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We often talk about digitalization being the biggest threat to our competitiveness, but I would say that corporate stress and our diminishing cognitive abilities are much more sever for competitiveness. To remove the stress and anxiety of change is more important. To think, analyze and decide is the core foundation of a digital culture of constant change. Don’t you think?

For a short moment, I found myself standing still on the sidewalk staring at the facade of an old house. It was an Art Nouveau palace from the late 19th century in the middle of Stockholm that caught my attention. Ferdinand Boberg designed the palace with all his glory and never have I truly seen the palace in its proper light and glow. I pulled out my earphones and listened to a combination of street noise and my own breathing. For a brief moment, the time stood still. Amazing! The fact is that I was on my way to (a bit stressed) a business meeting with rock music screaming in my ears – when I suddenly found a bit of beauty on my path. For a brief moment, I forgot about my stressful morning and my planned meeting and only focused on the painted windows of the palace. Nothing else districted my mind. When I arrived to the business meeting, five minutes later than planned but before it was scheduled to start, I felt a fresh and inspired – able to focus, being present and intuitive. I lived in the moment and gave my client the full attention he needed and expected. Great meeting!

Statistics how that digitalization has changed our work place significantly – in terms of pressure, “always on”, information overload, and distractions (PAID). We consume 10 times more information than 20 years ago, working in open landscapes full of distractions, always available and connected through smart phones, and expected to “produce” more with less time and resources. Re-organizations, new directives and endless reports are part of our daily life. Stress levels (internal and external) are increasing every hour. We often talk about digitalization being the biggest threat to our competitiveness, but I would say that corporate stress and our diminishing cognitive abilities are much worse. To think, analyse and decide is the core foundation of a digital culture of constant change.

We become experts in multi-tasking! But the problem is that our minds cannot multi-task – we process each bit of information (or distraction) that we encounter in series in the pre-frontal cortex. The cognitive engine is filled with meaningless information to process (around the clock) hindering the real ability to analyse and decide. The fact is that multitasking reduces productivity, decision-making and creating a stress that consuming us from the inside. Approximately 50% of our office time is spent on mind-chains where our distractions are keeping our mind occupied. We are not focused! The stress we feel at work is sign of time where we do not understand how the mind works. Does it really have to be like that?

A couple of months ago, I was engaged in a discussion with a large IT organization about the affects of digitalization and the need for change. The IT organization was built on a traditional management style where hard work (long hours) and importance (participation in meeting and projects) was considered high status. However, regardless of hard work and importance, not much value was created to the business side. The most interesting part of the story is that the organization was unable to change and transform. Why is that? And how come hard work is more important than the value one creates or the change one enables? Where does this behavior come from? Is it a constant fear of not being good enough?

To be honest, I have over a period a10 years lived and breathed the stressful environment of a large IT organization. I received 150 mails per day, attended 35 meetings per week, worked in an open office landscape and was “always on” answering mails around the clock. I was not particular happy or productive, and my mind was always somewhere else than it should be – always focusing on the next deadline, goal and bonus. Rewarded by recognition of my hard work and of being important. I was always in fear of not being good enough and not performing. But in the end, I started to questions the behavior and asked myself if it all was worth it. How did my team feel about the stress and way of working? I quite the job and spend two years studying digitalization, leadership, cognitive behavior and re-programming my mind to focus on what is important – and producing value! I am a different person new who understands the importance of cognitive skills and leadership – and its affect on digitalization. I am here to help others to change, produce more value and be happier.

Every change is related to a stress and some level of anxiety. Research show that stress releases the same hormones as when we meet a danger (a bear in the forest). Our fundamental instincts kick-in and we attempt to run, fight or freeze. Our cognitive capabilities are out of work. The fact is that our mind cannot distinguish between real or imaginary fear. When we talk about digitalization and a complete transformation of business models and role of IT, then the stress levels shoot through the roof. We are trapped in our own anxiety and change resistance. What we did with the telecom operator was to discuss how to remove the anxiety – and the stress levels. How to make employees feel comfortable in change? We discussed a lot of different aspects of change but one concrete idea was to remove KPIs during the time of change – removing the chance of failing. We discussed not allowing over time and taking your computer with you home. Great ideas – great work!

Recommendations:

  • Recognize that people and their wellbeing (cognitive capabilities) is the biggest asset of your IT organization in the digital era. It is not about tools and processes – but leadership and culture.
  • Take 10 minutes each day to isolate yourself from the daily stress and reflect of your situation. Listen to your breathing! It will make wonders!
  • Think twice before launching a new re-organization or productivity program. What affect will this have on people and their stress? What would happen if you stepped outside the conventional management style and allowed time for reflection?
  • Reduce information flow by 50%! Implement a email and meeting policy!
  • Contact Hans Gillior – expert on digitalization transformation!

A few days after I found myself staring at the Art Nouveau palace on my way to a client meeting, I pasted the exact same spot again – on my way to another meeting. I remembered the feeling of complete harmony studying the façade of the building and listening to my own breathing. I remembered the excellent meeting where I as completely present and inspirering. Once again, I found myself staring at the façade of the building, removing my earphones and allowing for energy and focus fill my mind. Another great meeting! It is my secret place where I re-focus and to be honest, today I often go to that place just to feel alive again. What is your secret place where you reload your mind? If you don’t have a place, take a moment to find that place of corporate mindfulness.