There are numerous books describing how zen can be applied to business so I won’t regurgitate the minutae. Zen helps leaders grow by letting us understand our true nature, in the present. Zen helps organizations grow by enabling them to understand their true values, the present state, and translating that into a long-term strategy. A strategy, with supporting activities, that is continually adjusted based on events in the present.
Our leadership lives are complex. We are bombarded by information, reports, emails, and decisions. Zen and especially a push toward simplicity can free up time and other resources. In his oft-circulated treatise titled “Things Leaders Do,” GE CEO Jeff Immelt pushes leaders to “Simplify constantly – every leader needs to explain the top three things the organization is working on. If you can’t, then you’re not leading well.”
In a 2010 study of over 1500 chief executive officers by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, the number one challenge was “the rapid escalation of complexity.” Over 80% predicted even more complexity in the future. So what would be the reward if we could simplify personal and professional leadership?
Similarly, modern organizations are complex and can be perceived as paradoxical. Decision inputs are complex, solutions must be out of the box. Zen teaches us to consider the unusual. Solutions created in this fashion are almost by definition competitive disruptors.
The human side of business is sometimes sacrificed to create future value. Zen brings us back to understanding the value of our people, the value of purpose, the importance of ethics. The seducing power of external reward may become overpowering without some level of reflection and introspection that grounds a leader in the present and what is really important.