(This is one in a series of articles and interviews about conscious business leadership, which is about leaders creating and promoting workplaces of understanding, honesty, and compassion, for the betterment of their employees, their community, their organization and world.)
I had an opportunity to meet with Rich Fernandez, founder of Wisdom Labs (https://wisdomlabs.com/).
Here is Part 1 of 2 of our discussion.
Hi, I’m Marion Neubronner. I’m reporting for Asian Entrepreneur. And today, we have an interview with Rich Fernandez, founder of the Wisdom Labs.
Hi, Rich. Thanks for the interview.
Hi Marion. Great to be here.
Can you tell us what you do at Wisdom Labs?
Sure. We use science and data and technology to promote mindfulness, resilience, and well-being in mid to large-sized organizations.
Right, how did you have this idea to have something like this?
Well, after a long experience working at Google, eBay, JPMorgan Chase, big companies like these, one of the things I’ve noticed was that what took to succeed in the workplace, was often opposite what took to experience well-being and resilience, which is the ability to bounce back from adversity and to thrive. And so, I wanted to find a solution set that would allow employees and its organizations to really connect success with well-being.
Wow. This is so interesting because, you know, this concept of mindfulness and wisdom, it seems to be too “woo-woo” or soft. But you made it a business.
Oh, absolutely. I’ve said we used science and data and technology to enable mindfulness and resilience because these are evidence-based practices, really connected with two primary aspects of science. One is the neuroscience. The neuroscience of optimal performance and that suggests that the ways we can train our brains, the ways we can train our attention, our focus, our capacity to sustain high performance, are in fact skills, and that those skills are trainable. And there’s a specific set of practices that has sometimes been called mindfulness – we don’t always call it that – we sometimes call it training the brain, or attention training, it’s really pertains to a wide variety of mental training processes that has positive benefits in terms of performance, productivity, and also well-being and happiness, and resilience
The other strand of research that validates this is the epigenetics, which suggests that our immune systems and our ability to experience wellness, healthiness can be affected by practices such as mindfulness and healthy habit formation.
So, what we try to do is to take all of those tools, practices, programs, and offer it to companies in formats that are both live and experiential, as well as digital and scalable.
How does Mindfulness make good business sense? Does it bring a good return of investment if a company does training on mindfulness? What’s your experience?
My experience is it enables a culture of high performance and engagement, which leads to very positive business outcomes. You know, companies where employees have high employee engagement, where they’re connected to their colleagues, to the purpose of the company, they outperform other companies by a significant factor.
And so we know that mindfulness is a skill set of tools, content, techniques, programs that can really help people build the capacity to navigate complexity, to navigate stress, to navigate all the demands of the modern workplace so that they can better connect with others, with the purpose and the nature of the work, and that drives sustainable high performance.
In Singapore, we actually have very poor engagement scores. Many people are disengaged at work. If you were to advise a manager here, one thing they can do differently with their team, what would you say?
I would advise a mindful approach to connecting colleagues to each other and connecting the team to the mission. And this has to be done directly, I think, from the leader, who has, themselves, have to have a good understanding of what mindfulness is. They need to display what is called Mindful Leadership, the ability to understand, and to even take the perspective of people on their teams to build trust, to develop influence, to help foster creative or innovative thinking in their team, rather than just a compliance mentality, where leaders are expecting team members to comply and they care about nothing else.
The best teams that we see, that I see this from my experience in corporate life, so when I was in eBay, for example, we would run mindfulness workshops and employee engagements scores that we measured of participants in those workshops where there’s highest scores in the company. So it seem like that is a real strong connection between mindfulness, the practice of mindfulness, mindful leadership, mindful listening, and conversation between colleagues, developing mindfulness as a tool to navigate and manage stress and complexity.
Personally, all these aspects of mindfulness seemed, we thought, seemed very beneficial toward employee engagement. It only make sense, right? A team that feels at ease, that trusts each other, that feels safe to experiment with new ways of thinking and to innovate, is a team that also adapts well to change, and creates new services, products as well as the levers well against customers.
So, the key question is how? And as I’ve mentioned earlier, I believe that mindfulness is a set of tools and practices that are within science, neuroscience and epigenetics, that enable the types of mindsets, the types of cultures and teams that can innovate, and at the same time, experience engagement and wellness.
Right. That sounds very interesting. We can’t wait to hear more about the success stories in the next question.
For more information about Rich and Wisdom Labs, please see https://wisdomlabs.com/.