What Benefits Can Mindfulness Have on Organizational Behavior?

breakwater---hdr-1361742-m[We are pleased to welcome Ronald Purser. who collaborated with Joseph Milillo on their article entitled  “Mindfulness Revisited: A Buddhist-Based Conceptualization” from Journal of Management Inquiry.]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

Besides being a professor of management, Ronald Purser has been a practicing Buddhist for over 30 years, and recently became an ordained Zen teacher. Joseph Milillo, who also is a Buddhist and meditator, and is now a graduate student at the Harvard Divinity School, sent Dr. Purser he had written for his senior honors thesis when he was at Drexel University. The paper was a review on mindfulness and its potential benefits for the field organizational behavior. Dr. Purser had long been interested in Buddhist teachings on mindfulness, and suggested that they co-author a paper that addresses how current conceptions of mindfulness in the organizational theory and behavior literature diverged JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointsignificantly from Buddhist canonical sources. We are not at all satisfied with the few authors that attempted to theorize Buddhist mindfulness for organizations, such as Karl Weick and Eric Dane, whose articles misrepresented key aspects of mindfulness as understood within the Buddhist tradition. We also were witnessing many corporations and consultants jumping on the mindfulness bandwagon, such as the program at Google, which were making inflated claims as to potential to transform and change organizations, but without any sort of empirical evidence. In addition, we are concerned that corporate mindfulness consultants were leveraging the “Buddhist brand,” but delivering training which was far removed from any ethical or moral framework.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

We hope that our article will help scholars and practitioners to become more acquainted with the rich and varied operational definitions of mindfulness as it has been understood within the Buddhist tradition. We also hope that our contribution will shift the discourse on mindfulness towards seeing it as a practice that is integrated within an ethical perspective that goes beyond mere self-improvement. An ethically-informed practice of mindfulness would enable employees and managers to discern that much of their personal stress is rooted in the practices and policies of the corporate culture, and not merely personal problem. We hope that our contribution will influence future theory development, reframing corporate mindfulness as a socially engaged practice that is more expansive and inclusive in scope, one that will be able to examine the causes and conditions of institutionalized greed, ill will, and delusion.

“Mindfulness Revisited: A Buddhist-Based Conceptualization” from Journal of Management Inquiry can be read for free by clicking here. Make sure to sign up for e-alerts by clicking here and get notified of all the latest from Journal of Management Inquiry!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARonald E. Purser, PhD, is a professor of management at San Francisco State University and former chair of the Organization Development and Change division of the Academy of Management. In 1981, he began studying Buddhist psychology and practicing meditation at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute in Berkeley. He began formal Zen training at the Cleveland ZenCenter in 1985 under Koshin Ogui Sensei, who had been ShunryuSuzuki’s personal assistant in the early 1960s. After returning to San Francisco in 1997, he continued to study and practice with Zen teachers and Tibetan lamas. In 2013, he received ordination as a Dharma instructor in the Korean Zen Buddhist Taego order. His research focuses on the application of Buddhist psychology and mindfulness practices to management and organizations, exploring the challenges and issues of introducing mindfulness into secular contexts, particularly with regard to its encounter with modernity, Western consumer capitalism, and individualism. His recent articles on these issues have appeared in such outlets as Journal of Management, Spirituality and Religion, Organizational Aesthetics, Tamara, and The Humanistic Psychologist. His Huffington Post blog (with David Loy), “Beyond McMindfulness,” went viral in July, 2013.

Joseph Milillo is a master’s student at Harvard Divinity School focusing on South Asian Buddhism. His specific research is on Theravāda Buddhism and the commentarial tradition of Buddhaghosa.

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