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The value of positivity at work

All human beings want to be happy, healthy and live a good life. The pursuit of happiness has been studied and written about by philosophers and poets since time immemorial. Today great companies such as Zappos, view happiness as one of the major pathways to successful business, and even created a movement called “Delivering Happiness”. Google’s Chief Happiness Officer Chade-Meng Tan  wrote a book called “Search inside yourself” in support of living a happier life.

Some more “traditional” organizations and experts are including happiness as a major source of positive outcomes at work. Forbes Magazine published an article about the 10 Steps to Happiness at Work while Harvard Mentor hasformal training material on how to cultivate happiness in companies. Renowned Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, wrote a book “Stumbling on Happiness”.

The importance of happiness at work

Although it is intuitive, study after study shows that, when you are happy at work, you are more engaged in your job, you provide better customer service, you bounce back quicker from set-backs, you are a better team player and a better leader than those who do not experience happiness.

What then is happiness?

“Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy”. (Wikipedia, June 16th 2014)

Happiness is not just one feeling – it is overall sense of positive emotions, such as joy, clarity, comfort. Together these create a feeling of being happy. The ultimate outcome of a state of happiness is vitality – a dynamic sense of wellbeing.According to Martin Seligman, humans seems the happiest and experience living the good life when they have

  1. Pleasure(tasty food, warm baths, etc.),
  2. Engagement(or flow, the absorption of an enjoyed yet challenging activity),
  3. Relationships(social ties have turned out to be extremely reliable indicator of happiness),
  4. Meaning(a perceived quest or belonging to something bigger), and
  5. Accomplishments(having realized tangible goals).

The good news: Experts tell us we can practice happiness and they recommend we do – even at work

Some people believe that happiness is something that you should not “manufacture” or “create” because it would not be “authentic happiness”. Other people believe that you have a certain level of happiness, and that it cannot be changed.

The evidence is clear: Happiness does not “just happen”. Like other qualities such as confidence and grit, it can be cultivated. Happiness, like riding a bicycle, is something we can practice to improve on.

Of course, to be happy we need to have our basic needs met, in particular have sufficient funds to support ourselves and our families, have good health and live in a safe and secure environment.

“Happiness is not a spectator sport.” Chris Peterson


The Science of Happiness and Vitality

All the evidence that we have indicates that it is reasonable to assume in practically every human being, and certainly in almost every newborn baby, that there is an active will toward health, an impulse towards growth, or towards the actualization. Abraham Maslow

“Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.” (The Positive Psychology Centre)

Applied positive psychology is the practical application of evidence based positive psychology interventions. This includes positive health interventions, focusing on promoting people’s health assets – strengths that can  promote health and living longer.

The science of happiness includes positive neurosciences, positive health as well as environmental health. Maslow called his work positive psychology, and developed a list of “being” values that are generated through near-peak experiences where we experience “awe”.

Happiness is a unique burst of positive emotions that is also experienced as a sense of being “whole” in body, mind, soul and heart.

We are wired for happiness… This is why

Positive neurosciences and the research on the value of positive emotions show us that positive emotions broaden and build our cognitive and creative capacity.

Our search for Happiness causes us to search for pleasure, joy and for that which relieves suffering…which we gain through self-care and care of others. In the search for the good life millions of people transform themselves, their lives, communities and their environment as they deepen their understanding of the inter-connectedness of their happiness and that of the world around them. Happiness is at its’ optimum when it is shared.

“ Confucius taught a new way of finding the meaningful life through the cultivation of jen. A person of jen, Confucius observes, ‘wishing to establish her own character, also establishes the character of others’. A person of jen ‘brings the good things of others to completion and does not bring the bad things of others to completion’. Jen is felt in that deeply satisfying moment when you bring out the goodness in others.” Dacher Keltner

The state of awe, which is when we have an experience that is beyond what our best positive self could have imagined, has been demonstrated to provide enormous benefits for creativity as well as the desire and motivation to spread good feelings to others – spontaneously. During “a state of feeling awe where we experience ourselves as powerful, charismatic humans, our experiences in nature – are all founded on the sense of vastness and transcendence of the world” such “vastness becomes awe-inspiring when it requires accommodation – the process by which we update and change our core beliefs.” (Dacher Keltner)

The search for happiness is a natural and healthy state and pursuit for the mind, body, heart and soul, and essential for vitality and change agility. We are at long last be able to let go of outdated mental models that that humans are inherently flawed,  and that the search for happiness for ourselves, for our loved ones, at work, our teams and communities is  “inappropriate” or  idealistic, best left to those with rose-tinted glasses.


Vitality and the Digital Economy

We need energy and creativity  to thrive in the digital economy

Vitality originates from the Latin word: Vital, which means “life”. It is recognized through some form of dynamic expression. Vitality is more than just physical, it is also an internal experience. It is felt as deep energy, clarity, joy, stability, comfort and a sense of confidence and overall wellbeing.

Wellbeing should be seen not as only the absence of illness and disease, or the presence of health.

WellBEING refers to a healthy state of the nature or essence of a person.

Well refers to healthy, good, quality, plenty, enough

BEING refers to essence, existence, essential nature of a person.

Therefore WellBEING means a healthy and quality existence.

“You recognize your own path when you come upon it because suddenly you will have all the energy and imagination you need.” – Jerry Grilles


Pathfinder Leadership in the DigitalFuture

“Map new terrain rather than chart old landmarks.” – Marshall McLuhan


are people who are able to venture into the not-yet-known, return and show the path to a new future and reality to their community.

In our history these were the people who opened up new value in society, be it in innovative forms of art, thinking or business models.

DigitalFutures Leadership

The most crucial lever for digital  transformation is leadership development.

Redefining leadership is an important step in changing culture.

“Cultural change may correlate directly to how regularly a set of new ideas are mentally animated by everyone.” (David Rock – Founder of the Neuroleadership Institute)

Leadership in the digital economy arises not by formal appointment, but is earned through a powerful core mission, creative imagination and intuition, inspiration through direct experience, taking a stance, doing things without asking permission and being a role model for vital impact.

It emerges in unexpected ways through

  • Unintentional intention
  • Effortless Effort
  • Uncultivated Original Communication


The Future is Digital and Regenerative

“Within an incredibly short time and space, the Internet is becoming dramatically mobile, social, video and artificially intelligent – encompassing everyone and everything, becoming ubiquitous as water, air or electricity. In this context, it is crucial to embrace yet to humanise and transcend technology; to hone in on what makes us truly human rather than a ‘better machine’: things such as imagination and intuition, creativity, problem-solving, complex understanding, improvisation, emotions and plasticity. We must therefore let go of the ‘machine-work’ – and most its traditional metrics, KPIs and success measurements – to truly reinvent what our jobs, work and ‘professional services’ can mean in the future.” Gerd Leonhard

Deep technologies are developing fast while our understanding of human potential is not evolving at the same pace as we race towards exponential change.

As blockchain, smart contracts, robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, FinTech, VR/AR, nanotechnology, genetic engineering and the IoT revolutionize our world, we need to revolutionize our human practices to co-evolve with the digital transformation towards a future of sustained vitality.

Legacy human resources, leadership development and organizational development models and practices were created for a mechanistic, silo’d world: centralized, controlled from the top, layered with many (sometimes) conflicting and 20th century philosophies and ideas about human psychology, motivation and potential. In the VUCA world these are frequently expensive and difficult to implement, and often require dependency on a few experts who come with industrial strengths best practice accreditations, making it almost impossible to be agile, scale or change. Scientific evidence and advances in understanding human nature are available that demonstrates the poor return on investment and impact, for example, leadership development.

Merely disrupting people practices using new technology such as cognitive systems and decentralized technologies, will simply extend, accelerate and embed industrial operating systems and obsolete paradigms, such as extractive practices that harm other life forms,  into the future. This will re-create the problems that brought us here. Despite the promise of singularity, this could prevent humans from realizing their potential to co-create a more positive  and hope inspiring future.

We need to rewrite the technologies of human development.

A co-founder of Digital FuturesManie Eagar and I developed a white paper  to kickstart thinking and initiatives for adaptive and digital futures leadership to fuel the distributed future of the digital economy: