Internet notebook about my work: deep listening to facilitate positive change


Thursday 17 May 2007

Business case for meditation

The information processing capacity of the human mind is limited, as is evidenced by the so-called “attentional-blink” deficit. When two targets (T1 and T2) embedded in a rapid stream of events are presented in close temporal proximity, the second target is often not seen. This deficit is believed to result from competition between the two targets for limited attentional brain resources. In a test of two groups (with and without meditation experience) the first group showed less allocation of brain resources to T1 and were better able to identify T2. The Dutch-American study further indicates that mental training can result in increased control over the distribution of limited brain resources.

I am coaching Asian professionals conducting focus groups for a large multinational company. They are eager to learn about how to set the tone, how to ask the right questions, and how to create a flow in the discussion. They tend to immediately be contented with the first new motive or idea they identify. I try to help them see that the biggest handicap in analysis is that the first thing you find, stains all other observations that follow and that it prevents you from seeing, at times, facts that are more important, but come up later on in the discussion. I, myself, am eager to subsequently let them analyse their findings properly.

One young man of the team is much better than the rest. I ask him if he meditates. He seems a bit embarrassed. The group is surprised. “But that is a personal question”, they object. I get an answer anyway, probably because of my seniority: Yes I do, but what has it to with focus groups?” "First of all it is not personal", I say. "It is professional. If you cannot control your own mind, you cannot be a good strategic communicator. Listening and observing are the most important part. Our own mind plays so many tricks there – meditation helps you to control it". And I tell them about the article on ”attentional-blink deficit”, I just had come across. "You teach mediatation?" they ask. "No", I laugh. "And mind you, I am a lousy practitioner myself! But the monks in your temple can teach you."

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