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Ellen Langer
Mindful Leadership
NeuroLeadership Summit
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Excerpt from "Mindful Leadership" with Ellen Langer

The NeuroLeadership Institute is doing such important work around how we can use our brains better to create a more mindful society and workplace.  Check out this transcribed excerpt from "Mindful Leadership" with Ellen Langer.  Langer talks about how easily we engage in mindlessness rather than mindfulness.

We get lulled into thinking we know.  But perhaps the most important bottom line to all that I’m going to say is that we don’t know.  And we need to be excited about not knowing because that gives us reason to pay attention and tune in.  There is an easier one.  How much is “1 + 1?”.  I’ve got some of you scared already, right?  OK.  Well, it turns out that 1 + 1 = 2 if you are using the base 10 number system.   If you are using the base 2 number system, 1 + 1 = 10.  And if you’re adding one wad of chewing gum to one wad of chewing gum, 1 + 1 = 1. 

Now, what happens is, we learn information in some absolute way, oblivious to the way it may be different depending on different contexts.  What happens is that it never occurs to us to question all of these things we think we know.  So when we are uncertain, instead, we stay open to the subtleties.  We stay in the present.  So, if you ask people over 50, “You are driving along on ice, the car starts to skid -- what do you do?”  And what they’ll tell you is, “You turn into the skid and you gently press the brakes.”  Well, this made sense before we had antilock brakes.   Now what you’re supposed to do, is firmly press on the brakes.   Mindlessness is not stupidity.  It made sense at one time, people keep behaving in the same way, circumstances change, and accidents then occur.

I went into a store and I made a purchase.  The cashier asked for the credit card.  I gave it to her.  She saw that it was not signed so she asked me to sign it.  I signed it.  She then ran it through the credit card machine, gave me the credit card slip, asked me to sign it.  I signed it.  And she then compared the two signatures…


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The NeuroLeadership Summit Collection