(An insightful Interview with Dr. Asoka Jinadasa)
1. How do you see Buddhism intersecting with corporate culture? What are the key principles that Buddhism can bring to the workplace?
Organizations struggle to survive under accelerating change, while Buddhism considers change the only unchanging feature of life. Buddhist methods help people transcend such impermanence by reaching higher levels of consciousness in personal and professional lives. Buddhist concepts can thus help develop a superior corporate culture, defined as a higher level of collective consciousness of the entire workforce. That can generate the wisdom and skills needed to sustain organizational success— especially under unpredictably fast-changing conditions.
Buddha’s proclamation that we are the result of all what we have thought can be used to change employees’ negative perceptions and create positive mindsets for exploiting even unfavorable changes. Such a higher-level, employee-driven corporate culture can produce learning organizations that can reinvent themselves under changing conditions by nurturing an everyday, organization-wide, business innovation ideology.
2. In your opinion, what are the potential benefits of integrating mindfulness practices in a corporate setting? How can mindfulness contribute to the well-being and performance of employees?
Mindfulness produces nonjudgmental awareness of all factors that govern employee wellbeing and organizational success. These include rational and intuitive awareness of: personal and organizational strengths and weaknesses; changing market trends and customer behaviors’; disruptive environmental, technological, and regulatory changes; and threats from competitors. Such mindfulness enhances employees’ self-confidence and decision-making ability for improving themselves and their organizations.
Mindfulness nurtures conscious living, instead of living on autopilot. That means managing time, effort, and resources constantly, pushing oneself beyond one’s comfort zone, strengthening weaker abilities, and using feedback to identify and improve weak areas. And it creates an entrepreneurial mindset among employees for sensing and responding to opportunities and risks, while maintaining their daily focus on operational targets.
3. One aspect of Buddhism is the cultivation of compassion. How can compassion be fostered in corporate environments, and what positive impact can it have on organizational culture?
Fostering compassion in corporate environments means encouraging and promoting a culture of empathy, kindness, and understanding among employees, customers, suppliers, and stakeholders. It involves creating an environment where people genuinely care about each other’s well-being and support one another personally and professionally.
Compassion helps create a supportive and inclusive corporate culture where employees feel safe and comfortable for expressing their thoughts, concerns, and challenges. This is vital when seeking innovative solutions to complex issues.
Fostering compassion has numerous positive effects on organizational culture, including improved employee well-being, stronger teamwork, increased loyalty, enhanced creativity, and improved stakeholder satisfaction. It creates an environment where people thrive, feel valued, and can make a meaningful contribution to organizational success—under favorable and unfavorable conditions.
4. Ethics play a significant role in Buddhism. How can ethical considerations be integrated into corporate decision-making processes, and what impact can it have on the overall business ecosystem?
Buddhist ethics promote ethical business behaviour such as fairness, honesty, empathy, and compassion for all things including human, material, and environmental resources. Incorporating ethical values in decision-making processes encourages businesses to ensure ethical conduct in all dealings with all stakeholders. With increasing public and media focus on responsible corporate behaviour, business ethics produce responsible corporate entities actively engaged in social empowerment and community development.
Ethical corporate leadership ensures responsible decision-making, honest business practises, ethical sourcing, fair trade practices, transparent communication, fair wages, a safe and respectful work environment, a healthy work-life balance, and equal opportunities for personal and professional development. This fosters increased productivity and a positive work culture through employee well-being and loyalty, and long-term relationships with customers, suppliers, and all stakeholders.
Integrating Buddhist ethical considerations into corporate decision-making processes can thus lead to a more compassionate, mindful, and sustainable business ecosystem.
5. Can you share any examples or success stories of companies that have effectively embraced Buddhist principles in their corporate culture? What were the outcomes and lessons learned?
When the Colombo Taj Samudra hotel finished a 6-month-long refurbishment to become a luxury resort, the entire workforce was tired and demotivated because the refurbishment had to be done while serving guests. Empowering and engaging such a demotivated workforce to deliver a superior guest service against competing hotels in Colombo was my daunting task.
I did that by creating a new, organization-wide corporate culture that covered service, processes, and methods. I called this “Love and Care” to intrinsically reflect Buddhist principles of loving kindness. This inspired every employee at every level to take personal responsibility to deliver a loving and caring brand experience to every guest at every contact point. As a direct result, the hotel’s service-based, Guest Service Tracking Score shot up by a record-breaking 40.4% in just 5 months—unprecedented in the entire group of Taj hotels!
6. With the increasing emphasis on digital technologies and remote work, how can Buddhist principles adapt to these changing dynamics? How can they help individuals find balance and purpose in the digital age?
For the few people totally committed to self-development, digital downloading of information can provide the guidance they actively seek. However, to interest and engage team members in corporate environments who are not fully committed, direct interaction in a group setting is far more productive. Ideally, a group of people who seek transformation should collectively experience the initiation. This should be followed by their collective efforts to integrate new attitudes and behaviours into their individual and collective lives, through regular interactions involving feedback from group members.
Interactive digital methods provide a compromise. since they lack the group energy essential for long-term personal transformation. For example, interactive webinars with Q&A sessions that involve all participants can produce short-term results that rarely last long.