ellen langer on mindlessness, mindfulness, and business

in ellen langer’s interview on on being, there was a pair of lines that krista pointed out that rocked me. well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but they really did hit me pretty hard. the lines:

“Mindlessness is the application of yesterday’s business solutions to today’s problems.”

“…mindfulness is attunement to today’s demands to avoid tomorrow’s difficulties.”

langer crafted the words while spending some time working/teaching/researching at harvard business school (or something; it wasn’t totally clear from the conversation).

anyways, the statements really landed for me why so much of business literature is super interesting and not helpful to most people (well, that and the white heteropatriarchal tendencies of most of the business world…).

but anyways, i think langer really does touch on an important distinction between the orientation’s of mindlessness vs mindfulness. i’m tempted to frame this as mindfulness (spiritual realm) vs mindlessness (business realm), but i’m sure that’s quite right. but it does really seem like the insights from the business world are mostly gathered from the realities of the past; namely a resource-abundant world with plenty of space, no constraints on operation, and no cumulative impacts from the past to account for. in all the business books i’ve read (probably 10 or so) so much of what happens is heralding of the business geniuses of the past (gates, buffet, rockefeller, ford, those types) while paying no mind to the fact that the world they existed in not only was false but isn’t the world we live in today.

but i digress, none of that was even really intended to by my focus. what i really wanted to lean into was the framing of mindfulness being attunement to today’s demands. it really does seem to me like so many people just not seeing the train wrecks that are coming/already here. business as usual thinking and behavior (even in myself) is rampant. i just really hope that this uptick in mindfulness in america (even corporate america) is supportive of a major shift in thinking and acting from folks who are invested in driving us most quickly to destruction and extinction. all of us (well, most of us) are along for the ride without choice, but the drivers i really hope get mindful enough to see what’s happening. or if they’re not yet thinking that way, maybe mindfulness can help enact that shift.


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377w / 13min / 11min