THINKING INSIDE THE BOX

A new method for creative engagement

Client: Large Government Agency

Challenge: Numerous Federal Agencies came together to cultivate and implement new ways of being creative and engaging in a government workplaces that are typically burdened with time-consuming approval systems, initiative protocols, and a culture that encourages employees to conduct work that fits squarely within their job description and pay-grade.

Outcome: Statistically significant improvements to traditionally low scoring items on the Federal Employee Viewpoint survey through  higher levels of organizational citizenship and  of creative efficacy. Attendees developed personal action plans for bringing their insights about being creative

Discovery What I found by surveying 85 Federal employees across geographic and agency boundaries was startling. When Federal employees practiced mindfulness, they have significantly higher Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (OCBs) and significantly more Creative Efficacy (CE). These two factors usually measure very low on the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, and surveys showed dramatically higher OCBs and CE after only 8 or less mindfulness practices.
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When compared to the control group, those who practiced mindfulness experienced a significant increase in OCBs. This is a critical finding in the context of the Federal government, which is often described as a work-to-rule culture, where employees are only expected to do what is required of them in their job descriptions. What makes this finding even more important is that we also found a significant correlation between an increase in an employee’s OCB or and their ability to forgive (r = 0.52) and experience gratitude at work (r = 0.59).

When compared to the control group, those who practiced mindfulness experienced a significant increase in Creative Efficacy, which refers to an individual’s belief that they can be successfully creative at work. This is a very important finding because federal employees often report being creatively constrained by policies and procedures. We also found that Creative Efficacy is positively correlated with higher scores on three questions from the Federal Viewpoint Survey (r = 0.54, p<0.001).

Dialogue: Given the rapid pace of change in federal regulations, technology, and leadership cycles, doing only what is in one’s job description tends to hurt an employee’s ability to grow professionally and establish a greater sense of purpose at work. Mindfulness practice strengthens our ability to stay present in the moment. It is “an awareness that emerges by paying attention on purpose to the present moment without judgement”4. This is particularly critical for decision makers. It is not a practice of striving to do something better or analyzing. It helps us realize when we are caught up in the future or the past. This may be important handling a conflict, learning in the classroom, or even driving a car. When we say “stop and smell the roses” we are talking about mindfulness practice. It is elegantly simple, yet difficult to practice in real life.

Epiphany: Regular mindfulness practice can be a powerful antidote as it increases a person’s ability to adapt to change by doing more than what is expected of them. 

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