August 2015 | Nano Tools | Senior Leadership
Nano Tools for Leaders® are fast, effective leadership tools that you can learn and start using in less than 15 minutes — with the potential to significantly impact your success as a leader and the engagement and productivity of the people you lead.
Contributor: Sigal Barsade, PhD, Joseph Frank Bernstein Professor of Management, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
Sharpen your ability to make better decisions and lead more effectively by practicing mindfulness meditation.
It’s being touted by CEOs including News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch, Ford Motor Company’s Bill Ford, Aetna’s Mark Bertolini, and Salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff. Mindfulness meditation, an ancient practice that helps people focus on the present moment rather than get caught up in thoughts about the past or the future, has been shown to reduce stress, improve focus, help regulate emotions, increase cooperation and team-building, and lead to better decisions.
Research conducted at INSEAD and the Wharton School, and published in Psychological Science, found that even short-term mindfulness meditative practice of about 15 minutes can help you make better decisions. Specifically, the study found that meditation can help counteract sunk-cost bias, the tendency to continue to spend resources in an attempt to recover an original investment or to break even. Commonly known as “throwing good money after bad,” the effect is recognized as one of the most destructive cognitive biases affecting organizations today. It’s also one of the most common and costly, causing leaders to base decisions on past behavior and a desire not to waste resources already spent, instead of cutting their losses and choosing what would lead to the best outcome.
Short periods of meditation help raise resistance to this problematic decision process and open the way to more rational thinking. The practice encourages people to make more rational decisions by considering the information available in the present moment. Meditation reduces focus on the past and future, and this psychological shift leads to less negative emotion. The reduced negative emotion then facilitates their ability to let go of “sunk costs,” leading to a better perspective and smarter decision-making.
How to practice mindfulness meditation:
Fitting meditation into your day doesn’t necessarily require you to set time aside. Try one or more of the following to add short meditation sessions into your daily routines:
Nano Tools for Leaders® was conceived and developed by Deb Giffen, MCC, Director of Innovative Learning Solutions at Wharton Executive Education. It is jointly sponsored by Wharton Executive Education and Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management, Wharton Professor of Management Michael Useem, Director. Nano Tools Academic Director is Professor John Paul MacDuffie, Professor of Management at the Wharton School and Director of the Program on Vehicle and Mobility Innovation (PVMI) at Wharton’s Mack Institute for Innovation Management.
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