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Social Innovation Park co-hosted the “Mindful Leadership: Inner Engineering for a Better World” event with Asia 21 Society on 13 October 2020. The panel comprised of James Kondo (Co-Chairman of Silicon Valley Japan Platform, Co-Chair of World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Japan, Senior Advisor at Geodesic Capital), Penny Low (Founder of Social Innovation Park), Natharoun Ngo (Director of the Research Center for Khmer Studies) and Tania Hyde (advisory board member for Refugee Talent).   This event was an effort to encourage not only leaders, but every person to incorporate Mindfulness into their lives as well as gain a deeper understanding about what it really means. The panellists, each well established leaders in their own domain, opened up about their personal experiences and exchanged their thoughts on Mindful Leadership.

What does Mindfulness mean?
Ms Penny Low kickstarted the conversation by defining Mindfulness as a state of being, not doing. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing without judgement. She shared a very interesting metaphor of how humans tend to judge people & situations through coloured lenses that are stained with our past experiences, rather than looking at something as they are. To be mindful is to be present in the moment, without judgement.

Leaders share their personal journeys towards self-discovery through mindfulness practice
Mr James Kondo humbly stated that “he was here as a student” as he shared how his self-discovery journey germinated from his conversations with his Holiness Dalai Lama who shared a very insightful metaphor, “Stop working harder and be smarter like the cat”. Cats are very smart and are more inclined towards people who treat it with compassion and kindness, unlike most humans who flock towards people based on their social status and position. He also stated that being a mindful leader is a challenge, and acknowledged that this was also a journey.

Mr Kondo realized that he should not let his ego get in the way of how he interacts with people, similar to a point that Mr Nathroun Ngo further elaborated on. Mr Ngo shared the three principles that form the tenets of mindfulness practice – Putting ego aside, doing common good and being non-judgemental. He admits that being mindful is tough, and putting ego aside was the hardest for himself, but the most rewarding as you learn to be more introspective and gain more clarity.

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How does being Mindful help in an industry such as Politics?
Ms Low shared her personal story of inner engineering that dates back to her political stint as the Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC. During that period, her mind was always full, which led to her becoming disconnected from herself. After the experience, she learnt to practice Mindfulness which helped her separate herself from her emotions, leading to a better response to the situation and overall, made her more empathetic towards others as well.

What is the role that environment plays towards the journey to mindfulness as leaders?
Mr Nathroun believes that the environment plays a positive role in shaping our journey. Ms Low further added that the environment within ourselves is of paramount importance and external environment may not be as important.

How does one support a culture of mindfulness and compassion within teams in an organization?
Ms Low shared Social Innovation Park’s journey wherein the team brainstormed to align the vision statement with changing times amid technological advancements and quantum leaps two years ago. The team, collectively decided to rebrand the vision statement to – to co-build a more inclusive, sustainable and mindful world, instead of “better world”. Mindfulness thus forms the fundamental component of Social Innovation Park’s ethos and is deeply embedded across different platforms and within teams.

To close off the event, Ms Low mentioned that in a world where there is so much confusion, depression & mindless leaders, it is crucial for everyone to be connected with ourselves, with others and be one with the environment to help with our inner engineering to create a better world.

All the leaders may have begun their Mindfulness journey for immensely different reasons, but one thing they can all agree on is that there are no shortcuts to becoming Mindful and it is a valuable journey that will lead to better decision-making and leadership skills.

You can catch the recorded version of the event on our youtube with time stamps provided below:

4:15 – Beginning
5:14 – Tom Nagorski introduces Asia 21 Society & impressive background of speakers
13:28 – Penny Low defines what is mindfulness, and how to think about it in context of leadership
18:07 – James Kondo shares his personal journey(Challenges, revelations etc.) towards Mindfulness
24:46 – Penny Low explains how she remains mindful during her term as Member of Parliament of Singapore and shares her personal experience doing so – the importance of spending time with oneself, being connected
33:10 – Natharoun Ngo shares the principles of mindfulness he applies in his life
38:36 – Tania Hyde shares poll results from participants
39:20 – Penny Low shares her thoughts on poll results and how it links back to mindfulness & distractions
46:17 – James Kondo answers the question “Is it possible to get into high positions and also be a mindful leader?”
51:21 – Natharoun Ngo shares his take on how the environment affects his journey towards mindfulness
52:18 – Penny Low shares if environment is an important factor to successfully practice Mindfulness, and how SIP rebranded themselves.
57:01 – James Kondo explains how being mindful can help to strengthen our resilience amidst the pandemic
59:56 – Penny Low’s Closing Speech