Entrepreneurial thinking, flexibility, and readiness for change are essential to meet the digital transformation. Yet, how can we become leaders of the digital transformation? Mindfulness meditation has scientifically shown to produce new brain cells. Essentially, mindfulness can help to create openness and flexibility. What if we used the power of mindfulness to get to the core of the digital transformation? What if Germany and the U.S. would use mindful acts as means to grow jointly?
The digital transformation requires re-thinking within and across firms
The startup community of Berlin is prospering. In 2016 Berlin startups employed 17.000 people in the city. More than 50 % of those startups were digital businesses (Berliner Venture Capital Report, 2016). Established German firms like large corporations and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) want to learn from this entrepreneurial ecosystem. Especially established firms experience the pressure of the on-going digitalization. Smart Homes, Connected Cars, or Industry 4.0 are no longer a future vision. They are already part of our daily lives. The digital transformation is happening everywhere, and firms need to act upon it.
We need new forms of learning, knowledge transfer, and collaboration
Many of the established German firms are therefore trying to learn from German startups through incubation, joint venturing, and investments. However, startup incubation in Germany happens mainly for German startups – rarely do German startups meet US startups in those incubation spaces. A few exceptions include the German Silicon Valley Accelerator that made it their vision to send 12 German startups per year to the Silicon Valley.
Joint venturing is regularly hampered by different mindsets of startups and established firms. Differences in mindsets are even more notable when it comes to Germans versus Americans “doing business”. In addition, investments in startups are still considered “risk capital” by Germans, instead of “venture capital” as the Americans call it.
Although both Germany and the U.S. need to manage the digital transformation, we miss means for transferring knowledge and learning from each other. We miss openness within our countries and beyond national boundaries. Mindful entrepreneurship and innovation could pave a way across those boundaries.
Mindful entrepreneurship and innovation for digital transformation
Harvard professor Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Research shows that mindfulness reduces stress. Participants of mindfulness studies reported lower heart rates, which leads to lower risks of heart attacks (David & Hayes, 2011). Regular meditators also confirmed increased self-awareness (Slaghter et al., 2011). Finally, mindful actions increased the production of grey cells. Mindfulness eventually shows that learning doesn`t stop with age, rather it can make the human being smarter with age (Harris, 2017).
Mindful actions like meditation, non-violent communication, and/or yoga might increase openness in business contexts. Thus, it might leverage opportunities to learn from each other and to collaborate. Essentially, mindful entrepreneurship and innovation could become our gateway to meet the digital transformation.
More happiness, efficiency and collaboration through mindfulness
Google started their mindfulness program called “Search Inside Yourself” (SIY) in 2007 (Tan, 2012). It includes regular meditation, journaling, and joint reflections. All participating employees are allowed to meditate daily to calm their minds; journaling helps them to release
particular emotions and supports self-understanding; and jointly and regularly the participants reflect on how meditation affects their working routines. Through tailoring a program for critical minds like engineers and scientists, Google managed to increase the level of happiness, collaboration, and efficiency of many employees.
Mindful action increases emotional intelligence and brain cells
What about joint mindfulness meditations at the beginning of meetings between German and US startups, and established firms? Facilitators could also provide tools for communication to support attentive and active listening. Genuine empathy, understanding, and learning from each other would be established.
Establishing a mindfulness routine might even support collaboration of inter- and transdisciplinary teams of firms of all sizes (startups, SMEs, and corporations). As we have heard before, collaboration regularly suffers from misunderstanding through different mindsets. Mindful action makes people more open. It also makes people take their “ego” out of the equation. What if that could be the starting point to create new, shared mindsets? — Mindsets of openness for different ideas from different contributors, mindsets that allow for creativity from all angles, disciplines, and backgrounds. What could this possibly mean for R&D and development in the context of digital transformation? We could bring startup founders, engineers, designers, investment bankers, and CEOs together. What momentum could we create, if they all listened openly, without judging, on equal terms to each other?
From risk-aversion to present-minded risk taking and smart investment
Talking about risk versus venture capital: German established firms are often said to be risk- averse. US capital investments are notably faster, higher, and more risk-oriented. Although we would like to call Berlin a small sister of the Silicon Valley, there is still much to learn from the U.S. regarding the willingness (and power) to invest. Mindful action helps to establish an inner sense of certainty, security, and presence. This might positively contribute to decision- making of collaborative cohorts about investments in startups, joint projects of startups with established firms, or even firms beyond national boundaries.
Mindful actions within transdisciplinary teams opens doors for change
The digital transformation is part of our daily lives, and requires new ways of transfer of knowledge, learning from each other, and collaboration beyond boundaries. Openness has received a totally new meaning in this context. To facilitate openness, we need disruptive means like mindfulness. This may sound simple or philosophical. Yet, the truth is: Advisors to manage the change in firms are at loss. SMEs and corporations that contribute to 80 % of the German GDE do not even know if they still exist in 10 years from now. In order to keep jobs and incomes, we should consider anything. Especially, if those means help us to become calmer, smarter, and more collaborative.