June 25, 2019

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Mindfulness-based Social Innovation: Letting Go To Let Creativity In

When we let go of our limiting disruptions and open to the possibilities of the moment, creativity happens.

Schultzandallen

By Ron Schultz and Mark Allen

Part of the Creating Good Work series

Lately, within the social enterprise/social entrepreneurial communities, there have been many references about the path of disruption. But disruption alone is not a means to an end. In our book, Creating Good Work – The World's Leading Social Entrepreneurs Show How to Build a Healthy Economy, Craig Dunn, Interim Dean of the School of Business and Economics at Western Washington University, introduced the idea of Deliberate Disruptive Design. The distinction is significant.

Deliberate Disruptive Design means we’re not only shaking the rafters, but rather that we are doing so at that point of greatest leverage. We have a new and effective design to immediately implement creative-entrepreneurshipwhen the old comes down.

Of equal importance to our shaking the supports of entrenched solutions to social challenges, is the continual application of this methodology to those of us deliberately undertaking this work. This requires us to consciously examine ourselves, our objectives, our goals and our methods, and then be willing to adapt them again and again.

Designing for Creative Entrepreneurship

How do we undertake that effort? In our new design for a center for creative entrepreneurship, we outline three essential components: Mindfulness, Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship. By applying mindfulness, we open ourselves to an innovative mind-space that is at the heart and soul of work in this arena.

It is within this unchartered space that we can truly operate most effectively. However, there is an impediment to entering this realm – our fixed ideas. The question those of us willing to disrupt our own design must ask is: How can we overcome our fixed ideas and learn to dance in utterly open unchartered space?

For the two of us writing this blog, co-founders of creative entrepreneurship, mindfulness practice has been incredibly beneficial. It colors and informs everything we do and creates the canvas on which we work.

Mindfulness

Within mindfulness practice, the mind becomes more accustomed to being fully in the moment; fully present, directly experiencing what actually is, more available to oneself and more open and available to others.

Emotional intelligence naturally arises from this approach as one develops greater awareness of oneself and others, without being judgmental. Technically speaking, the mind’s ability to regulate attention and emotion improves, and the benefits of this alone have now been “scientifically proven.”

Mixing Mind with Space

An extension of this practice is what we call “mixing mind with space.” Mindfulness brings the designing-creative-entrepreneurshipmind’s attention to the experience of breathing as a way to anchor the mind in the present moment. As attention wanders, you simply acknowledge that wandering, non-judgmentally, and bring your attention back to the breathing.

In that simple act, the mind's ability to be fully present and engaged improves. One of the outcomes is that with less mental clutter, clarity improves. And with clarity we are not only better able to listen, but even our other senses, like taste, improve.

Relaxing Into Open Space

Mixing mind with space takes this one step further. It has a greater quality of leaving conventional self-reference points behind (“this,” “me,” “mine”), and extending one’s attention out into the space of the room. Letting go of “this,” and extending completely out into “that.” (Placing greater emphasis on the space AROUND the breath than on the breathing itself.) Each time we breathe out, our attention goes out with the breath, and dissolves into the space of the room. And by doing no more than that, the mind's awareness mixes with the space of the room.

In letting go of our fixed reference points of this and extending out into the openness, from which anything and everything might arise, we create a blank canvas. It is on this bare canvas that what is both new and now – what we call innovation – can be painted.

Openness and Innovation

Mozart spoke to this freedom from our fixed reference points when he wrote:

“When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer – say traveling in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep – it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best, and most abundantly. Whence and how they come, I know not, nor can I force them.”

From our experience, the deliberate practice of complete openness to whatever arises is critical to innovation of any kind, but particularly within our social context where intransigent issues persist and new solutions are required.

Ending such enduring social problems like homelessness, poverty and hunger mightbusiness-person-meditating sound unimaginable, but then what we are truly facing is our failure of imagination. Tapping into our own uncharted space, free from fixed ideas, releases that imaginative vision, opening us to opportunities and possibilities that were once inconceivable.

When we do this again and again, becoming more and more relaxed into this vast space, what emerges is the confidence and courage to deliberately disrupt the prevailing design. But this is not just for the sake of disruption, but for the implementation of a new design, unfettered by past limitations and failures of imagination.

Sound inconceivable? The only guarantee here is that it stays the way it is until we are willing to let go of those fixed ideas and enter the new space.

About the Authors:

Ron Schultz is the founder and President of Entrepreneurs4Change, working with green and social innovators, veterans and marginalized communities providing entrepreneurial education, access to funding and capital and ongoing nurturing and support for the businesses once they are operating.

Mark Allen is co-founder of Waterman Aylsworth and the Centers for Creative Entrepreneurship. He is a social entrepreneur and an expert in center design and development. Over the last 25 years he has helped several dozen Fortune 500 companies design, develop and manage award-winning corporate universities, business schools and leadership academies in more than 25 countries around the globe.

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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