For over 60 years, the field of Organization Development (OD) has drawn upon Western humanistic philosophy and behavioral science to develop organizational systems, structures, and learning opportunities that support engaging, adaptive, and effective workplaces. In the wake of COVID-19, layoffs, restructures, and work-from-anywhere ecosystems, the field faces a stark new challenge. Employee attention is now bombarded and overtaxed in ways that adversely impact ethical decision-making, creativity, and prosocial behavior.
As a thought-leader and researcher, Bill's mission is to help address these issues by advancing the theory and practice of OD through Eastern philosophical perspectives and practices. His research agenda investigates how organizations may utilize mindfulness practice to develop ethical leaders, innovative teams, and inclusive organizations. Drawing from Buddhist philosophy and clinical research, Bill defines mindfulness practice as the continuous application of bare attention to present-moment experience, which gives rise to a non-judgmental form of awareness associated with deep insight and human connection.
Workplace mindfulness practice programs comprise a billion-dollar industry present in over 60% of large to mid-sized organizations including names as recognizable as Google, the US Army, Starbucks, and General Electric. Though research demonstrates that meditation reduces stress and anxiety, researchers are now attempting to understand how this practice may be integrated as a developmental approach to help employees lead, adapt, and build collegial relationships. According to a systematic review of such investigations, Bill led the first randomized control study to determine the impact of mindfulness practice on characteristics of effective leadership. His study revealed that compared with traditional leadership development instruction, those who engaged in mindfulness practice alone demonstrated a significant increase in resilience, creative attitudes, and sense of creative efficacy (Brendel et al., 2016). At present, his study is cited in 62 publications spanning management and education literature and is noted as a pioneer study in the field of "Mindful Leadership", a search term that now yields over 53 million results in Google.
Bill also led the development of the first leadership development approach that combines mindfulness practice with critical reflection on employee narratives, which has been cited 56 times (Brendel & Bennett, 2016). This study drew upon his earlier research, which posits that individuals and teams who mindfully observe and reflect on assumptions and anxieties present in their professional stories may let go of attachments to ego and expertise that hinder organizational performance (Brendel, 2009; Brendel & Chou, 2013). Bill later tested this leadership development approach in a two-year action research study with 33 professors, who as a result, generated 26 innovations in research, teaching, and service, as well as reports of subjective transformation in the way they view their sense of identity and duty as professors (Brendel & Cornett Murtada, 2019).
To better understand how OD practitioners currently incorporate mindfulness practice and Eastern philosophical traditions with their work, Bill also conducted case studies with global OD consultants who had gained early notoriety for their mindfulness-based approaches. This research revealed that when combined, mindfulness practice and contemplative dialogue serve two critical client outcomes. The first is to help employees behave with fuller awareness and intentionality rather than in an automatic and absentminded fashion. The second is to improve the degree to which employees attribute meaningful work to something greater than their self-interests concerning personal achievements and everyday affairs (Brendel, 2016). This study was the first to investigate how OD consultants address employee mindlessness and automaticity. These cases revealed five foundational applications and related tools for mindfulness-based consulting, including strategic innovation, leadership development, organizational culture transformation, employee satisfaction, and performance improvement.
Buddhist scholars have also suggested that absentminded individuals are likely to overlook the moral examination of everyday life by automatically acting upon self-serving ego attachments. To test this relationship in an organizational context, Bill led the first correlational study to understand how an employee’s dispositional level of awareness and ability to apply mindfulness to difficult situations impacts ethical decision-making (Brendel & Hankerson, 2021). This study revealed that although trait mindfulness is negatively correlated with rationalizing unethical behavior, the application of specific mindfulness practices (e.g., decentering and reappraisal) is positively correlated with moral disengagement at work. This study, now required reading in a Psychology of Self-Control course at Stonybrook University, cautions scholars and practitioners who utilize mindfulness primarily as an employee stress reduction technique to emphasize the importance of cultivating ethical intentionality.
Drawing from distinctions derived from his case study research and moral disengagement study, Bill led the development and preliminary psychometric validation of the Way of Being Inventory. This typology-like assessment gauges four ways in which an employee’s level of trait mindfulness is applied either to self-centered achievement purposes or to establishing empathy and connectedness at work (Brendel, Byun, & Park, coming soon!). This measure is important because it is the first to integrate cognitive-behavioral and spiritual constructs of mindfulness and meaningful work. It may be used to study the predictive characteristics of these four orientations on individual, team, and organizational levels of performance. Finally, this assessment may be integrated with numerous leadership development programs at major consulting firms, such as McKinsey & Company’s Centered Leadership Program.
Pulling together his previous research as well as a literature review of over 138 studies on mindfulness at work, Bill introduced a theory of Conscious Agility at work (Brendel, 2022), which posits that an employee’s ability to regulate consciousness through mindfulness practice, in a situationally informed fashion, may reduce attachments to expertise and ego, thereby increasing effectiveness in innovative tasks and inclusive behaviors. Conscious Agility Theory fundamentally challenges existing diagnostic and dialogic approaches to OD that focus almost exclusively on conceptual processing. Bill expands upon this new paradigm further in an article on Conscious Inclusion (Brendel, Arman, & Farzam, 2022), which suggests that genuine organizational inclusion may be cultivated through a professional development pedagogy that blends unconscious bias recognition, self-transcendent perspectives, and Eastern dialectical thinking. Bill has also introduced a host of tools and assessments that may be tested to determine whether these practices lead to genuine inclusion as part of a new book that applies OD to Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives (Brendel, 2022-a Brendel, 2022-b).
To position his theory in a way that proliferates mindfulness-based interventions in different organizational contexts, Bill has also created an open-source pedagogical framework for developing Conscious OD interventions. This framework includes a set of 21 psychological methodologies that researchers may use to build prototypes and investigate the impact of Conscious OD interventions (Brendel, Samarin, & Sadique, 2022). The Open-Source OD approach is supported by a website Bill developed to provide practitioners with collaborative space and a set of tools for research: www.opensourceod.com.
Bill also co-edited a three-volume anthology titled Advances in Presencing (Gunnlaugson & Brendel, 2019, 2020, 2021), which details how 58 global practitioners apply a consciousness-based action research methodology developed at MIT. In addition to several university graduate courses, several chapters are also featured on the Presencing Institute website. In addition to publishing an in-depth interview with the Presencing Institute founder, Otto Scharmer, about modern applications (Brendel, 2019a), this series also includes a more extensive exposition of how Buddhist philosophy and practices inform the Presencing approach (Brendel, 2019b).
If you're interested in learning more or reading any of these publications, send Bill an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brendel, W. (2022). Conscious Organization Development: A Distinctly Mindful Theory and Practice. Organization Development Journal.
Brendel, W., Arman, F., & Farzam, L. (2022). Conscious Inclusion. Organization Development Review.
Brendel, W., Byun, S., & Park, M. (coming soon!) Ways of Being: Assessing presence and purpose at work.
Brendel, W., Samarin, I., & Sadique, F. (2021). Open-Source OD: a platform for creating mindful applications. Organization Development Review.
Brendel, W. (2022). Chapter 1: Transformative Learning. In Rothwell, W., Campbell, J., & Ealy, P. (Eds.), Building Effective Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Programs: Transforming Organizational Culture Using Change Management. Routledge.
Brendel, W. (2022). Introduction & Overview. In Rothwell, W., Campbell, J., & Ealy, P. (Eds.), Building Effective Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Programs: Transforming Organizational Culture Using Change Management. Routledge.
Brendel, W., & Hankerson, S. (2021). Hear no Evil? Investigating Relationships between Mindfulness and Moral Disengagement at Work. Ethics & Behavior. doi: 10.1080/10508422.2021.1958331
Brendel, W., Samarin, I., Sadique, F. (2021). Introducing SERA: An Open-Source Code for Developing Innovation and Inclusion Programs and Interventions. Academy of Human Resource Development Virtual Conference. February 17 – 19.
Gunnlaugson, O., & Brendel (2021). Advances in Presencing Volume III. Trifoss Business Press. Vancouver.
Gunnlaugson, O., & Brendel (2020). Advances in Presencing Volume II. Trifoss Business Press. Vancouver.
Gunnlaugson, O., & Brendel (2019). Advances in Presencing Volume I. Trifoss Business Press. Vancouver.
Brendel, W. (2019). Catching up with Otto Scharmer and Adam Yukelson. In Gunnlaugson, O., & Brendel, W. (Eds.), Advances in Presencing Volume I. Trifoss Business Press. Vancouver.
Brendel, W. (2019). Beyond the Prism: What ancient wisdom traditions offer facilitators and participants of the presencing process. In Gunnlaugson, O., & Brendel, W. (Eds.), Advances in Presencing Volume I. Trifoss Business Press. Vancouver.
Brendel, W., & Cornett-Murtada, V. (2019). Professors Practicing Mindfulness: An Action Research Study on Transformed Teaching, Research, and Service. Journal of Transformative Education, 17(1), 4–23. doi:10.1177/1541344618762535
Brendel, W., Hankerson, S., Byun, S., Cunningham, B. (2016). Cultivating leadership dharma: measuring the impact of mindfulness practice on creativity, resilience, tolerance for ambiguity, anxiety, and stress. Journal of Management Development, 35(8)
Brendel, W. & Chou, C. (2016). Transforming Organizational Change through Collaborative Digital Storytelling. Journal of Educational Technology Development and Exchange, 9(1), 13-26.
Brendel, W. (2016). Mindfulness-based consulting. In Jamieson, D., Buono, A. & Barnett, R. (Eds.), Consultation for Organizational Change Revisited, Vol II. IAP Publishers. Research in Management Consulting and Contemporary Trends in Organization Development and Change Series.
Brendel, W., & Bennett, C. (2016). Learning to Embody Leadership through Mindfulness and Somatics Practice. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 1523422316646068.
Brendel, W. & Bennet, C. (2016) Embodied Leadership Development: Transforming Leadership through Mindfulness and Somatic Practices. Academy of Human Resource Development Conference. Jacksonville, FL.
Brendel, W. (2014). Awareness and the Absentminded Professor. 11th Annual Transformative Learning Conference, New York, New York. October.
Brendel, W. (2014). The Mindful Organization: Transforming Organizational Leadership and Culture through Mindfulness Practice. Organization Development Network Conference. Philadelphia, PA. October
Brendel, W. & Chou, C. (2013). Transformative Digital Storytelling facilitating Organizational Change. MN Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development, MN.
Brendel, W. (2012). What the Terminally Ill can teach us about Existential Dimensions of Transformative Learning. 10th Annual Transformative Learning Conference, San Francisco.
Brendel, W. (2009). Narrative-driven transformative learning among hospice patients. Eighth Annual Transformative Learning Conference, Hamilton Bermuda.
Brendel, W. (2009). Exploring a framework for narrative-driven transformations in medicine. Journal of Transformative Education, Volume 7.
Poppito, S., Prosper, T., Brendel, W., Moreno-Milan, B., Garcia, C., Galek, K., Breitbart, W. (2009) Therapeutic Bridges to Meaning: An existential qualitative analysis of the co-creation of meaning in Individual Meaning-Centered Psychotherapy. Abstracts of the 11th World Congress of the international Psycho-Oncology Society. Vienna, Austria - June 21-25.
Poppito, S., Prosper, T., Brendel, W., Galek, K., Moreno-Milan, B., Breitbart, W. (2008, November) tracking the leading edge of meaning in advanced cancer: An existential-developmental qualitative analysis of Individual Meaning-Centered Psychotherapy session transcripts. ANTEA Worldwide Palliative Care Conference, presented in Rome, Italy.
Brendel, W., and DasGupta, S. (2007). Transformative medicine: A dialogue between transformative learning and narrative medicine. 7th Annual Transformative Learning Conference, University of New Mexico, presented in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Brendel, W. (2007). Pedagogy of the terminally ill: Exploring meaning-making among hospice patients through transformative learning theory. 7th Annual Transformative Learning Conference, University of New Mexico, presented in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Brendel, W. (2006). On transformative learning and end-of-life discussions. 6th Annual Transformative Learning Conference, Michigan State University, presented in Lansing, Michigan.
Brendel, W. (2006). Critically reflective narrative for the dying. Narrative Matters Conference, presented in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Selection of Keynotes & Presentations
Brendel, W., Valdes-Dapena, C. (2021). Becoming an Informed Consultant: Self-aware Leadership, Equity Advocate, and Lifelong Learner. OD Global Competency Framework Series. Organization Development Network. August 26th.
Scharmer, O., & Brendel, W. (2021). Plenary Session. Theory U. Organization Development Network Conference. June 3rd.
Brendel, W. (2021). The 1st Discipline of Organization Development. Building Awesome Organizations Pre-Founding Virtual Conference. February 8th.
Brendel, W. (2021). The Tao of Organizational Change. Cogita Education Initiatives. May 12th.
Brendel, W. (2021). Open-Source OD Website. https://opensourceod.com. Retrieved July 19th.
Brendel, W. (2021). Transforming States into Learning Organizations. Whitepaper prepared for the Minnesota Governor’s Blue-Ribbon Council on Information Technology. February 9th. Retrieved from: https://www.transformativelearning.institute/post/transforming-states-into-learning-organizations.
Brendel, W., Farzam, L., Arman, A. (2020). Developing Authentic Organizational Inclusion. Facebook Livestream. Organization Development Network. December.
Brendel, W. (2020). Mindful Leadership. Association for Human Resource Management in International Organizations. Webinar. October 8th.
Brendel, W. (2020). Transforming Organizational Culture in an Age of Innovation. Bright Horizons Academy Webinar. September.
Brendel, W. (2020). Transforming Organizational Culture in an Age of Innovation. Penn State Program in Workforce Education Webinar Series. August 28th.
Brendel, W. (2018, April). To Foster Innovation your Business needs a Promotional Focus. Star Tribune. Retrieved from: https://m.startribune.com/to-foster-innovation-your-business-needs-a-promotional-focus/479662383.
Brendel, W. (2017, March). Virtual reality and artificial intelligence can help improve our business leaders. Star Tribune. Retrieved from: https://m.startribune.com/outside-consultant-virtual-reality-and-artificial-intelligence-can-help-improve-our-business-leaders/476845893.
Brendel, W. (2017, November). To attract workforce of the future, make your company a cause: Forward-thinking executives are strategically helping new hires deepen and connect their sense of purpose. Star Tribune. Retrieved from: https://www.startribune.com/to-attract-workforce-of-the-future-make-your-company-a-cause/455056403.
Brendel, W (2017, December). Morally Engaged Workplace Key to Addressing Sexual Harassment. Star Tribune. https://web.archive.org/web/20171211000317/http://m.startribune.com/morally-engaged-workplace-key-to-addressing-sexual-harassment/462889333/.
Brendel, W. (2016). Mindfulness and its Impact on Organizational Culture. University of St Thomas Exempt Staff Retreat. June.
Brendel, W. (2016). Mindfulness and its Impact on Anxiety and Stress Reduction. Humphry Association for Depression and Mental Illness (HADMI). University of MN. March.
Brendel, W. (2015). Mindfulness at Work – ROI, Innovation, and Leadership Development. University of St Thomas, Opus College of Business Executive Education. June.
Brendel, W. (2015). Leadership Development through Mindfulness Practice. Asian Association of MBAs, at the University of St Thomas, Opus College of Business. May.
Brendel, W. (2015). Developing a Capacity for Leading Mindfully. Lacek Group, Minneapolis. April.
Brendel, W. (2015). Mindfulness at Work and its Implications for Health and Wellness. Lifelong Stress Management Course. University of St Thomas. April.
Brendel, W. (2014). Leading Change in Changing Times. Interview on Leadership 500 Excellence Award HR Magazine. Vail, CO.
Brendel, W. (2014). Master of Ceremonies, Mindfulness at Work with Mariann Johnson and Matthew Sanford. Department of Organization Learning & Development Annual Signature Event.
Brendel, W. (2014). Mindfulness Based Coaching. International Coaching Federation, MN Chapter. The Marsh, Minnetonka, MN
Brendel, W. (2014). Return on Awareness. Organization Development Network, MN Chapter University of St Thomas, Minneapolis, MN.
Brendel, W. (2013). Developing Mindfulness at the University of St Thomas. Synergia Newsletter, Professional Development at the University of St Thomas.
Brendel, W. (2013). Become ‘One’ with the Autobahn: How to keep pace with change by practicing mindfulness and narrative inquiry through interactive media. Digital Learning Forum. St Paul, MN.
Brendel, W. (2013). Supra-Self Inquiry: Breathing a new way of being into the workplace. Whitepaper for the Twin Cities Human Resource Association, Minneapolis, MN.
Brendel, W. (2013). Presenter: Mindfulness Practice. Department of Music at the University of St Thomas. St Paul, MN.
Brendel, W. (2013). Presenter: Mindfulness Practice. Department of Engineering at the University of St Thomas. St Paul, MN.
Brendel, W. (2011). Keynote Speaker: Transformative Learning at the Bedside. Annual Cicely Saunders Celebration, Visiting Nurse Service of New York, NY. March.
Brendel, W. (2011). Managing Organization Change. Temple University Office of Student Life.
Brendel, W. (2010). Emotional Intelligence at the Bedside. Regional Elder Abuse Advocacy & Caregiving. REACT Conference. Texarkana, TX. July.
Brendel, W. (2010). The Impact of Emotional Intelligence on Spiritual Transformations. Disciples Christian Fellowship. Texarkana, TX. May.
Brendel, W. (2009). Facilitating Transformative Learning with Patients. Serenity Hospice. Texarkana, TX. December.