Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, software millionaire, has discovered mindfulness. And has installed ‘mindfulness rooms’ in the Salesfore building in San Francisco. How did he do that? By asking a Zen master and 30 monks. Yeap, 30 monks, that’s it, who visited the building and, according to Forbes  saw that ‘everyone was talking all the time and working all the time’. Not good.
Benioff went to say, according to the same magazine, that ‘seeking out a range of experiences outside of one’s comfort zone can help a business leader develop a “beginner’s mind.” Actually, the journalists writes ‘what Benioff calls beginner’s mind’. And I am glad he calls it like this because this how Buddha called it. So we are aligned here with centuries of tradition.
The writer also says that ‘Benioff’s formula for thinking flexibly includes daily meditation and experiences from swim trips in Hawaii to a stay in a yoga ashram in India’.
And I think this is all sad, very sad.
It’s sad that we have to call the monks to discover that we need space to reflect. It’s sad that we have to prescribe mindfulness, as opposed to prescribe, say, free time, free sandwiches or take a nap, or nothing. It’s sad that one has to swim in Hawaii under strict prescription, and have to practice yoga in India, as opposed to our living room. And then, surprise, flexible thinking will come, most likely associated to a flexible spine.
Marc Benioff, entrepreneur, chairman of salesfore.com, owner of 3 billion dollars shares in the company, in the top 50 smartest techies in the world, philanthropist and co-author of ‘Compassionate Capitalism’’ installs mindfulness because mindfulness is good for you. He knows. Well, he was told by 30 monks who actually saw that people were talking too much.
Maybe I am a cynical soul who has not got a mindfulness spare room in the office, but I resent to be told that I need mindfulness to be creative, although I would not mind that free swim in Hawaii.
(How does he know, again, that mindfulness is desperately needed by the employees. Oh, I forgot, 30 monks).
The 40 billion market capitalization cloud computing company can have mindfulness rooms. Lots of them. And lots of mindful people, if they wanted. Will now mindfulness-opportunities figure in employee engagement questionnaires?
Whether you call the consultants, or the monks (maybe the monks are a cheaper option and don’t have powerpoints) leaders need to know what is going on in people’s mind. I don’t know how much time the monks did spend talking to people and actually asking them what they needed, by I suspect zero. The monks knew. Now Marc knows.
Smart solutions and old New Age interventions cannot be a substitute for actually asking people and knowing people. I am picking on salesfore mindfulness installation because it is an easy target. Sorry Marc. (It’s California, man, my colleague said, don’t you get it?). But the principle applies to all of us. Before providing a so called work-life balance solution, how much time do we spend investigating the problem?
Ah! Answers, answers. Much easier than questions!
Ok, about that Hawaii trip…