditation sessions for his NFL stars.
What is Zen?
Zen is the Japanese word for meditation, and meditation is the practice of stilling the mind through various techniques, which generally involving focusing on the breath, a mantra, a candle or something else.
When people first practice meditation, they are often aware, sometimes for the first time, of the unruly behaviour of the mind. The mind is sometimes equated to a monkey or an excited puppy that is forever active, with meditation used as a tool to gently train it to be still.
Contrary to what its detractors say, meditation is inherently practical. When we are in control of our mind, we are better able to appraise a situation clearly rather than through the fog of our constant self-chatter with its prejudices and petty irritations.
The Zen HR Department
It might be that your HR deparment is a smooth model of efficiency, where everyone is comfortable with managing their workload, no-one gets stressed out and everyone arrives in the morning full of the joys of life and ready for action. But I doubt it.
Most companies perform below their potential largely because their effectiveness is constantly being undermined by the combined effects of interpersonal conflict, stress, sickness and poor decision-making.
Although meditation is certainly not a substitute for good management, it does help rid people of the mental distractions that prevent them from focusing on the issue in hand.
So, if personal meditation is great for helping you improve your own tolerance of stress and clarity of thought, imagine if everyone in your department embraced Zen. Is it really such a far-fetched idea?
If you think that broaching the subject of Zen meditation in your workplace is tough, then spare a thought for Carroll when he started suggesting meditation sessions for his players.
But as Carroll and the Seahawks have proved – the power of doing things differently can lead to the very top of your industry.