The title of this post is hopefully not too oblique and its clear I’m referring in part, to the challenge of our time – COVID-19. And when I say mindfully, my principle context is the practice of meditation, where paying attention is key. By paying attention you become more aware. You become more concentrated and achieve states of natural clarity. All the better to manage responses (or non responses) to circumstances effectively. By stakeholders I mean the individual and groups, like organisations and broader societies.
In the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in globally, it’s important to understand that it takes a collective response and no one party can manage on its own. Its also important to understand that effective response is everything and we can do things to respond in better ways.
Its not about what happens but how you respond to what happens.
I can only speak first hand about my response management experiences and those of the company and society I am a part. So that’s what I am going to do. I’ve already written about this before: Corona as a catalyst for teamwork customer success and AI.
That was about the impact the Corona Virus was having on the various aspects covered. In some cases it was about responses but this post is more purposeful in this regard.
And before I write anything more, an expression of gratitude 🙏 I know I am in a very privileged position. I do not mean to sound glib about my approach and suggestions. Some people will be thinking of more pressing matters and of course they should. This is a recount of an approach based on my own experience at this early stage and by no means intended as a panacea.
The individual response 😁
I meditate. Have done for roughly 10 years now with varying degrees of regularity and approaches. Always 20 minutes at a time. Despite what you may think about the science of mindfulness practice in terms of proven benefits, I know from experience how it has and currently does help me. Just the latest research here by the way, as an aside: Researchers analyzed a buddhist monk’s brain after 18 years of daily meditation — here’s what they found.
I know when I am stressed, meditation helps so I tend to do even more of it. And more than just for calming, it allows me to focus on responding in the right way, like what will reduce the stress best outside of meditating.
I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to meditation. I tend to meditate without the help of apps or other guidance and alone, not in a group. I feel that the problem of focusing and paying attention, even with outside distraction sometimes, is the path itself. For instance, I practiced for many years on my train journeys into London for work, when circumstances are more challenging. Master it at this time and you can get into the zone anywhere, anytime. This approach is a reflection of life which is difficult and full of suffering, yet we can and must overcome.
I have tried apps. At the moment Breathscape is in BETA and I have been using it. It works with biofeedback audio which uses your respiratory rhythm to drive realtime generative music. Pretty cool and I could get into this being an audiophile. I’ll do a proper review later. I also use Forest to track my meditation sessions and also focus my work. There are many more apps and tools out there if you want them. In circumstances when you might have more time available, give meditation a go.
With a calm and clear mind I can identify the many other things I need to focus on to cope.
Helping others for instance, is one of the surest ways to forgetting our own troubles. At the moment, I’m focusing on the wellbeing of my family, customers and a local school with their use of Microsoft Teams as they grapple with remote work and learning. With customers, in addition to standard work, I’m curating all the amazing resources Microsoft are making available on a members only SharePoint site that I’m updating as we go. See next section for more on the resources.
Physical exercise and good eating habits are another important way of staying mentally healthy and strong of course. I run and walk with my dogs in some beautiful outdoor settings (as long as I can) and make sure I pay even more attention to what I consume. Having converted to vegetarianism 2 years ago helps 🥑🥦🥕
Before we can address the outside, we must start on the inside. But we are not an island so once we are in good shape we look to the outside world.
The organisational response 🏢
I work at Microsoft. The response, driven by senior leadership, has been phenomenal. It makes me proud to be an employee. That is surely part of the point but it’s not an implicit objective at Microsoft. It’s the outcome of a purpose driven company as we are.
Our mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.Microsoft Mission
Never more than in the current time is a mission statement more relevant than this one.
Microsoft’s response is publicly stated and tracked, including an email by the CEO to all staff. Here it is: Responding to COVID-19 together.
It links to all the many ways in which we are trying to help customers by offering purpose built technology solutions, behavioural guidance for remote work if you are not used to it, etc.
I am of course leveraging all of this to help my customers as mentioned earlier. It’s so easy and empowering for me to be able to help others – this is also the point. And it goes way beyond what I’ve seen from many companies I am a customer of, which in some cases have responded annoyingly.
There are others who I am admiring from afar (not too far as I am a customer), like Automattic, developers of WordPress, amongst other. Good collection of curated posts they are sharing here: On Working Remotely: An Automattic Reader.
Society’s response 🌐
In the UK where I live, the famous British Bulldog spirit has yet to take off and fly.
Not for lack of want, with many volunteers rising to the occasion. Mostly it is that we are somewhat behind the curve. Just last night we imposed a nationwide lockdown. In part it was because of a selfish few refusing to heed requests to respect social distancing guidelines. But this is by no means endemic to the UK (excuse the choice of words).
We are roughly 2 weeks behind Italy where my parents live (in the North, where things are worst). So I have been following things there with great interest. There the lockdown that has been enforced has largely been respected in the interest of the few (those in greater danger), by the many.
Most of the responses I have read about have been empathetic and collectively people are responding in the right ways.
Most of all, the social interwebs has risen to the occasion with excellent responses using the best tools in its armour, humour and MEMES 🤣
One of my absolute faves is from a Brit, which you might except and is probably the best evidence yet that the Bulldog Spirit is alive and well.