Amaranatho is a former Buddhist monk and now mindfulness-based executive/ agile mindset coach, scrum master and has a degree in AI. He help's people and organization's stay calm and connected in complex situations, so they can awaken to their true potential.
Digital policies are an opportunity for us to do great work, be innovative, achieve organizational goals, and minimize risk. But you can’t get all of that if you are not mindful. Former Buddhist monk, and now coach to executives and agile teams, Amaranatho Robey, talks about teams, getting maximum speed, and doing digital the right way.
KRISTINA PODNAR, HOST: As you know, digital policies are an opportunity for us to do great work, be innovative, achieve organizational goals, but also minimize risk. That takes mindfulness and deliberate actions, which is why I am honored to have with us today at Amaranatho Robey. Amaranatho is a former Buddhist monk, and now a mindfulness-based executive and agile mindset coach, and scrum master, with a degree in AI. He helps people and organization stay calm and connected in complex situations, so they can awaken to the true potential. Amaranatho, welcome to The Power of Digital Policy. Thanks for being with us today.
AMARANATHO MAURICE ROBEY, GUEST: Yeah, thank you. So well, it's really great to be on the podcast and what I would say is that although mindfulness is sometimes seen as doing something deliberate and slow in order to do things fast. You need the slowness.
If you write it, if you really want to speed up things you really want to make decisions quickly. Then you need to know what decisions you're making and so mindfulness and awareness gives you a choice. Yeah, and so first we have to start by slowing down so that when they actually the event happens itself, you can make that decision and that decision can be going to stop.
I'm going to do it and I'm not quite sure why I'm going to do it but I trust in it and I trust that that will be for the benefit of the team the program the software whatever it is. So, it's the ability to really make choices which mindfulness has a big impact on.
KRISTINA: So, that's really interesting because I think that the gut reaction in most organizations that I've been inside of there's always this level of chaos, it seems even in the most well-run organization. There's a level of chaos. And I think that that's maybe in large part due to the fact that you know digital is a little bit chaotic. We're doing things for the very first time we're innovating were being creative which you want right? But you also like you said want to be sort of mindful, especially when it comes to things like consequences and I think that those are extreme in some environments less so and others right?
AMARANATHO: Agreed and I think it's important to distinguish between chaos and complexity. So, chaos is always trouble. It's in the creative world. It's quite good. You know, you want to be chaotic you can get creative ideas, but in general if there's too much chaos the way that the nervous system works. It doesn't handle it very well and that's a lot of the situation's you see when things are too chaotic. And the level of chaos, you need to make a decision and that's why you need a really good leaders because it you know, and you need to be able to really make decision, otherwise it gets out completely out of hand and further in the field of complexity you need to be able just to make a decision and go forward and listen to the whole system. And this is where mindfulness has a really big impact is that you're listening to the totality of the system where you know, and I know world has changed, it's obvious, you know from the factory line from Ford to complex systems, and if you're not used to thinking in that way you’re thinking ABCD it rarely works because that's not the nature of work anymore. That's waterfall.
KRISTINA: How do you integrate that into a team especially like in digital? I know that you can maybe do that a little bit easier with a one-on-one executive perhaps or a director or just one-on-one individually, but how do you do that in a team environment?
AMARANATHO: Well teams are made up of people. And so each person needs to bring their own self-awareness to the team and that's why I've always enjoyed
the scrum Master a role because it's the sort of servant leader. You're looking to bring out the best in looking to support the group. You looking to help them move forward. And so that's actually it's still individual. Right and there's all sorts of creative exercises and things that you can do within the agile world, you know, but the point is to understand your own belief mechanisms, and that's what really mindfulness can really help with is to bring self-awareness, you know, when you're talking about like a security and privacy. What's the most important thing that you can really know about security from a mindfulness point of view is that self-awareness will give you ultimate security?
It will give you the ultimate personal security because you know yourself well enough. Yeah, and if you know yourself well enough. Yeah, then there's a good likelihood that within the systems that you're working it you'll notice more and so be able to make choices about how you implement the software or the policy like from your point of view the policy yet is all about being aware and usually people are not aware enough to make those decisions and the more that you become self-aware the easier it becomes.
KRISTINA: You can't see me right now, but I'm grinning ear to ear because you know, it just is making me so happy and it's making my heart's take it away because you know, I love policies, you know, I'm obviously policy girl, but you know, I'm such a believer that policies if they're just written things. They're nothing more than shelfware right they usually end up rewrite only right the end up. Yeah. Okay. No, please. No, I'm just kidding.
AMARANATHO: I'm going to say because my life as a monk, you know, as a Buddhist monk is followed by a lot of if you like policy and rules, but the thing that I learned as a monk was held to be fluid with them. Not to be rigid but actually how to flow with them. In the monastery, I ran these big events which needed Child Protection policy you sort of things that you can't be you can't break in a way, you know, there's certain governmental things nor the rest of it, but what you can start to learn how to move with those rules and be fluid with them. So actually, we created a policy that was fluid to the camp. Right? And so, this is the same thing you can do with teams. You can create and Define your own policies. Yeah, even though it might be connected to an ISO, or whatever but within your own team create fluidity and aliveness. So, they so it breeds actually creativity that's my idea of policy, my idea of structure and being self-aware is actually agreed and its creativity, innovation, you know and ultimately all support a happiness.
KRISTINA: Those are I think exactly the things that we're looking for within organizations, right? We want people to be able to do things and be creative and be innovative and that's actually where the business advantage comes from right? Is sort of that freedom and that Innovation and the newness that propels us forward, but like you said we want to make sure that we do it within a framework that allows us to still be safe to some extent but at the end of the day it all comes down to the individual and no matter what we write down or whatever we say will do unless there's a self-awareness and the ability to be fluid as you said, but still be aware and continued the kind of that process without you. No inherent awareness. You're not going to have good security or not going to have good privacy or not going to have good brand awareness and safety awareness in the digital space and anything else, which seems to be all the more important these days especially in an area that you've have a background in which is AI and I'm thinking a lot about sort of you know, the biases that we're introducing into Ai and it seems like there's such a wonderful opportunity for awareness and mindfulness to be brought into that space so that we're doing things in a way that we're not going to be regretting 20, 30, 40, 50, years down the road.
AMARANATHO: Yeah, exactly. Exactly and history data is really I would say a contemplative mindset a reflective mindset, which is actually natural, it's not something not natural. It's when we relax out of our beliefs and biases we never we're never going to get rid of them know we're going to know all of them, you know, there's on the on the internet, you know, there's a whole list of them, but you can't ever remember all of them. But without with the self-awareness mindfulness practice, you can start to see the nuances of yourself. Yeah, and then that's where the biases won't have such an impact on the system because you're noticing it for yourself. You're noticing your own bias. Yeah, and then that's where there's freedom and is particularly in artificial intelligence because it's changing so quickly Yeah, we actually do need to slow down and see how see how we are what we are putting into the system, you know, and and when I when I studied at Sussex University and their motto was know thyself as a universe and I that was a most one of the most impactful lectures I had was when they talk about the motto of the University because AI is about knowing yourself and so is leadership.
KRISTINA: That's a good point. That's actually an excellent point. Know thyself, you know, one of the challenges I think that most organizations have is knowing themselves and really kind of looking inward. It's very much usually an outward. What can we produce? What can we deliver perspective? Right? And so, I'm wondering how you know, a lot of people might say, oh mindfulness. Oh, deliberate kind of thought knowing ourselves being aware, you know, those all sound like really good things and I can't imagine anybody sort of challenging those as good principles but bringing them into the workplace. I think a lot of times people might look at us and say like, oh, you know what? That's something that maybe people in California practice. How do you get people to actually become aware of the fact that no, this is not sort of a one-off thing that people need to do? This is something everybody needs to do. It needs to be inherent in all of us regardless of whether we're an AI focused organization, whether we're a non-profit, you're a governmental or non-governmental entity really having that awareness and mindfulness and enabling our people is a good thing. How do you actually make that business case?
AMARANATHO: Usually I'm focusing on continuous change because that's the big thing how fast can you respond to market? Yeah, and if you're coming from a fixed mindset you're coming from your own limitations, then your ability to change is very limited. Because you always thinking in the same way you or your ability to have to respond to change very quickly and that what mindfulness will allow you to do even though it slows you down. Gives you amazing impact. Yeah, and you know, the only thing for me which is important for me to say that as a mindfulness practitioner is that are also it needs with a needs an ethical framework so that the, you know, the organization themselves can't be just adapting their staff to organizational stress. So, you have to look at the wider context if there's too much stress within the organization. Yes, you can make somebody mindful, but that doesn't really help the situation. So, it needs it's a mutual thing and I certainly within them more agile organizations. It's easier to respond to in that in a more traditional organizations, the it takes a thick that you know, you have to really think about this.
KRISTINA: And so, do you find that it's a lot easier could have to start the transformation within an organization working with individual teams that are more agile. Perhaps working on a very specific focus like maybe if aspect of software or you know, a new machine learning aspect or is it best to start from the top sort of the board of directors and executives?
AMARANATHO: Yeah. Thank you for saying this. My passion and my personal drive since I stopped being a monk has been working with leadership. I really don't think that you can have the impact, and certainly it's a story that I wrote even within agile organizations, that you can have to sort of impact that you can have through the power of agile and these other frameworks, like Kanban, without effective leadership. You know, whether it's distributed or whether it's a still some degree top down and that's why I've focused with executives and that's what I've been doing lately. In one company in England is just really helping this executive to get familiar with the language and find an organic way to do it. Not really. We're not following the textbook of agile per se. Yeah, but giving that language like cross-functional teams get getting feedback from staff, you know, all these things that are fantastic with in their agile framework and then passing that down and because he has such an impact on so many staff, you know already you can see shifts in the organization training his senior staff team so that they can pass it down and so on and so then it starts to bleach into an organizations.
There are also other ways of doing it as well, which is bottom up by creating really good strong peer support groups yet, but it still needs the blessing if you like from the top because otherwise there's always going to be some type of conflict. Yeah, you know, like we want it done one way and then you know we should do it the other way and there was a there was a big thing on LinkedIn the other week that I read about, you know where leaders is telling techies what to do, you know, but the tip but the tech people also know what to do and then because there's no communication you just get conflict again. So, you're still back in the same situation so through self-awareness, you know and mindfulness you can you can make it easier to communicate and my own personal framework is that I don't focus so much on like using mindfulness just as one thing. I have a more of an integrated framework which is the first thing is to explore really what's going on between you and others and the second one is play to make it really playful and that's where joy comes and it doesn't become such a such an ABC approach. And then the third one is really is love and that's you really need to be kind to yourself in the process because if there's no kindness changes just too difficult to do that's why people really resist, you know, you get into all the other biases confirmation biases, you know, you don't want to change and all the rest of it. But if you make it playful you learn way much quicker.
KRISTINA: I'm just really excited because you're talking a lot about the principles that I think are so challenging in an organization right change management. I think people understand that it's okay that they're going to be okay on the other side of this journey right that it's can be fun, it can be challenging in a positive way, right? Because it's something that we can embrace, we can adjust to and it’s really the new way of working isn't it?
AMARANATHO: Totally! And I know and if organizations are not moving in that direction. Yeah, they've got limited shelf life.
KRISTINA: We see a lot of people who just refuse to change and maybe you're seeing more of those pockets and in certain areas than others, but this is sort of the new way of working, isn't it?
AMARANATHO: It is, I mean, I live in the Netherlands and you see here a lot now, there's so many tech companies and this shift towards self-organization next stage organizations, personal development, I mean, what packages do you see where there isn't personal development? Why would because it's really important, if you want to be more effective you want to get more creativity. You have to develop yourself in some way or another, with it through mindfulness or whatever technique you find, but is to really reflect and inquire and the other important area that goes with this is actually rest which we never really talked about because that's a bit of a you know, who we shouldn't talk about rest, but rest is really powerful, you know, like they've done this research on the say like Marines, you know, where they've gone away on a mission and they measured their testosterone level between you know, going and coming back and then when they come back they're wiped, you know, the testosterone levels is really low. So, what do they do? They rest.
So, we don't have these cycles put into our work situation. It's becoming a little bit more familiar but rest is so important. It stops burnout, rest is part of mindfulness, mindfulness being aware of that you are tired, that you have worked and worked hard and then to find the rhythm in work.
KRISTINA: So that's sort of interesting too because it seems like that's also tied very much and very close, I guess two cultures and so you've worked with people of you know, different backgrounds and different parts of the world, doing different things, it's almost as if you've been a part of this global enterprise and visited many local market, so you have this wealth and breadth of experience. I'm wondering, what are the things you have learned from these different experiences. How does that align that rest of that? I guess sort of understanding of what is it that we need to think and be and breathe in order to be successful and especially, you know, do you see some of that being helpful to perhaps teams that are working in a global Enterprise?
Weather they're kind of working cross-culturally. Is there sort of a balance or is there sort of a underlying tone that can be brought so that you know, whether you're in the UK whether you're in the Netherlands whether you're in Japan you're in the US or you're in Mexico or you're in Korea, you know, you have a way of working that transcends those cultural or global kind of in local norms.
AMARANATHO: Wow, great question. It's a question even outside the context of what we're talking about is also in terms of the way society is moving itself, but isn't it interesting that technology is actually allowing cultures to come together, I mean, I've given quite a few stalks here in the Netherlands where there's a 30 different nationalities in the room. And how can we come together as a group of people is again through respect and how be respectful to one another and that's by communicating by having conversations. So having you know, we are conversational beings we're relational beings and this is this is hugely important. Our nervous system is wired for relationships. And when we don't have that, yep, then we get into problems. And so the way that we can really work together cross-culturally is by developing relationships, you know in all some ways. It's not even rocket science and a good
I think that is by having really good questions by being open and willing to discover about your discover yourself, discover other people and respect other people when they're not willing to do that as well so that you get you start to generate a builder of belonging of care of community, you know, and I think deep down we all want this. You know, why is it that we're on Facebook all the time? Why is it we are on LinkedIn with time because those systems allow us but they don't allow us to be as humans to be to really connect to each other as humans though, you know, and we thrive on meeting.
Even if it's through Zoom what we're doing now, you can still do that. I work with a lot of my clients through Zoom. Yes. Um, I've not even met, if they're in America or sprayed or whatever but the connection is still there. When we get a beyond and underneath culture, there's a rich level of humaneness. That's what connects us, that's what we'll ultimately brings us peace. And of course, you will get conflict. When I lived in the monastery also live with, I don't know 25 different nationalities, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, South Africa, America and we had to learn even in the monastery the skills of being able to communicate that we learn practical skills. Like I've learned NBC nonviolent communication because it's an excellent way of being able to share what's going on for you and to connect with another person. And so then we can ask, so what is this in your culture? How did you do this? Right and that always breeds respect.
KRISTINA: You know, I think I started this conversation, Amaranatho, with a comment to you that you've been very impactful to me and we've never met in person. But you know, and I think that I just proves your point right, technology does enable us to connect on a human level regardless of where we are in the world and there's so much to be learned, you know and taught at the same time. And so definitely a lot of things to think about and you know, I think from a policy perspective one of the things that I hope that people will take away from this conversation, although there's a lot of nuggets and thank you for sharing those today. But you know, one of the things that I firmly believe that they can take away from it is that notion that you know policies are there almost as guardrails and within that we're humans.
We have a way of being and working and it's about being deliberate and mindful and kind and when you bring that into the workplace and into the digital world goodness and creativity and Innovation can come of it, but you have to have that point of view and I think be open as you said and start to kind of breed that I don't want to call it a methodology, but it's almost a methodology, right? You know, there's a mindset there in terms of being open and and being deliberate and being kind of thoughtful.
AMARANATHO: Absolutely. You could say it's an attitude you take towards both.
KRISTINA: Oh, I love that. That's great. Well, if people wanted to find out more about you or if there's some resources that you would like to share, where would you point people to?
AMARANATHO: Yeah, it's smart to either they can find me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/amaranatho/ or they can find me on my website https://www.playfulmonk.net. That's my brand, Playful Monk.
AMARANATHO: Thank you. Yeah, and if you and if people really, I mean, you know, I always you know, I always like to say, you know, if you wanted to do two things today that are going to make a difference what are the two things that you would say to people to do differently so that at the end of the day they can feel more comfortable.
AMARANATHO: Oh, get some rest.
KRISTINA: Those are awesome. This is such a great pleasure. Amaranatho, thank you so much for sharing your insights with us today and how we can stay mindful while awakening our true potential, to do great work and have fun while doing it. For more information on Amaranatho’s methodology, please visit his website which is linked to from the episode notes.
And thank you for listening and taking the time to catch The Power of Digital policy. If you find the podcast useful, or even if you have suggestions for future policy topics that you would like to hear covered, please leave a review on my website kpodnar.com/podcast.
Until next time, be well and do great policy work.