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Be Collectively Mindful: Reflections from the LILA Summit

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While the Summit featured many opportunities to reflect on the insights and practical application of what we have learned throughout the year on how to foster collective mindfulness, here is a brief recap as shared by David Perkins highlighting some key ideas.


  • To build collective mindfulness in an organization, we need to get in tune with two sides of the challenge – the how and the what.


  • The how concerns getting off autopilot. By leveraging flows of information within the collective, we need to maintain alertness to peripheral signals about dangers and opportunities. We have to do that reasonably efficiently, so we’re still attending mostly to the core activities of the organization.


  • The what concerns the matters we need to monitor. We don’t have to monitor the whole world. Many events in the bigger picture won’t matter to us at all.


  • There is a tricky side to the what. We all know about certain whats worth monitoring – early signs of emerging competition or a market opportunity or a growing clash between two units within the organization. We can easily miss such matters, but we know they are important.


  • However, some other important whats are easy to miss because we don’t know much about them. During our year-long exploration of collective mindfulness, we’ve learned about severalwhats like that. We’ve learned to expand the range of our radar!


  • For instance, the whats of organizational identity, collective emotions, and organizing paradigms are easy-to-miss aspects of organizational life. Remembering how fish don’t know anything about water, these are waters within which we swim…and they can be troubled waters!


  • In the plenary sessions, we learned about Rob Cross’s analysis of interaction networks within organizations. He foregrounded the overload problem that seriously impairs what members of an organization are contributing – particularly managers. Who knew!? We have to recognize the problem in order to detect and reduce it. The documented gains in effectiveness and well-being are substantial. From Ryan Quinn, we learned about neglected virtues of various kinds – not just efficiency, which is certainly on our radar – but matters like compassion, courage, integrity, and ambition. Neglect of these as part of the organizational culture can undermine the collective spirit. Fostering them can prove empowering both for the organization as a whole and its members.


  • All these hidden whats make the how of collective mindfulness especially challenging. There’s more to monitor than we might have imagined. But there’s not really more! The hidden whats were always there, we just weren’t so aware of them. All the more reason to use the various smart processes we’ve explored during this year to widen the fan of attention beyond business-as-usual in quest of collective mindfulness.

What have you been thinking about?

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