“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go”

When Oscar Wilde coined this saying, he might have had business meetings in mind. Haven’t we all suffered in conference rooms at the hands of people who try to dominate, to interrupt, and to be generally contrary and uncooperative? We also know too many meeting participants who are, well, miserable….
In these circumstances it is only natural to celebrate quietly when they have to make a premature departure!
Happiness is one of those words we don’t readily associate with business. But that is almost certainly a mistake. There was an interesting study published last year by economists at the University of Warwick, and recently publicised by Damian Symons of the M&C Saatchi Group agency Clear at the Saatchi Institute event at the London Business School on 24th November. Symons reported that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive. As the research team put it, ‘we find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.’
Nor is it really about money. Financial incentives aren’t enough to make for highly productive employees. Professor Andrew Oswald, one of three researchers who led the study, said companies that invest in employee support and satisfaction tend to succeed in generating happier workers. At Google, employee satisfaction rose 37% as a result of those initiatives—suggesting that financial incentives aren’t enough to make for highly productive employees.
Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage, has found that the brain works much better when a person is feeling positive. At those times, individuals tend to be more creative and better at solving problems. And additional research has shown that when workers are happy they’re more effective collaborators working toward common goals.
Clear referenced another study – this time a paper published by the American Psychological Society in 1985, in which three researchers at the University of Maryland (Isen, Daubman and Nowicki) demonstrated through four linked experiments that happiness stimulates creativity. As the paper concludes, ‘the impact of positive affect on creative problem solving is that good feelings increase the tendency to combine material in new ways and to see relatedness between divergent stimuli. We hypothesize that this occurs because the large amount of cognitive material cued by the positive affective state results in defocused attention, and the more complex cognitive context thus experienced by persons who are feeling happy allows them a greater number and range of interpretations’.
In other words happy people are likely to out-perform people who are miserable in a challenging area like creative problem solving.
When I introduced my ‘Mote’ system for improved meeting culture in organisations I wasn’t aware of these studies. But I was very influenced by Tony Crabbe (who wrote Busy), and Roman Krznaric (the author of Empathy). Crabbe is passionate about the need to liberate successful business people from being ‘crazy-busy’, and feeling that at all times they must tell everyone how busy they are. Drastically reducing the amount of time they spend in largely unproductive meetings, will make these high-flyers not only far more effective, but also happier and better partners, parents and friends. Krznaric’s book is a plea to us all to try and feel how it would be to be in the other guy’s shoes. In his view, not only enlightenment, but also happiness, stems from not being dismissive, prejudiced and arrogant.
My own experience of a business lifetime spent in conference rooms was quite sufficient to be able to identify the negative and corrosive behaviours that make everyone, including the perpetrators, feel unhappy.
All of us have grown up in a business world built on the left brain pillars of efficiency, productivity and power. It is refreshing – to me at least – to realise that right brain values like happiness and consideration can prove just as potent.
This is David’s December blog for the Marketing Society.
Read more at https://www.marketingsociety.com/the-library/%E2%80%9Csome-cause-happiness-wherever-they-go-others-whenever-they-go%E2%80%9D#j4ZYUfEtczvuietA.99