Meditate in my direction. That was the intriguing invitation Olivia Newton John’s Sandy made to John Travolta’s Danny in the movie Grease back in 1978. Despite the Aussie popstrel’s allure, meditation has never really been sexy – especially in the workplace. Yet Matthew May, founder of the LA ideas agency Edit Innovation, has suggested that one of the keys to innovation is: “A quiet mind, severed for a time from the problem at hand.”
Before you dismiss this as yet another example of faddish, New Age, nonsense, consider that the leaders of such lacklustre businesses as 3M, Bloomberg, Ford, General Electric, Monsanto, Oracle and Shell all meditate. Medtronic, the $15bn business that is now the world’s largest medical technology group, even sets aside a company conference room for staff to take mental breaks. Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs were keen meditators too.
Any printing company that encourages staff to meditate during office hours will, in the current economic climate and with the managerial conservatism that typifies the industry, face a certain amount of ridicule. Yet 2,000 Shell employees have learned to meditate under a program launched by an entrepreneur called Mandar Apte. One of his maxims is: “Silence is the mother of all creativity.”