Happiness in business pays off.

March 30th, 2012

Our founding fathers declared we have a right to “the pursuit of happiness.” The Dalai Lama wrote his bestseller “The Art of Happiness” over a decade ago as a handbook for achieving lasting happiness. There’s been a proliferation of business books in recent years with “Happy” or “Happiness” in the title. And the Harvard Business Review kicked off 2012 with a special double issue devoted to determining the value of happiness in the workplace. A series of articles conclude what the cover subhead declares: Employee well being drives profits.

Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert confirms what many already know:

  • Happy people are more creative and more productive.
  • People are happiest when they’re appropriately challenged. (Challenged does not mean threatened.)
  • Small stuff matters. The number of good experiences one has is more a factor in happiness than how good a single experience is.

And those facts are a meaningful segue to the “Creating Sustainable Performance” article by Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath. Their lead: “Happy employees produce more than unhappy ones over the long term.”

When the duo and their research partners at the Ross School of Business’s Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship began studying what factors contributed to sustainable individual and organizational performance, they found a better word for happy: They preferred thriving. The thriving workforces were made up of people not just satisfied and productive, but also focused on and committed to creating the company’s future as well as their own. They were highly energized, performed better overall, reported 125% less burnout than their peers, and went to the doctor less often.

Spreitzer and Porath identified two critical components of thriving. The first is vitality, as in the sense of feeling alive, passionate and excited and whose energy is contagious. The second is learning; people who develop through new knowledge and skills are more likely to believe in their future growth.

Now while some people thrive no matter what – and you know I believe it’s possible for anyone to become a “thriver” – in seven years of research Spreitzer, Porath and their colleagues found four interrelated mechanisms necessary for a company to create a culture of thriving:

  • Provide decision-making discretion. Empower people to make decisions that affect their work. Invite employee input into decisions that would improve overall company service and performance.
  • Share information. People contribute more effectively when they understand the bigger picture. Knowing how their work fits with the company’s mission and strategy increases a sense of ownership.
  • Promote civility. In their research with Christine Pearson, a professor at Thunderbird School of Global Management, the authors found that half of employees who experienced rude or disrespectful behavior at work intentionally decreased their effort and more than a third deliberately decreased the quality of their work. Clearly the Golden Rule rules in a thriving work environment.
  • Offer performance feedback. It’s critical for creating a culture that thrives. Fast, direct feedback can quickly dispel feelings of doubt and uncertainty and allows people to stay focused on work and goals.

And no matter what your role is in an organization, you can create a mindset for developing your own thriving environment, both personally and professionally. There are simple things you can do to create more positive energy and boost your vitality. Commit to meditating, exercising, getting enough sleep, spending time with the people that matter to you, volunteering. Feel good. Be happy. Thrive.




How’s your mindset for success?

March 23rd, 2012

Anyone can change his or her mindset. In other words what you think about and how you think about it can be practiced into ideas that match your goals and inspire you to act. Habits of thought that hold you back or beliefs that limit you or your situation can be transformed.

idea by tony dowler

Here’s a video clip from EO Alchemy that I hope triggers some self-examination, frees your mind and gets you thinking about the future you’ll create.



A brainy new gadget? I’m all ears.

March 16th, 2012

While people lined up overnight for the new iPad at Apple stores from Madison to Tokyo, it was actually a Japanese gadget that captured my attention this week. And if I’d had one, my ears literally would have shot up with excitement. My cat ears, that is.

The new fuzzy-eared headband called “Necomimi” – or cat ears in Japanese – is a communication device that’s controlled by the wearer’s thoughts and emotions. Created by a company called Neuroware, Necomimi uses the latest neuroscience imaging technology to detect brain waves and interpret them.

The ears shoot up when the wearer is focused. They flatten when the wearer is relaxes. When a person is relaxed but also focused on a specific activity, like reading a book or playing a game, the ears twirl around in a circle. When brain activity is low, the ears just flap gently back and forth. See it in action here.

The technology to control objects just by thinking about them has been in development in labs around the world for years to assist wheelchair users or help people who’ve lost limbs control prosthetic devices. And brain-computer interfaces continue to be explored. Whether it’s serious science or hi-tech fashion fun, the point remains that while brain activity can be monitored, harnessed and interpreted, it’s still the energy of thoughts and emotions that trigger the activity. It’s mind over matter, always.

Brain Food variety pack.

March 9th, 2012

Percolate and chill are not just steps for making an iced coffee.  Add some brainy “meandering” to the combination and you’ll have a recipe for stimulating artistic or scientific creativity. According to one expert, your brain often does its best work at considering alternatives when you’re not trying so hard.

Barry Gordon, professor of neurology and cognitive science at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, shares two other proven methods for getting your brain to work more productively in this month’s Scientific American Mind magazine.

For solving complex problems, Gordon says your best strategies are focus and optimization. It’s not always easy to shut out distractions and concentrate your full attention on one task, but doing so gives your neural networks the firing power to get your answer. In other words, focused energy at its best.

And optimization means looking beyond the limitations of your own beliefs and biases and considering alternative solutions. The more you search for a mix of ideas, the better your brain will be at finding the best possible solution.

Tell me, when are you your most productive?




The latest talk about TED.

March 2nd, 2012

My hairdresser tells me he watches TED Talks online most nights before bed. My brother attended a local TEDx event in San Diego a few months ago. And in last year’s Muppets movie, Kermit’s former assistant Scooter now works at Google and is going to a TED conference.

For anyone who might ask “Who’s Ted?” it’s four-day TED conferences of short talks on innovative and inspiring ideas that have gone viral in popularity online via tedtalks.com. And TED is at the heart of a feature story by Brooklyn journalist and author Benjamin Wallace in this week’s New York magazine, titled “Those Fabulous Confabs.”

Wallace, who notes his own Taste3 talk is posted on ted.com, gives a complete albeit sardonic perspective of the smart-talk conference phenomenon and poses some questions that challenge its meaning and future. It’s a good read that includes this list of TED’s most popular conference talks.

1. Ken Robinson on Creativity
“By the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost the capacity to take a chance. They have become frightened of being wrong. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth: for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won’t serve us.”

2. Jill Bolte Taylor on Her Own Stroke
“In the course of four hours, I watched my brain completely deteriorate in its ability to process all information. At first I was shocked to find myself inside of a silent mind. But then I was immediately captivated by the magnificence of the energy around me.”

3. David Gallo on Underwater Life
“Today we’ve only explored about 3 percent of what’s out there in the ocean. And in a place where we thought there was no life at all, we find more life, we think, and diversity and density than the tropical rain forest, which tells us that we don’t know much about this planet at all.”

4. Arthur Benjamin on Mathemagics
“I combine my loves of math and magic to do something I call ‘mathemagics.’ I know as a magician we’re not supposed to reveal our secrets. [But] without any more stalling, here we go. Now, 57 times 68 is 3,400 plus 476 is 3,876, that’s 38,760 plus 171, 38,760 plus 171 is 38,931 … ”

5. Hans Rosling on Stats
“I would like to compare Uganda with South Korea with Brazil. You can see that the speed of development is very, very different, and the countries are moving more or less at the same rate as money and health, but it seems you can move much faster if you are healthy first than if you are wealthy first.”

There are more than 900 TED Talks now available online. If you were to give a TED Talk, which of your ideas do you think is most worth spreading? Can you guess mine?