Mindfulness and Biased News Reporting

Recent articles have popped up about a medical study which reported that subjects who meditated for 15 minutes and were subsequently asked to complete a task “reported being demotivated”. Unfortunately, multiple media outlets have picked up on this tidbit, and are presenting some strongly-biased commentary on the study. Some news channels are having an anti-meditation heyday with this recent experiment, conducted with 109 adult subjects.

There are several things about this study that are notable, but missing from most of the reporting:

1. What is NOT being talked about is the fact that most of the tasks requested of those who had meditated were defined – by the researchers themselves – as “mundane”. It should not come as a surprise that a deepened sense of awareness, brought about by meditation, would result in a lessened commitment to engaging with what appears to be a dull activity. Yes, boring work is necessary, but having to do something tedious normally produces demotivation – whether one has meditated or not.

2. In addition, there seems to be no mention of the fact that the researchers noted that “mindfulness enabled people to detach from stressors, which improved task focus”. Isn’t this an outstanding observation? Knowing that meditation can improve focus is a litmus test for its usefulness in the workplace (as well as other aspects of our lives). Yet the majority of the articles haven’t reported this finding.

3. Finally, one of the most important conclusions that is also being omitted from much of the media coverage of this study is – I believe – critical to understanding the appropriateness of meditation and mindfulness overall. The scientists were able to empirically conclude that “mindfulness did not impair performance”. Wow! Why isn’t this the lead headline in these stories?!?! This is a long way from the banner under which one of these articles was presented: “Mindfulness Meditation Impairs Motivation in the Workplace”. (Interestingly, the two researchers who conducted this experiment titled their paper “Mindfulness Meditation Impairs Task Motivation but Not Performance”. Why, in so many cases, were those final 3 words omitted from the reporting on this story?)

I remember how, in its earliest days, the internet was vilified by pundits and news providers for a host of reasons…many of them utter nonsense or scaremongering. The reporting about the big, bad World Wide Web would’ve had people believe that there was nothing beneficial about these new technologies and connections. Indeed, we all needed to be afraid and skeptical.

It seems as though we are going through a similar cycle with regard to how meditation and mindfulness are occasionally described by media outlets. Now that these tools are being introduced into the workplace, and accepted by the general public, there is sometimes a suspicion that it’s too good to be true. How can something so simple be so powerful?

There has been an uptick in recent years in the number of reputable studies on mindfulness and meditation, and this is gratifying to see. In order to get the maximum benefit from mindfulness practices, we need to know why things work as they do, which is where academic research can be most helpful. But we need to ensure that the findings are reported without bias.

This is a good reminder to dig beyond the headlines and check the sources of any article. Which is, of course, a mindful way to read and learn!

Submitted: August 9, 2018 Copyright © Lee Godfrey, 2018

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New survey reveals marketing managers turning to freelancers more than ever

Good news for freelancers with digital marketing skills. A new survey from the freelancing platform Upwork found that marketers are increasingly looking for freelancers with specialized skills to fill gaps in their own teams.

The study, released at the end of November, asked 1,000 US marketing bosses and hiring managers about the roles they find hard to fill. Among the most in-demand abilities were inbound marketing, demand generation and social media know-how. According to UpWork, hunger for these kinds of skills has grown more than 150 percent year on year.

What’s driving the demand? UpWork’s SVP for Marketing, Rich Pearson, puts it down to a mix of factors.

First, digital transformation has shaken up the industry, meaning many marketers are constantly in need of new skills to produce the kind of marketing that their audiences want.

At the same time, Mr Pearson explains that freelancers offer a more flexible alternative to the traditional route of using a fully-fledged agency:

“agencies have long been the primary solution to help fill these skills gaps, but with the increased availability of freelance talent, marketers have a new, more cost-effective option for getting work done.”

This change is profound. According to the survey, a full 58% of marketing departments across all sectors use freelancers in some capacity, and almost three quarters say that companies who fail to adapt to this evolution will face competitive disadvantage.

Perhaps most significantly, 92% of marketing managers and hiring teams report that without being able to find a freelancer, they would be forced to delay, cancel or extend their projects.

What does this mean for freelancers, then? On one hand, the data indicates there’s a lot of work out there – they will just need to go find it. On the other hand, it also shows that the demand is for freelancers with ever more niche skills. Knowing the basics of SEO simply won’t cut it in today’s market – in-house clients expect a lot more.

The skills that freelance marketing experts will need to win business and stand out are becoming ever more diverse. Indeed, a different study released by UpWork earlier in November singled out Salesforce services and HubSpot marketing as some of the fastest growing skills for freelancers in Q3 2017, as well as Instagram marketing and Final Cut Pro X.

So, there’s no time for freelance marketers to sit on their laurels just yet.