Transcript – Peter Bostelmann: How Mindfulness Supports Global Technology

in dialogue with Walter Link on GlobalLeadership.TV


Peter Bostelmann

[00:00:11] If you look at culture, culture is the set of individual behaviors. So if you change each individual you change also the culture of individuals toward a higher awareness, towards higher creativity, towards a better handling of themselves and handling themselves and their peers, so like people they manage or people they report to in difficult situations, so increasing their social skills and I believe that this type of training, this type of an increased consciousness will serve the company to accessing more of the human potential of our employees. So it will be good fro the people and it will be good for the company.


Walter Link

[00:00:53] Welcome to Global Leadership TV, my name is Walter Link, I have always been fascinated by the question of how we move from our many challenges into our full potential as individuals, organizations, and whole societies. In this television series, I inquire with some of the most innovative leaders from around the world about how they manage to move from inspiration to real change. Please join in this exploration because we all make a difference and we all can get better at it. Therefore, on our website we not only show other dialogs and publications but also the kind of practices that these leaders and their organization used to move from inspiration to real change.


[00:01:52] I met Peter Bostelmann near his Silicon Valley office in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area. Peter is the Director of Mindfulness for SAP which from its German origins grew into the world’s leading corporate software companies, with 290,000 customers and 75,000 employees in over 130 countries. An industrial engineer by training who led multimillion-dollar software projects, Peter discovered the powerful impact that inner work can have not only on our personal development but on all aspects of professional performance. I deeply connected with Peter while I was teaching a training program for senior leaders of the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, where he studied Google’s pioneering mindfulness program. He and his trainers have so far delivered this curriculum to over 1300 SAP staff members. His waiting list has grown to 6000 and the program’s internal rate of return has been calculated at 200%. Please join me as Peter and I explore how mindfulness can benefit the tech industry and other organizations.


Mindfulness From Private Journey to a Professional Asset

[00:03:21] You are the Director of Mindfulness at SAP, one of the world’s leading technology companies, and we will talk about how you brought this kind of deep inner work into the company but before that, I am curious to hear like how you discovered it for yourself and how it impacted your life both personally and also as a leader of this multimillion dollar huge engineering projects that you were leading.


Peter Bostelmann

[00:03:54] How did I find mindfulness, it started with my personal life. I discovered it by coincidence, recommended by a friend and I got deeper and deeper into the practice. It started about eight years ago and for the first couple of years, it was a very prime thing to me, so I started establishing a practice, I started actually with a 10-day silent retreat, a Vipassana retreat, which I felt was something had opened an inner door, like a door of inner knowledge, I didn’t know it happened in my late 30s, so long time in my life before I was looking for answers in the outside and I learned, Oh! there are answers in the inside, that was tremendous.

[00:04:37] I felt like a huge gift and like a long path I could walk, like I walked the very first step in this after those 10 days. And as I said it was for the first years, was very private, I mean it’s like deep psychological processes and discoveries and I would have even talked in my corporate environment, so at this time I was a program manager in IT consulting and I led big projects and it’s an environment where I wouldn’t have felt comfortable to talk about this, so it was very private.

[00:05:11] You asked about my journey. I noticed in the beginning, it’s a subtle shift which comes little by little, and I noticed that I could ground myself better, that I could handle difficult emotions better, that there was something settling in. I noticed that my perception of human beings was shifting. I saw it more as the journey kicks in, so I saw more, I noticed more and I felt in a way often more alive and there were also some difficulties. So, looking at the journey, it’s not that everything becomes just you, it was like a roller coaster for the first years, but I felt that it helped so I stuck with the practice and I deepened.

[00:06:00] After about four years I was at the point after four long retreats and the daily practice, also a deep yoga practice I am having as well, I noticed that I came to the point that I wasn’t sure if I am completely at the right place anymore, at this IT consulting within my company. It’s a very, very heady place and I felt some – I am wondering if I can say this in public but I felt some connection with people, some human connection missing. And I was coming to the point that I was wondering if I may be want to deepen this practice even outside the company like a monasteric setting, and luckily I came across a teacher and he planted the seed like not everybody can become a monk, can become a religious or spiritual professional, we need people in the real world who do change there, and I with my long background, so I am with SAP now for 17 years, at this time it was about 13 years roughly and with a proven track record and business, people who found the love and the attraction to this kind of practice, said, they have a chance to make an impact, to change.


The Business Benefits of Mindfulness


Walter Link

[00:07:27] So in being a leader and a manager of these big international engineering projects, what did you find out this inner work practice, this mindfulness practice, actually help you to do these more effectively?


Peter Bostelmann

[00:07:47] This mindfulness practice has helped me to deal better with demanding situations. So, when you are leading in our environment local projects, at this time it was still the Blackberry is humming all day around, 24 hours which means it is a global project, I learned to reset myself, to ground myself, to focus better and to set better boundaries, what’s important and what’s not important.

[00:08:16] I think it also created more space, I could take better decisions. I noticed that I became better in prioritizing what’s really important here and what can wait and in a muscle of clarity or strengthen. I noticed that it helped me to, when I had a strong and very emotional day or emotional situations to settle myself, to calm myself or even within the work day when there were situations that I could do breathing exercise and I felt Oh! this is pretty helpful, I am grounding myself, I am acting from a more grounded and active place as opposed to a reactive place where I was acting out of my emotions. So, actually I also learned to see myself more clearly and in my emotions and to today’s language I would say to regulate them better.

Introducing Mindfulness in the Corporate Context

Walter Link

[00:09:14] And how did you go from this recognition that this was really changing your personal life and also making you a stronger leader within SAP, what was the step for you to move this kind of work into the organization ending up with being the Director for Mindfulness.


Peter Bostelmann

[00:09:37] The first step in this journey was that I became an integral coach, this is a type of coaching which also integrates some spiritual practices, and at this time again I would have never spoken about this in corporate world in my environment. I would have felt, no, no, this is insecure, I can’t talk about this. And becoming a coach and learning even more how strong these practices impact people in their development and their personal strengths and their capacity to handle themselves, I started coaching executives and experts in our environment and I learned there that even for people where I personally would have never thought they are open to this kind of practices that they found tremendous benefit.

[00:10:22] I also learned that language is very important, so there were some of my coaching clients, if I would have called it mindfulness, meditation, do you want to try meditation? I notice you are feeling really tense and stressed and there was one particular guy who was like, meditation? No way. So, I learned the word, or I can actually say the words meditation and mindfulness like three or four years ago caused allergy and real reactions in people. So I reframed and I said, let’s do attention training or how about training, trying to focus a little more, ground your nervous system, so with reframing with a different wording actually people were very open and then they liked it, so it was a demystification.

[00:11:04] So this was an important point that I learned the corporate world is made of humans, like anywhere else, and this humans are many of them for them, these practices are very helpful. So, I learned about my stories and there were also little bit in my way and I gained my confidence that this is helpful for the company, in our company, in the environment which I am very used to and also to speak about it. So I started a grassroots movement within SAP. So, at this time I was still within the consulting field services and my full time job there and I felt I want to find a way to bring this to SAP and it was interesting. So, I talked to many people from when I started from the top and then in many levels, different functions and I heard again and again a very similar answer, Oh! Peter mindfulness based training for emotional intelligence, it sounds really interesting, I would do this but you know, I am not sure if the company is ready and then I put my coaching hat on and was wondering maybe the company is way more ready than we all know.

[00:12:37] So I convinced the gentleman who has created the program in Google whose name is Chade Meng-Tan to come to SAP and to speak in a public lecture, so we have the Thought Leader series, he came over and couple of hundred showed up and even higher amount was on the wait list, so that was the first evidence it’s not just me and three other people who like this and a few friends from our corporate headquarters in Germany, it’s bigger, there is interest.

[00:13:05] So, and then I had the critical mass to start the first pilots in Palo Alto, here in the Bay Area and again it’s a lucky coincidence that I am in the Bay area. This is a place I think where it’s easier to pilot as opposed to Germany where people are little more skeptical, critical, can we really do this? So we did this pilot, and up until this moment, I even also personally didn’t know will this work. Will this Google program will work within a more conservative, older, average age range corporate culture and to my big delight, it worked perfectly well. And so we did two pilots, one for employees, one for managers, and the big surprise was the pilot for the managers worked even better, so the ratings, the feedback ratings were better. So this was the next step in the journey.

Evolving Corporate Culture

Walter Link

[00:13:51] And so how did this happen, the move from the culture of the Bay Area that is much more used to these kind of programs to SAP Headquarters in Germany?


Peter Bostelmann

[00:14:05] After we had this great results of the first pilots in the Bay area and for instance I got a call from a VP of Engineering in Germany actually who lives in the Bay Area and he said this course was demystifying for him, so he would have never tried meditation before but he felt, okay, this is really helpful, still I had some skepticism from Germany. So, I spoke to senior executives there and they told me, yeah, we believe you. This meditation classes of mindfulness is working in the Bay Area, but not in Germany, not in the East Coast, not in other places, and I was lucky that I found someone else who granted me more sponsorship that we could run another set of pilots and actually it was my nowadays boss or chief learning officer, and she said let’s just try it, and so we brought pilots to Germany and to our big surprise, they were even better received than the pilots we did on the Bay Area. So we taught to about 200 people and we had an average of 6.65 out of 7 in their overall rate and either side tremendously positive feedback.

[00:15:12] So there was evidence this was working also in Germany and another sign was that actually when we posted the course internally so that people can sign up for half an afternoon, the 200 seats were taken and within 10 more days we had like 500 people on the wait list, although we did no big advertisements and we were careful.


5 Skills of Emotional Intelligence

Walter Link

[00:15:34] And what are people reporting, what are they giving these high ratings to? What is the benefit that they draw from this?


Peter Bostelmann

[00:15:45] So, yes, it’s basically the class we are teaching which I would say is a door opener, it’s mindfulness based emotional intelligence, so it teaches the five skills of emotional intelligence which is self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills/leadership skills. So, what happens in this class is that people in the class, I think we are inviting them to have real conversation to get in deeper contact with themselves and then let’s them talk to each other.

[00:16:20] So, it’s actually in the class, it’s about one-third lecture, it’s about one-third internal experience and about one-third sharing with others, so integrating and deepening this knowledge and it’s a huge part, and then by design we mix and mix and we ask them again and again to shift to other people and by this say, they talk about inner experiences to people they don’t know, colleagues they don’t know and they are surprised how easy this gets in the safe container we are creating. So, we build a setup where there is real human interaction happening.


Developing Our Individual and Collective Potential

Walter Link

[00:16:58] You of course are a technology company, for you change is constant, innovation is a constant need and you work also with companies around the world that have many different cultures, many different ways of doing things. What would you say is the benefit for your capacity to serve your clients in these multiple ways?


Peter Bostelmann

[00:17:23] I mean if you look at culture, culture is a set of individual behaviors, so if you change each individual, we change also the culture of individuals towards higher awareness, towards higher creativity, towards better handling of themselves, and handling themselves and their peers, so like people they manage, people they report to in difficult situations, so increasing social skills and I believe that this type of training, this type of an increased consciousness will serve the company to accessing more of the human potential of our employees. So, it will be good for the people and it will be good for the company.


The Dynamic Movement Towards Corporate Mindfulness

Walter Link

[00:18:27] So as you and I discussed many times it’s very rapidly developing global movement that’s now underway and that’s significantly changing the way we go about the development of individuals, of culture inside organizations, what do you see about this wider movement and what do you feel is the potential that could grow out of that?


Peter Bostelmann

[00:18:56] That’s a great question. So, I see in my personal perception, I mean of course maybe because I am becoming more visible in this work, I am doing with SAP that the demand is increasing but when I talk to our senior leaders or to the senior leaders I just mentioned in this industrial company, I hear often that people say a few years ago, it would have been unimaginable to talk about mindfulness in this corporate setting, so there is an openness happening and I think what happens is that people notice that this world is becoming more and more fast turning, the demands are becoming higher.

[00:19:31] We have to do more and more with less and less people in this globalization in many companies, so people are looking more for something that helps then to handle themselves, to handle the stress but also to handle their sanity, to handle the way, yeah, the psychological health I would say. And of course for senior leaders it can be a very lonesome position, it’s a stressful position and I think what happens is for many of them they learn Oh! and this is what I am very passionate to work on, to educate them this is nothing spiritual, this is no-hippy bullshit in a way but this is a mental training practice which helps them to be more efficient and be more powerful in what they are doing.

[00:20:26] And I think these seem to be conversations which are increasing in people specifically senior leaders are becoming more curious about this.


Mindful When You Need it Most: How Mindfulness Supports Us in Crisis

20:32 And actually, you suggested that this is increasing, so I would be curious what your experience is, you are doing this work lot longer than I, how do you perceive the increasing level of demand or how do you perceive the conversations, is it something changing in the last 5 to 10 years?



Walter Link

[00:20:53] Yeah, I have been doing this work for about 30 years in organizations of all kinds, not only businesses but also civil society, government, academia, and I think there definitely is an increasing openness, not only to think about it but to actually apply it because once you apply it then you go beyond the discussions that are more conceptual and you actually experience the benefits and I think that’s really the key for me of how to bring this movement further, is to demonstrate through direct experience this is really helpful to myself, to my relationships, whether they are private, whether they are inside a team, it changes the corporate culture and it has also a great potential to serve the world and I think that’s increasingly being recognized.

[00:21:56] At the same time I think we also are challenged by the limitations of the modern time because this work was done under various different circumstances and in communities of practice by people who had much more time to practice and who could rather than developing more ideas about it actually transform themselves and their actions and I think many people now talk about it a lot, know about it some and have a harder time actually putting in the practice that it takes to actually change your action and I think that can lead to people thinking, well, this is just a new fad, just a new idea

[00:22:56] So, I think the challenge is now we have curiosity, how do we demonstrate this is actually working not only when the sun is shining and I have good intentions, but actually when I am in a crisis, when I am challenged, when I have to do something difficult and this is really helping me helping us to do things better.


Peter Bostelmann

[00:23:20] Yeah, I can so much relate to this. I think in my personal experience as well bringing people into personal experience, getting out of the contextualizing Oh! this is good, this is what mindfulness is but really to bring them to an embodied experience, what’s happening is the very first important point to do a shift in the people and then of course as a ripple effect in the culture. And the big question is how to help them to build in these practices you just said, that they continue doing and that it’s a cultivation, that it’s not just okay, we are doing another two or how many days-course but how to help them to really establish a practice – a personal practice that helps them to shift their perception, to shift their body and mind.


The Challenge of Cultivating Mindfulness in a Fast-Paced Environment

[00:24:15] And what happens to me now, quite often so since I am the Director of Mindfulness and by now about 1200 people have gone through our courses, so we are like, now it’s picking up, I am becoming like the walking bad memory of meditation, so I have people meet me quite often say, Oh! Peter, as I am seeing you I should meditate. So, this brings me to the question, Oh! did they come out of the class and they see, yes, this is helpful, I believe this and then still we are in this fast paced modern times, where to carve out practice and how to motivate them to do this, to really bring it into their lives. That’s one of the big questions I am actually with my team, what we are working on and what we are wondering, how we can help people with different learning styles and different life situations, that they established different ways of their practice.


Walter Link

[00:25:11] What I do with the organizations that I work with and the leaders that I coach also individually, I think it’s very important to bring it into every life situation. So, of course there can be a learning phase, whether it’s an individual course or series of courses, workshops, where you practice in a more intense way but then the question is the next strategy meeting you walk into, the next customer meeting you walk into how is this actually playing out and how is this serving you there? And I think that’s also where for me it’s important to find a way of adapting these practices to the person I am working with, to the organization I am working with and to the overall culture in which they sit.

[00:26:10] For example, I work with a Buddhist social movement that involves millions of people in Sri Lanka. We have various organizations including microfinance bank and educational institutions. That’s a very different context than to working with a global tech company, that is in a business context, that needs a different language, a different training, a different way of doing. I work with environmental campaign organization, that again is a very different context from the corporate environment, but of course they all have the common denominator of human beings and they all have the common denominator of needing to act in ways that are addressing their deep passions for bringing about change in the world. And so there is a lot in common and I think if we go to the essence of these practices and the essence of the wisdom that underlies them, then we can be more flexible in the form in which we offer them. Form is important but I think essence is essential.

Peter Bostelmann

[00:27:24] That’s an important point. Yeah, and I would take this back to how we are doing it, as this question, so how to help them to integrate it. I understand it’s in a way similar, so we are offering them different ways of having a dedicated practice with themselves and integrated practices and everybody can pick and choose how you want to bring it into your lives. So, I think this is another misconception of mindfulness that it’s all about sitting in the morning for whatever amount of time, but it’s really about bringing it not your life, bringing it into the way how you actually have conversations, how you think about things, how you perceive every situation, as you said, walking with a strategy meeting, noticing something happens in your body, you are feeling stressed or you are feeling agitated by something.

[00:28:12] So what do you do with it? How do you respond to it? This is applied mindfulness. So people find their way and I often touched when I get reports from our course attendees, how they apply it to the team meetings and you spoke earlier about creativity, Oh! I found ways to bring a settling exercise in the beginning and setting intentions how this changed our way of working out creative solutions in our team is one little example.


Learning from Action and Inner Work

Walter Link

[00:29:06] And I think that’s actually a fascinating development because I think at the moment in this growing movement that we are talking about, we are still looking predominantly of what can these ancient and contemporary inner work practices contribute to the world of action. But I think there is a very important additional inquiry which is really what does the world of action has to teach inner work teachings about how to make this really relevant in the world and that’s something I am very passionate about because I think really collectively we are developing a quite fresh view on how human development can be supported in a way that is really individually and collectively useful and that there is a path of action, that most people in the world actually at all times, but especially now are not oriented towards being in a monastery or being in a contemplative process.

[00:30:22] They are oriented towards a life of action whether it’s at work or even at home raising families or having relationships, doing sports, living a life and living a life is what develops us. So how can we bring mindfulness into the processes of living a life where the development is enhanced?

Peter Bostelmann

[00:30:47] Yeah, that’s a wonderful question and it ties to I think I spoke earlier about misconception, so I feel like mindfulness makes us all calm and peaceful and we are sitting, I really like what you say, that’s a life of action that we become actually more striving and more alive, with these practices, and we access more of our human potential we are having, so that this helps you to see more clearly who you are, it helps you to be more in contact with what you embody and what you can do, it helps you to be more in contact but also what limits you, so your dreams and fears becoming more clear and by this you can navigate more clearly where you really want to go to and how you want to develop this.

[00:31:32] And I think in a world of action, I like this metaphor of a Trojan horse and we bring this to corporate world, so how do we label this that it’s becoming attractive for people who are very much action oriented and then through the backdoor there come side effects like more calm, more happiness, more clarity and also more humanity. So, I think the corporate world in the beginning it’s more performance, simply engagement, leadership capacities and at the end it serves the greater good. It serves more peace in the world. It serves a different way how we interact and how we handle our resources.


Mindfulness Can Impassion Societal Change



Walter Link

[00:32:16] Yeah, and I think that’s a really important perspective to hold because I think understandably there are people who look at the mindfulness movement as a kind of spa movement, something that almost doubts our sensitivity to the real challenges we see in the world whether they are environmental or civil rights or human rights or other things that really cry out for our attention and cry out for our action and I think the concern of some of these activist movements for example is well, this mindfulness is just going to make you calm, it’s going to make you more equanimous and then you won’t care about getting engaged.

[00:03:04] So in the same way as we need to demonstrate to the world of corporate affairs that there is a real benefit, I think there is also something to see of how we can bring this into education, into societal change, into government like what I am doing in Brazil, for example, helping to really reinvent the way you create a political party and how you run kind of a political process in a way that is much more human, that is more awake, that is more alive, that is more engaged where you can really use the potential of this inner work to deepen our compassion, deepen our passion for change, for action, for engagement and the calmness in a way just brings us more ability to act skillfully and wisely, but it almost enhances our motivation and wish to do something that’s useful.


Peter Bostelmann

[00:34:09] And it’s interesting where it sets as this activist is concerned that his power goes away, I got the exactly same question from one senior leader and he said this sounds all great but I am afraid I will lose my drive if I do this practice, I want to stay in my drive, and I helped him to understand actually that it becomes even more powerful that his drive comes from a deeper place and when he accesses this as opposed to an unconscious drive.


Values, Motivation & Drive


Walter Link

[00:34:38] So you are making a very interesting point here about how deepening of awareness can actually take let’s say a weaker unconscious drive into an even more powerful connection with yourself increasing this drive for action.

Peter Bostelmann

[00:34:58] Yes, the way how it works is with mindfulness practices, you increase your self-awareness, the knowledge about yourself, about your resources, the intuitions, also what you maybe don’t want to look at, so you see yourself more clearly. With this you increase your capacity to look at your personal values, what really matters to you and tapping into your values and aligning yourself with your values accesses your personal powerhouse because if you do in your work what’s aligned to your values, what you stand for, what’s important to you, you really feel this in your body, this is where people report the strongest drive. You do something what’s then purposeful and meaningful to you.


Strengthening Our Inner Compass


Walter Link

[00:36:05] So besides the point that in a way that the drive gets stronger, you are also making, I think another important point that also the compass gets clearer, so you are not only increasing so to say intensity and energy to drive but you also get clear what you want to drive towards.


Peter Bostelmann

[00:36:26] Absolutely yes. You with these practices, a way to describe it I like is you becoming more, lot of noise is clearing down, so one beautiful way of looking at it is like this snow globe. So like an Eiffel Tower in snow and our mind is constantly bombarded from the outside with stimuli and also with stimuli from the inside, thoughts, shoulds, woulds, and on, and what we do with this practice we put this snow globe on a stable ground and this clutter, this snow if you will is going down and you become more clear in your mind which is higher clarity, you see more clearly what’s important for you.

[00:37:11] You are able to hear the little voices with more clarity, your ability to listen to your intuition, to your inner voice, to your emotional intelligence is becoming more clear. Yes, I would say your inner compass is better adjusted and more accessible. One great example for instance is Steve Jobs. So, as you might know he traveled at age 19 to India and he had this whole life of deep meditation practice, of mindfulness practice and he refers in his biography that this was if not the strongest success driver for him to in terms of having a very clear vision what he wants to do, in terms of his capacity to be empathetic in a way that he could understand people, way before they knew what they wanted, he could envision for them what they would need and they came up with this beautiful product.

[00:38:08] And in another way speaking of creativity and clarity, he also says that this practice helped him to be rigidly clear in his design, what he wanted and what he didn’t wanted and we see this in the products he built and other companies he built too.

Awareness, Understanding & Action: How Transformation Really Works

Walter Link

[00:38:23] So you are bringing also I think an interesting additional aspect to the term empathy which often we think about more in the context of one on one or smaller group relationships but empathy is also opening up our capacity to listen to the world at large, to a much bigger field, to a market, to a potential in society.


Peter Bostelmann

[00:38:51] Building on that, I was curious how you spoke about this energy for senior leaders that this is not just something we become like soft and calm and it takes our edges away, so how would you say mindfulness practices help actually a senior leader to stay better in a difficult situation, to increase his strength, to increase his capacity to hold difficult conversations. I think there is a huge misconception going on for many people like bias that mindfulness is as you said in the wellness corner. I am particularly curious how to talk to senior leaders and people in a leadership capacity wherever how this capacity has helped them to become more efficient and stronger in what they are doing and also have more fun at the same time.

Walter Link

[00:39:46] I think one way of looking at all kind of inner work practices, not only mindfulness but the wide array that existed for thousands of years in diverse cultures is they were a scientific approach, a very intentional clear repetitive approach that millions of people went through to develop their potential.

[00:40:14] So how do leaders or anybody get more effective, it’s to really be in deep contact with their potential, and create an understanding about what limits their potential to manifest and then skilful means of how to work with these limitations to set free their potential. So what we are really offering here are skillful means, ways to really engage intentionally a process of development that happens for successful leaders in some way in their lives but that can be greatly enhanced by supporting them to do it intentionally, and I think for every person this is a very individual process but it can be supported also by ways that work for many people and they all have to do from three core things.

[00:41:25] The one is increasing awareness and awareness actually is something that as you know, really requires training. If you and I walk into the rain forest of Brazil, we will see a fraction of what a native Brazilian person who for generations has lived in that forest and hunted and gathered there will recognize, so that’s a perception to the outside, in the same way that applies to the inside. We have a tremendous inner reservoir of potential that often we don’t become aware of and if we increase the awareness we can discover this internal and external world that is incredibly rich.

[00:42:21] And this is kind of the step into perception, then there is the step in a way to digest all this deeper awareness and to bring about a deep understanding, a synthesis of all this data and that is an additional step. It’s really not enough to be just mindful. You need to also integrate what you are perceiving in a way that really transforms you, that impacts you, that opens up new insight. That opens up motivation. And that of course does not only include our mind but includes all of us, and of course mindfulness is a translation. It doesn’t mean really to become aware of what’s in your mind, but become aware of what’s in the whole of you and the whole of us.

[00:43:23] So increasing awareness, increasing understanding and then through that enabling action, that’s the third factor for me, that engagement with the world where you get constant feedback which is very humbling because you can have deep awareness and deep realization of essential qualities and expansive states of awareness but how are they when you are in the middle of a conflictual situation, at work or in society, how do you then apply them? So, I think this action element then provides really the next grist for the mill of awareness and understanding which then feeds the next action, which becomes really a dialectic interactive process that slowly refines our capacity to lead and do anything in life.


Basic Principles for Starting a Mindfulness Program

Walter Link

[00:44:46] So you now have some years of experience of bringing this work into your company. What kind of principles do you deduct that could be helpful for other companies who are considering how could I bring this into my organization?


Peter Bostelmann

[00:45:09] I mean it starts with a person who wants to direct this initiative. So when you talk about principles I would say it starts with someone who has an own knowledge about this and so it starts with a champion within a company, who has an own practice who can explain what this is about. First principle, have a strong leader. Second principle, find a language which ties to this company. So, it’s not about what you think is a right language, and how you learned it as a champion in this company but tie it to the corporate culture, tie it to questions, concerns this company has, so that you can help them explaining how these practices will help you solve issues you are having and in this realm it’s also important to listen carefully what your senior leaders tell you.

[00:46:08] Then it’s important to find either an executive sponsor, this is one way to get into the company and/or to create a grassroots movement to show that there is a huge interest and I would start in the beginning with pilots. Start small, learn and get results and by this convince people and learn how to make this bigger. So once you have started you have made pilots, successful pilots, it’s important to find people who support this, multipliers. So the question is how to roll this out within the company. What we did, right at the beginning, I was thinking of okay, whenever I want to scale this, our company has about 75,000 employees, how can I bring this to, how can I teach this? Of course I can’t do this all on my own, it would be a long journey.

[00:47:07] So I was thinking about tandem model, so to educate internal people and bring in external people. So let them do this together, so by this we are further educating the internal people and we are bringing the knowledge into the company. It’s not that only some external consultants come and bring some knowledge and then they disappear, it’s really bringing it into our culture. And in our particular case, SAP is a very global company, so we have around 20 offices, or better if I say subsidiaries around the world with more than 1000 people. So our plan to have educated teachers at each of these subsidiaries and to have also volunteers who support activities on the ground. So we do trainings, but then as a next step we have supporting activities like meditation groups, like other followup activities, mindful lunch, exchange circles.

[00:48:01] So that after the classes, people learn, according to their learning style that they find like minded people and there is a shift in the culture happening. So that it shifts from – we are doing something really exceptional, mindfulness, so it was a question or an amazement I heard a lot in the beginning. Mindfulness really? And now it starts to become something more common, Oh! we are doing this. And by this you check not only the people who are willing to swim against the stream, to do something, to have the courage to embarrass themselves, to do something which is really exceptional, and for some of the employees it has to be more mainstream thing that they feel attracted to it. So, by this we are bringing it into the locations and we are making it a thing as part of our culture. So, mindfulness becomes an integral part of SAP’s HR strategy. We want to bring this deeply into our practices.

Taking Risks & Overcoming Obstacles

Walter Link

[00:49:02] So you were actually able to within a few years go very far within your company, so there was let’s say a quick response, but I imagine within that responsiveness there were also some resistances, some obstacles, some challenges to overcome. So what can one expect maybe if one wanted to bring that into one’s own company that one has to face in this process?


Peter Bostelmann

[00:49:33] yes of course there were obstacles, clearly, so it was not that the red carpets were rolled in my direction, Oh! Peter wants to bring mindfulness to the company, yes. So in the beginning and this was about three years ago when I started having this conversation, even a little longer, it took me, speaking of obstacles, I had to meet certain skepticism, what this is about. We had no data points at all. And to overcome the skepticism I had to come from an own place of belief, that I was secure and that I was willing to take a risk.

[00:50:11] So, I had to develop my own self security in this, to speak about, to shift a culture, to be a thought leader. It means like you are walking or I walked to unknown territory, and so there is some anxiety involved, there is some fear involved. What will happen if they don’t like it? Before we did the first pilots, before we had the first results, but yeah, it takes knowing what you want and then taking risk and walking in this direction. Even if it’s not clear what will come out, no one can guarantee you. Come to a place where you feel like I although want to try it is not trying it. This is where I was at a certain point where I was like I cannot not do it anymore, so I had my inner inquiry and basically my inner voice was telling me, this is what I want to do. So I have to risk secure place to come to a more insecure place, and I didn’t know. It was not clear to me that it would work out in this amazing way.

[00:51:09] So two years later we have trained, at the end of this year we will have trained more than 1500 people in North America and in Europe and in Asia, and at the end of next year we will have trained according to our plans probably 5000 people. So, this is growing, it was a long growing like this and now it’s really taking off and scaling and it’s part of the official learning program of SAP and we are showing more and more the value and they have tremendous response in it. So it’s like, Wow!


Walter Link

[00:51:48] On our website you will find additional footage, other dialogs with innovation leaders from around the world and also the hands-on practices that help them and their organizations to move from inspiration to real change.