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Mindfulness - Managing the Unexpected


IESEG School of Management ( IÉSEG )

Code Cours :



Niveau Année de formation Période Langue d'enseignement 
Master GE1S2English
Professeur(s) responsable(s)E.KUTSH
Intervenant(s)Dr. Elmar Kutsch

Pré requis

Managing risk and uncertainty is often being advocated to be applied in a process-like fashion. And, yet, there is not other more powerful mechanism of our human mind. In order to understand it and elevate the concept of mindfulness to an important and applicable practice, foundations in organizational behaviour should be present.

Objectifs du cours

At the end of the course, the student should be able to:
- Appraise the concept of managerial mindfulness
- Relate the main behavioural principles of mindfulness to a hazardous context
- Assess what managers need to understand and do in order to maintain and increase a state of mindfulness and thus resilient performance

Contenu du cours

Our professional lives are characterised by risk and regular expressions of ‘may’ and ‘might’. Longing for certainty in, and controllability of, our environment is commonplace. Increasingly we tend to rely on a process that is often advocated as ‘self-evidently correct’: the (supposed) self-fulfilling prophecy of modern Risk Management. Applied consistently, it serves any context and promises gains in efficiency and the comforting ability to plan our way through the risks in our projects. However, rules and procedures are illsuited to deal with novelty and ambiguity. Indeed, managers of today look beyond compliance to process and rely on a powerful way of managing risk and uncertainty – Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a well-established construct in social psychology literature. When mindful, people’s experiences are sensitive to their environment and they feel in the present moment (Langer 1989, Langer 1997):

“the combination of on-going scrutiny of existing expectations, continuous refinement and differentiation of expectations based on newer experiences, willingness and capability to invent new expectations that make sense of the unprecedented events, a more nuanced appreciation of context and ways to deal with it, and identification of new dimensions of context that improve foresight and current functioning.” (Weick and Sutcliffe 2001, p. 32)

At a collective group level, a discrete body of research on High Reliability Organizations (HROs), emerged in the 1980s when the ‘Berkeley Group’ became concerned with organisations that repeatedly perform activities with ‘high hazard’ technologies but experience very few errors and incidents (Roberts and Libuser 1993, Rochlin 1993, Rochlin 1996). These organisations tended to rely on the following principles:

- Preoccupation with Failure –Encourage the reporting of errors and pay attention to any failures. These lapses may signal possible weakness in other parts of the organisation. Too often, success narrows perceptions, breeds overconfidence in current practices and squelches opposing viewpoints. This leads to complacency that in turn increases the likelihood that unexpected events will go undetected and snowball into bigger problems. - Reluctance to Simplify Interpretations –Analyse each occurrence through fresh eyes and take nothing for granted. Take a more complex view of matters and look for disconfirming evidence that foreshadows unexpected problems. Seek input from diverse sources, study minute details, discuss confusing events and listen intently. Avoid lumping details together or attempting to normalise an unexpected event in order to preserve a preconceived expectation. - Sensitivity to Operations – Pay serious attention to on-going operations and be aware of imperfections in these activities. Strive to make on-going assessments and continual updates. - Commitment to Resilience – Cultivate the processes of resilience, intelligent reaction and improvisation. Build excess capability by rotating positions, creating additional sources of knowledge and adding new skills. Be ready to handle the next unforeseen event. - Deference to Expertise – During troubled times, shift the leadership role to the person or team possessing the greatest expertise and experience to deal with the problem at hand. Provide them with the empowerment they need to take timely, effective action. Avoid using rank and status as the sole basis for determining who makes decisions when unexpected events occur.

This course will take you on a journey that helps you to explore and reflect upon your own mindfulness. It provides you with practical guidance on how to establish collective mindfulness, for the purpose of increasing your organisational resilience to deal with risk and uncertainty. In order to make learning effective but also fun, you will engage with games and a case study unlike any other – the K2 disaster in 2008.

Modalités d'enseignement

Organisation du cours

TypeNombre d'heuresRemarques
Face to face
Interactive class16,00   The Learning approach of the elective is one that emphasizes experiential learning driven by games, exercises and a case study.
Independent work
Reference manual 's readings10,00   Weick, K. & Sutcliffe, K., 2007. Managing the Unexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty, San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Independent study
Group Project2,00  
Individual Project12,00  
Charge de travail globale de l'étudiant40,00  

Méthodes pédagogiques

  • Presentation
  • Research
  • Interactive class
  • Case study


This course will be assessed in order to reward the learning achieved by individual reflection on Collective Mindfulness. You will receive a case study which requires a critical in-depth analysis in the form of a group presentation and an individual report.

Type de ContrôleDuréeNombrePondération
Continuous assessment
Oral presentation0,00030,00
Case study0,00070,00
TOTAL     100,00


  • Weick, K. & Sutcliffe, K., 2007. Managing the Unexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty, San Francisco: Jossey Bass. -

* Informations non contractuelles et pouvant être soumises à modification
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