Mindfulness has been part of our lives for thousands of years, but has only recently reached the business world. Mindfulness is a great technique to enhance creativity, to reduce the reactivity of the reptilian brain (relentless mind), increase resilience, stimulate the neocortex, as well as improve emotional intelligence. All these, assist in getting ideas flow directly to your best creative thinking brain: the neocortex. Therefore, global companies such as Intel, 3M, SAP, McKinsey, Goldman Sachs and Google (“Innovation Time Off”) have already utilized Mindfulness training programs, and regularly encourage their employees to take time during work – to let their minds wander and to pursue and share personal passions.

Slowing down, taking a step back, and even napping and mind-wandering, interspersed with diligent focus, are all part of creative Mindfulness or Mindful Innovation. Creativity, that process that leads to innovation, is changing everything, including the way that people and organizations flourish. In a 2010 IBM study, CEOs ranked “creativity” as the most crucial leadership quality for the enterprise of the future. So, how do we become more creative? One way is to turn to the ancient principle of Mindfulness, helping us tap into our innate capacity to imagine, discover new ideas and innovate. So what is Mindfulness? Put simply, it’s a way of engaging with the present. However, you don’t have to sit in silent meditation or chant “om” to grow more Mindful. All you have to do is to pay attention. It’s that simple and that difficult. The art of paying attention, in a world of SMS, Emails, WhatsApp, Instagram, Netflix and Twitter, takes practice.

We can all be Mindful without getting into meditation. Mindfulness, like creativity, is a learned skill, not an inherent trait. By learning to be Mindful, we can enhance our awareness of ourselves, others, and the vast world of ideas. There have been numerous studies done specifically to measure the cognitive rigidity of people who meditate and their ability to solve problems in innovative ways. Research shows non-meditators had greater cognitive rigidity than regular meditators, and they also had a tendency to apply difficult or outdated solutions to easy problems based on their past experiences, this was not the case for people who meditated.

But, is leadership also unwittingly sabotaging the brain potential of employees by failing to cultivate talent? Hiring talented people is only the first step in cultivating an innovative and creative environment. Building a workplace where there is a constant exchange of ideas involves finding the right formula for your company and culture. You can’t force creativity, but the right setting will put your team in the right frame of mind to find imaginative solutions. To maximize performance and reach potential, keeping minds engaged, creative, and inspired is key. Nourishing higher order critical thinking skills on a daily basis is to trigger innovation.

Here are a few ideas to help cultivate creativity in your company:

  • Be Easygoing –  relaxed and flexible work environment increases your team’s productivity by letting ideas flow. Encourage an atmosphere where the boss is more likely to make you a coffee than expect you to make them one.
  • Hire for Passion – hire people that are passionate about their work. You want people who really care; people who are excited to go to work everyday because they believe in the service or product. Adding people that want to improve your business will be most beneficial for your company.
  • Don’t over Multitask – promote prioritizing and strategic execution. Nevertheless, multitasking fatigues the brain and makes it less efficient. Increase productivity by guiding team to establish priorities and by encouraging focus deeply without distractions on one task at a time.
  • Think before Acting – encourage slower, more thoughtful responses on important projects. The fastest answer is often not the best. Allow time to review and think through ideas. Such weighed thinking will turn superficial, uninspired replies into meaningful responses.
  • Ask for ideas – make sure everyone on your team knows that, yes, they are paid to think! Gain the skills and build the culture to make sure you are inspiring and challenging the next generation to innovate, not duplicate.

Take advantage of your team’s fresh eyes and minds!