Core elements of a leadership mindset relate to the capacity to think, decide and act for the long-term creation of (economic and non-economic) value for all stakeholders. This is the foundation of sustainability in organizations and societies. But how can that capacity be developed? What forms of learning can stimulate the development of these leadership traits?
A recently published book “The Evolutionary Leap to Individual and Organizational Flourishing”, written by Prof. Zollo, among others, offers an innovative answer and explanation. WIL had the chance to interview, Prof. Zollo, who will also hold a webinar on the topic for our network on the 17th of May, during which he will clarify why deep meditative practice, applied to business decisions and work, is a powerful way to develop the capacity to lead the transition to sustainable, stakeholder-oriented, models of enterprise.
What led you to write a book on individual and organizational flourishing?
The scientific evidence that emerged in numerous findings ranging from medical science, neuroscience and management science shows that there is a strong link between meditation and both individual and organizational flourishing!
A flourishing organization is an organization whose members have reached a state of collective consciousness where decisions and actions are geared to nurture and realize the development of the fullest potential for all actors in the socioeconomic and natural system.
The main reason I wrote this book together with my colleagues is therefore to share this scientific evidence that meditative practices can have a huge impact on companies’ performance and on society and to provide very practical case studies.
There is scientific evidence that meditative practices
can have a huge impact on companies’
performance and on society.
What do you mean exactly by meditation?
There is a universal concept of meditation, which is essentially: to expand our own consciousness, and expand the notion of self, beyond our own body. When the notion of self-expands, we then enact a completely different thinking process: from being focused on ourselves, we shift to a collective interest and common good.
What are the implications of this practice on individuals and on organizations?
At an individual level, when one begins a meditative practice, the results can be seen not only in terms of well-being and diminution of stress but also in terms of decision-making and interactions with colleagues. Individuals who meditate tend to change the way they interpret reality and frame a problem and usually become long-term oriented and more intuitive in the way they manage their day to day tasks.
In addition, meditative practices have an influence on the quality of creative thinking, as it activates both the right and the left hemispheres of our brain, enabling us to merge our managerial capacities with a more creative and intuitive attitude.
At an organizational level, there are a series of implications that include not only the introduction of meditative practices as a management tool, but also structural changes that lead to a flourishing organization. The meditative practices open up the strategic decision-making processes, leading to better integrate all stakeholders’ views, such as supply chain, HR processes, control system processes, sales and so on. In addition, they develop the capacity to lead the transition to sustainable, stakeholder-oriented, models of enterprise.
Meditation can thus lead us to an evolutionary journey through two paths, which actually reinforce each other: the development of consciousness at the individual level, and a strong organizational change at the collective level.
Individuals who meditate tend to change the way
they interpret reality and frame a problem and usually
become long-term oriented and more intuitive in the way they manage
their day to day tasks.
Do individuals and organizations have sufficient willpower and capacities to assume a proactive role and trigger a systemic change?
Absolutely! Businesses are by far the strongest institutions we have in society, and it is very clear from multiple business researches that companies that have invested in sustainability and related change have significantly over performed similar companies, that operate in the same industry and same countries, that have not made these types of investment. Unfortunately, not all businesses have understood these positive implications of sustainable change in terms of competitive advantage.
Business researches show that companies that have invested in sustainability and related change have significantly over performed similar companies.
Professor Maurizio Zollo is the Dean’s Chaired Professor in Strategy and Sustainability at the Management and Technology department of Bocconi University and board member of the Center for Research in Innovation, Organization and Strategy (CRIOS). He is also visiting professor at the Sloan School of Management of the M.I.T. in the Management Science department.
A past president of the European Academy of Management (EURAM), he was also former editor of the European Management Review. In addition, professor Zollo served for a decade on the Executive Committee of the Academy of Business in Society, which he helped establish in 2003. For the Strategic Management Society he chaired the Innovation and Knowledge interest group and was a founder and chair of the Stakeholder Strategy interest group. A past member of Executive Committee of the strategy division of the Academy of Management, he also co-founded the Business & Society division of EURAM. In addition to his editor role for the European Management Review, he also served as associate editor or editorial board member of six other leading academic journals in strategy and organization studies.