How Mindfulness is Influencing CX and Shaping the New Age of Tech
While recently attending a conference in San Francisco, creating technology with a sense of mindfulness was at the center of many conversations. Tech professionals, neuroscientists, politicians and Buddhist Monks intermingled, eager to discuss how to enhance and improve the way technology is created and consumed in the world.
But, what is ‘mindfulness’? At the same event, Dr. John Kabat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts explained that “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”
Upon hearing Dr. Kabat-Zinn’s explanation, I immediately thought about the idea that good CX practitioners could conduct ethnographic research to gain empathy for the customer with this mindset front and center.
The practice of mindfulness and focusing “on purpose” offers a different way to connect to people, to connect to self, and to create thoughtful solutions that better the overall experience. For technology practitioners who are looking for ways to better their connection with people, this philosophy offers a new approach.
When done correctly, research is conducted with non-judging, non-leading questions to allow the users’ natural thought process to flow. As with mindful listening, the researcher strives to be fully present with the interviewee and only focused on that person to better uncover motivations and behaviors.
Much has been said about the overwhelming flow of technology influencing our lives. It’s a commonly held belief that understanding mindfulness can lead to new ways of interaction that builds compassion for both the consumers and creators of technology.
How Business Leaders Incorporate Mindfulness in Day-to-Day Operations
One of the most compelling presentations at the conference was given by LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner and their VP of Org Development, Fred Kofman. Both mindfulness practitioners, they consider it their job to expand the world’s vision of consciousness, with Kofman explaining “the best way to DO is to BE.”
And, according to Weiner, there are 4 main drivers that have contributed to LinkedIn to becoming a successful, conscious company:
- Conscious living - having a leadership team that embodies and lives mindfully every day.
- Sense of purpose - a vision that is present every day. For LinkedIn, this is “to create economic opportunity for the workforce”
- A compelling mission - beliefs and activities that employees can connect with.
- Manifest the narrative – getting everyone to share your story at every level of the company.
In keeping with his message, Jeff repeated the mission, vision and purpose of LinkedIn during his discussion. His authenticity, his joie de vivre or “being in the moment” led him to break into karaoke, singing “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” by the end his session.
Designing your way to Mindfulness
From a UX perspective, it’s imperative to look at how to design software with a sense or respect in mind. Tristan Harris, a Designer and Product Philosopher from Google, spoke to the need to design empathetic products. For instance, many of today’s leading digital chat solutions are based on an interruption method.
In general, Harris explains, once a message is posted, the user is interrupted and focus is pulled away from the immediate task at hand. Research reveals that it takes, on average, 23 minutes for people to get focused again. Not an effective experience for the user. Instead, Harris suggested designing an empathetic chat platform that allows received messages to be put in a queue, allowing the messenger to complete the delivery but not breaking the concentration of the receiver.
While it is a subtle difference in design approach, being consciously responsible for the impact of technology on the end-user is a different tactic, but can improve the overall experience.
Intention, Strategy, and Mindfulness
The American philosopher and author once wrote, “Our intention creates our reality.” This concept was reinforced by Dr. Richard Davidson, who spoke to the importance of living with intention and being aware of your thoughts and actions.
According to Davidson, 47% of people are not paying attention to what they’re doing at any given moment. They’re not consciously experiencing or mindfully crafting the moments that shape their reality. Mindfulness can increase the ability to focus and accomplish more while aiding in maintaining a sense of inner peace.
As it relates to tech strategy, it was easy to make the connection between good CX research and the end user and how tools can be created that intentionally follow the natural workflow of the user rather than distracting them.
Solutions that flow in harmony with how our minds work naturally increase what the user is doing, saying, and feeling at any moment and can allow companies to design more influential and intentional tools.
Longing and Belonging: Mindfully Balancing the Needs of Both Through Technology
The need to belong is written into our DNA. However, the struggle wielded by longing can affect our sense of belonging. The Irish poet-philosopher John O’Donahue captured this when explaining that “our hunger to belong is the longing to find a bridge across the distance from isolation to intimacy.” While technology has done much to build bridges, much can be done to address the sense of longing to foster a sense of belonging in the digital landscape
Julia Hartz, co-founder and President of Eventbrite spoke to the deep craving, the essential need, people have to belong and to interact with others and referenced Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Hartz attributes the year over year increase in attendance to many of the events posted on Eventbrite is because people have an easy way to choose where to belong, avoiding longing or the “fear of missing out.”
From a tech perspective, this highlights the need to consciously design ways to better connect with customers, whether digital or live. Eventbrite easily demonstrates the way a company can consciously look for and address customers deeply rooted needs and motivations.
This aligns with my intention and practice around the CX research and work I conduct. This need to balance longing and belonging speaks to the importance of companies connecting with their customers in meaningful ways that acknowledge the importance of their relationship. For instance, when customers interact with you digitally, do you recognize them and tailor an experience for them? How are you supporting them along their journey, the journey you ultimately want them to take?
The future of technology should be in designing and creating digital solutions that provide benefit for people on multiple levels. Being conscious of the impact of the greater good, companies need to act with a sense of intention and accountability.
Even though the event was some time ago, the theme and energy generated by the experience resonated deeply. Obviously inspiring, I left knowing that mindfully crafted technology can be transformative, revelatory really, if the intention is right.