Mindfulness Practice for Design Leaders and its Benefits – 1

Mindfulness Practice for Design Leaders and its Benefits – 1

This is the first post looking into Mindfulness practice benefits for Design Leaders.

Photo by Erik Brolin on Unsplash

“Social psychology research has described mindfulness as a cognitive state of alertness and proactive awareness (Langer, 1989)…[leaving] the individual open to novelty and sensitive to both context and perspective (Langer, 1992)” (Capel 2014). Organisations and individuals that are mindful are both motivated and able to explore a wider variety of perspectives (Capel 2014). Furthermore, mindfulness triggers exploratory curiosity, crucial for the innovation process (Lisboa et al., 2011).

If you have been reading some of the Futures posts on this site, you may see from the above paragraph that there are some interesting overlapping themes between Mindfulness and Futures Thinking. Both are thinking led approaches and neither are about achieving a specific outcome. Rather they offer an opportunity to adapt an individual’s way or an organisation’s way of thinking in the present. To make better decisions in a world of rapid change and complexity. To be open, adaptive and resilient in the face of the unexpected. And for me, both Mindfulness and Futures Thinking are entirely compatible and offer to enhance the experience of both.

There are 3 main themes where mindfulness practice can help design leaders; the first, dealing with the accelerating complexity of problems and the methods to solve them. The second are conflicting moral ethics designers and leaders can be exposed to; e.g. resolving the conflict between a business need, a manger’s expectation, and a client’s need, can lead to complex moral conflict. Third is developing a mental resilience to the stressors the previous 2 situations can bring.

Human centred design (HCD) revolves around people. It invites individuals to collaborate, likely from diverse backgrounds and expertise to work toward a common goal. Diversity can bring new insights and a wealth of knowledge but it can introduce friction. Within the complexity of today’s problem solving scenarios, leaders need to understand, recognise and manage conflicting interests that can be driven by cultural, inherent and learnt biases, self-interest, organisational politics, differences and past grievances among stakeholders, or simple miscommunication.

Leadership combined with mindfulness practice could be key to anticipating and understanding these types motivators and behaviours, as well as augment a mental resilience and patience toward them. By developing skills in mindful listening, being conscious to thinking patterns and emotional states, leaders will not only be alert to their own decision making patterns, but be alert to interpreting communication issues within the groups they are working with. In doing so, a mindful design leader will be positioned to facilitate more holistic, sustainable, and inclusive solutions.

Designers need to be able to understand themselves and examine how they exist within the system of change. By uncovering their own values, motivations and bias they will uncover why and how they frame issues and arrive at solutions (Blyth and Kimbell (2011)).

To echo Capel’s comparison of Mindfulness and Entrepreneurial opportunities (2014 p73), Mindfulness and Futures Thinking have common underpinnings in terms such as; openness to novelty and risk-taking, variation, discovery, versatility, observation, and innovation.

This is the first post looking at Mindfulness in the context of Design and Leadership. Moving forward we will talk with Mindful Mediation practitioners for their insights on Mindfulness in creative industries.


BLYTH, S. & KIMBELL, L. (2011). Design Thinking and the Big Society: From solving personal troubles to designing social problems. London: Actant and Taylor Haig.
CAPEL, C. 2014. Mindfulness, indigenous knowledge, indigenous innovations and entrepreneurship. Research in Marketing and Entrepreneurship, 16, 63-83.
Langer, E.J. (1989), Mindfulness, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA
Langer, E.J. (1992), “Matters of mind: mindfulness/mindlessness in perspective”, Consciousness and Cognition, Vol. 1 No. 3, pp. 289-305.
Lisboa, A., Skarmeas, D. and Lages, C. (2011), “Entrepreneurial orientation, exploitative and explorative capabilities, and performance outcomes in export markets: A resource-based approach”, Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 40 No. 8, pp. 1274-1284. 

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