Between stimulus and response: How mindfulness can boost your strategy power


Occasionally in business, leaders are struck with a shortsighted approach; unable to uncouple their personal vision from the task at hand, their business strategy becomes narrow-minded. Because of the dynamic and rapid pace of contemporary business, leaders need to be adaptive and broad thinking, a perspective that isn’t always easy.

New thinking suggests that the practice of creating a mental distance between experiences and thoughts, could work together for better business outcomes.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space,”

Mental space

The notion of mindfulness can be said to have begun in 1946, when Viktor Frankl, a famous neurologist and psychiatrist, described this distance in his famous book ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ as something to be cultivated in the face of immediacy, as a space in between immediate response and the stimulus.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space,” said Frankl.

While seemingly abstract when considered within the world of business, this notion of space has very practical applications for strategic thinking across many aspects of the business world, especially leadership.

For example, arguably the most important thing a business leader can do is address the core goals, ideas and aspirations surrounding their company, and a mindful approach to finding out what these are would require an open and reflexive approach.

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space," Mindfulness can benefit business.

The phrase ‘mindfulness’ was first coined at the University of Massachusetts Medical School by Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn. As a treatment, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a form of meditation used to treat conditions that have not relented in the face of medical treatment.

Dr Kabat-Zinn in an interview with the Huffington Post described mindfulness as a theory that relates to the physical properties of the brain.

“MBSR started decades before we knew about neuroplasticity. Now, the biological evidence shows that the entire organism is plastic, the brain, the DNA, the chromosomes and the cellular structures,” said Kabat-Zinn.

The zoning in on key aspects of an organisation is, therefore, the role of mindful strategic thinking; to make sense of a dynamic and changeable environment.

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space," Leaders should look to unconventional means to help realise their strategic goals.

Strategy and the big picture

Steve Jobs was well known to combine meditation, mindfulness and strategy in order to break down routine and ingrained thinking across Apple’s systems and processes.

Jobs biographer, Walter Isaacson, quotes him as discussing his method for this process.

“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things – that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more.”

So how can everyday business managers utilize this trend in thinking in order to better execute strategy? A recent Harvard Business Review article written by executive coach and organisational strategist Frieda Edgette and meditation teacher Justin Talbot-Zorn suggested three key points for implementing a mindful approach to business strategy.

  • Try to visualize positive outcomes: It’s common knowledge that pessimism can kill creativity, and the same can be said for strategic thought. Leaders can look to imagining end-goal scenarios, and take the time to contemplate desired outcomes in a free-flowing way.
  • Take moments to be mindful: Incorporate mindfulness into retreats, or even everyday business meetings.
  • Look for other scenarios: This is about being mindful without meditation by creating what Frankl described as “space” when making decisions to challenge assumptions.

There will always be limits to the human ability to strategize effectively, therefore, the addition of businesses management software will help firms execute strategic thinking to the best of its ability. For information on how StrategyBlocks can help your company, get in touch today.