What We Know About What Happiness Is and How To Find It: Recommended Reading

Lomas, T. (2022). Happiness. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Lots has been said about what happiness is, why we care about it, and how to achieve it. Little rigor has been applied to describing the terrain of what humanity knows about happiness. Until now.

With this very clear, structured exploration, Lomas provides a map to understanding what these many perspectives contribute to a collective description of what happiness is, where it comes from, the different forms it takes, its architecture, what drives it, and what facilitates it showing up.

For minds like mine that appreciate a structure to guide understanding of how this all fits together, Lomas has provided us a very skillfully designed pathway to engaging in what we already know, as humanity, about something so basic to our existence, and what remains to be uncovered. I highly recommend this book.

Human Flourishing through the Discipline of Tennis

Click here to see the presentation. It has also been translated into Spanish.

Most great disciplines teach both the practice of the discipline and the deeper art of being human through the discipline. Tennis is one of these great disciplines. My colleague and ISC Fellow Hernando Aguilera was invited to share what we are learning about human flourishing through the ecosynomics of abundance-based agreements with the premier World Tennis Conference, co-hosted by the Global Professional Tennis Coach Association, the Association of Tennis Professionals, and the Segal Institute. Hernando is a lifelong tennis player, ranking nationally as a youth and now actively involved in supporting his local tennis-club leadership and his children in becoming tennis players.

Hernando invited me to join him in this 45-minute presentation, where we describe the ideas and provide specific examples of their application in coaching tennis:

  • What is meant by Human Flourishing
  • Paradigms of abundance versus scarcity
  • Important elements in the context of tennis
    • Naming
    • Purpose
    • Human experience cycle
    • Context for flourishing in tennis
    • Level of agreements
    • Measuring progress

We invite you to engage with us in how you can shift and sustain your discipline of tennis towards greater human flourishing.

Advancing Sustainability Leadership, One Agreement Structure at a Time: Recommended Reading

Ritchie-Dunham, J. L., A.C. Gonçalves, M.A. Huerta, C. Mataix, J, Lumbreras, J. Moreno-Serna, J.D. Spengler, W.M. Purcell. (2023). Advancing Sustainability Leadership by Shifting Relational ‘Agreement Structures’: A Transformational Higher Education Change Program. Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences, 20(1), 2190385. [open access]

Delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires leaders to navigate different fields and work across public, private, and plural sectors. Higher education is positioned uniquely to bring disciplines together and convene leaders from business, government, and civil society by designing customized learning encounters. Here we explore the creation and delivery of a change program for leaders concerned with the SDGs based on a framework for understanding and shifting underlying relationships – termed here, agreement structures.

Excited to share this open-access publication, which highlights an inspired program that came together with faculty from Harvard and the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. A privilege to design, deliver, and write up this wonderful time in Madrid in June 2019. Thank you to my co-adventurers Ana Cláudia GonçalvesMaría A. HuertaCarlos MataixJulio LumbrerasJaime Moreno SernaJack Spengler, and Wendy Purcell.

Smart Organizations Thrive on Healthier Ecosystems, The Rest Survive by Depleting Their Ecosystem: Recommended Readings

Chapman, B., & Sisodia, R. (2015). Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family. New York: Portfolio/Penguin.

Joly, H., & Lambert, C. (2021). The Heart of Business: Leadership Principles for the Next Era of Capitalism. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Mayer, C. (2018). Prosperity: Better Business Makes the Greater Good. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Serafeim, G. (2022). Purpose and Profit: How Business Can Lift Up the World. Nashville: HarperCollins Leadership.

You can grow more quantity and higher quality of food in a healthier ecosystem of nutrients, sun, and water, than you can in a depleted ecosystem that lacks these key factors for growing food. Likewise, people flourish better when they are engaged in a thriving ecosystem that improves their physical, mental, social, and spiritual health, far more than when they are disengaged in a depleted ecosystem that deteriorates their physical, mental, social, and spiritual health. Hopefully, both of these examples seem obvious. Yet, most people don’t run their organizations as if this were true. And, some do.

The four books I reference above, by a couple of business leaders and a couple of business scholars, all show what organizations are finding out about how to improve the quality of the ecosystem they depend on for their survival. In its most basic form, an organization depends on the revenues or funds from serving customers, people whose needs for a product or service they are satisfying. No customers, no inflow of funding. The organization also depends on the communities and regulators where they operate to give them permission to operate. No permission, no operation. Organizations also depend on the support of people who do the work to transform inputs into the products and services the organization offers, whether employees, contractors, or suppliers. If nobody transforms the inputs, there is no offering. And, organizations depend on the inflow of monies from equityholders (investors) and debtholders (banks). No capital, no organization. These holders of the needs, permission, and support form the organization’s immediate ecosystem of relationships. If this ecosystem is healthy, the organization has a higher probability of survival than if the ecosystem is weak. Yet, most organizations are designed to extract value from some of these stakeholders to serve others, which ends up depleting the very ecosystem they depend on for survival. These four books show how strengthening this ecosystem of relationships leads to stronger, more profitable, engaging, and profitable organizations.

Oxford Professor Mayer wonders why this is not obvious, why have organizations evolved into extractive forms? “The corporation is the creator of wealth, the source of employment, the deliverer of new technologies, the provider of our needs, the satisfier of our desires, and the means to our ends. It clothes, feeds, and houses us…At the same time, it is the source of inequality, deprivation, and environmental degradation…But is the corporation capable of bearing the responsibilities being placed on its shoulders? The evidence is not encouraging”…How do we make it the creator of prosperity of the many not just the few? (pp1-2). In this book, Mayer takes “you across history, around the world, through philosophy and biology to business, law, economics, and finance to arrive at an understanding of where we have gone wrong, why, how we can put it right, and what specifically we need to do about it. It will provide you with an understanding of why our businesses and corporations are such powerful instruments for advancing human well-being and how their incorrect depiction has had such devastating consequences for our societies, politics, and environment” (p12). He suggests that we “get credit where credit is due but not where it comes from the damage you do” (p137).

Joly and Lambert describe the experience at Best Buy in “embracing and mobilizing all stakeholders,” where they inquired how they went about “delighting customers,” “partnering with vendors and competitors,” “helping the community thrive,” while “rewarding shareholders” (pp82-91). To align an organization around its deeper purpose, Joly led an effort to connect dreams, develop human connections, foster autonomy, achieve mastery, put the wind at your back, and focus on purposeful leadership.

Chapman and Sisodia provide examples of how they treat the people who show up to support the transformation of inputs into outputs, the employees. They describe what BarryWhemiller has learned about the guiding principles of leadership, where they “measure success by the way (they) touch the lives of people” (p53). “Truly human leadership means sending people home safe, healthy, and fulfilled” (p71). “Trust is the foundation of all relationships; act accordingly” (p116).

Harvard Business School Professor Serafeim shares research that shows that “purpose-driven enterprises that genuinely create value for society do better, and the effect only increases over time” (p11). The research shows that “purpose-driven companies..perform substantially better than their competitors, with significant, positive risk-adjusted stock returns of above 6 percent annually. This may be in part because they are attracting better workers, or because their workers are motivated to work harder when they believe in the purpose of their job. It may be in part because customers see these same signals and would like to do business with those companies or buy their products, and are even willing to pay a premium to do so. Purpose and success are shown by the research to be closely aligned” (p20).

Four explorations by reflective practitioners, from company leaders and from scholars, about what we can do to generate greater health in the very ecosystems our organizations depend on for survival. I highly recommend these four books.

Good News! Humans Can Flourish: Recommended Reading

Briggs, A., & Reiss, M. J. (2021). Human Flourishing: Scientific Insight and Spiritual Wisdom in Uncertain Times. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Haidt, J. (2006). The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. New York: Basic Books.

Waldinger, R., & Schulz, M. (2023). The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Study on Happiness. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Good news. It is possible for human beings to flourish. Now there are lots of examples of how people are figuring this out. To measure how well someone is doing, Andrew Briggs and Michael Reiss propose we look at the material, relational, and transcendent dimensions of the human experience. Their book explores what we know today, from research and practice about what these three dimensions are, how they show up in human life, the great diversity of ways people express them, and how they all three contribute to a life well lived. It is not about achieving a high level of one of them, but rather the coherence in all three of them.

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores ancient wisdom and modern research to see what causes this flourishing for humans, what gets in the way of flourishing, which of those obstacles are self-inflicted, and how we might take ancient wisdom and apply it to our lives today. In our thinking, in our social relationships, in the purpose that organizes our lives, and in how we develop the capacities we need to flourish along the way.

Directors of an 85-year study of the lives of 2,000 people, covering three generations in the same families, Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz tease out the biological, psychological, and sociological factors that most determine a good life, as determined by the participants, over a long life. While many factors affect one’s experience and choice of a good life, their study shows that strong relationships are the most fundamental predictor. Your intimate partner, family, close friends, work colleagues, and neighbors. They all contribute to your “social fitness.”

This is exciting terrain, into which I too have jumped. I am part of four large-scale efforts to describe human flourishing. The Harvard-Baylor-Gallup-COS Global Flourishing Study looks at the conditions affecting the flourishing of 240,000 people in 22 countries over 5 years, where my teams will be looking at the “close social relationships” across the globe, as well as all of the questions for Mexico and Spain. At Harvard’s Center for Work, Health, & Well-being, we are looking at what drives the level of thriving of workers and how that influences enterprise-level outcomes. In the Global Initiative to Map Ecosynomic Deviance and Impact Resilience, the Institute for Strategic Clarity is using (1) the Agreements Health Check survey to identify the positive deviants who are experiencing high levels of human flourishing across the globe, having already surveyed 132,000 groups in 126 countries, as well as (2) a longitudinal dataset across the ecosystem of a large microfinance bank to measure the total value generated across an organization’s ecosystem. And, through the Harvard-Oxford Leadership for Flourishing initiative, we are assessing the characteristics of leadership for flourishing and how it manifests across a wide variety of organizations, and we have proposed the Global Flourishing Goals for the UN Agenda 2050, which will be publicly presented in May 2023 by UNESCO’s Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development.

What Numbers Could Show You: Recommended Reading

Harford, T. (2020). How to Make the World Add Up. London: The Bridge Street Press.

Seeing what is in front of us. Sounds easy. Often it is. Sometimes it is not. What tools can help us know when what we think we are seeing is indeed what we are seeing?

You know the old saying that you can tell any lie with statistics. Another way of framing that is that, “It’s easy to lie with statistics–but it’s even easier to lie without them” (p19). By “cynically dismissing all statistics…we’re admitting defeat to (those)..who want us to shrug, give up on logic and evidence, and retreat into believing whatever makes us feel good” (p20). Instruments that help us measure can be useful–X-rays to see bones, microscopes to see bacteria, and telescopes to see far away stars (p19). Instruments don’t show us the “truth”: they can help us see more clearly. They can help us not let our emotions trick us. Our emotions are very useful, most of the time. Sometimes, we allow them to trick us into believing something because we want to, independent of the evidence facing us. Here is where evidence can help us, and numbers can provide an entryway into understanding what the evidence shows.

Hartford provides a process for using numbers to clarify what we are seeing.

  1. Search your feelings. Are you trying to convince yourself? Are you trying to see a specific answer in the evidence? You might be pulling a confidence game on yourself.
  2. Ponder your personal experience. Does what you are seeing in the numbers add up with your experience? Where is the evidence coming from? Why might your experience be different than what the evidence was describing? A different context, a different time of day, a part of a bigger pie, or a bigger pie?
  3. Avoid premature enumeration. Before accepting the interpretation of the numbers, look at what is actually being counted and how it is being counted. Often it is in the very definition of what they are measuring to answer their question that they have done something completely different than what you thought.
    • When I ask the leaders of a company how much inventory they have, they all pop off an answer. The answers can vary tenfold. Because they are measuring different things. Because of their role in the company, some see inventory as the total amount of work in process, while others see inventory as the amount of completed product that is packaged and ready to send to a specific customer. They can both be right, and defining the question and what to measure in very different ways. The problem isn’t in the definitions or the measurement, but rather in me asking the question and getting an answer, without the clarity in definitions.
  4. Be curious. Hartford then walks you through how to look at the numbers provided. How to understand the back story. Look at who is not included in the data gathered. Keep an open mind.

The point is to see what is right here to see. To see what it shows us about the question we are asking. There are lots of traps along the way. Many of them we inadvertently create for ourselves. Some of them are created by others. This process helps us use our own emotions and curiosity to understand what we are looking at before we let it influence what we see in what is right here to see. Thank you, Tim.

The Value of Purpose: Recommended Reading

Spence, Jr., Roy M. and H. Rushing (2009). It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business Is Driven By Purpose. New York, Portfolio.

Everywhere you turn today, there are “nice” stories about the power of purpose. Roy Spence is a seasoned marketing and advertising executive who is very serious about the success of his business and those of his clients like Southwest Airlines, BWM, Wal-Mart, and the University of Texas. It is because he takes their success so seriously that he and his team have researched what leads to consistently stable success. He finds that a key driver is purpose, and taking that purpose seriously is what differentiates the most successful groups. “Human beings are a passionate species. We want to engage in meaningful work” (p25). Having this purpose helps organizations “attract ‘a certain kind of energetic person'” (p25). “Imagine what the culture of your organization would look like and feel like if everyone had knowingly and intentionally signed up for the purpose at hand” (p27).

The continuous practice of that purpose matters. “As human beings our minds easily wander off track. It’s easy to lose focus. A strong sense of values, beliefs, and purpose will keep everyone on track” (p22). We found a process that supports this in the Institute for Strategic Clarity’s global research of high-performing groups in 126 countries. We call it the “O Process,” which we describe in a case study in the book Ecosynomics: The Science of Abundance (2014). The O Process focuses a group, whenever it gathers, on its purpose, as a group, and how that purpose relates to the organization’s deeper shared purpose. Spence and Rushing found that what seems obvious is seldom done well–“the company has to have something of genuine value to offer to consumers…When you have a purpose at the heart of the company, it will drive the business and ensure that something remarkable is happening with the product or service” (p23).

Spence and Rushing provide a very practical guide, with lots of examples from their work with leading organizations, to discover and articulate your purpose, then build an organization and leadership around the purpose, ultimately engaging your customers with that purpose. They provide examples of how this works for businesses, membership organizations, nonprofits, universities, and sports organizations. I highly recommend this practical book.

Top 5 Most Viewed Posts in 2022

In 2022, the 5 most viewed posts on this blog were:

Why Human Flourishing Should Be The Purpose of An Economy: Humanity 2.0

Are you better off today than yesterday? Physically, emotionally, socially, mentally, ethically? Because of your interactions with others? Many people say they are better off after a good workout or times with good friends and family. What about after a day at work?

What is the role of leadership for flourishing? Should flourishing be something we consider in our work life? My colleagues in Harvard’s Center for Work, Health, & Well-being, where I am a department associate, are discovering the elements of the work environment that lead to thriving experiences for workers.

Humanity 2.0 and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, with the Harvard Human Flourishing Program, where I am a research affiliate, invited me to give a talk this past November at the 2022 Human Flourishing Forum in the Vatican addressing the question of why human flourishing should be the purpose of an economy. You can see the talk by clicking on the link below.

Basically, I suggest that when we take human flourishing into account in our human interactions, we see greater engagement and better results, throughout the ecosystem of your organization. When we do not consider the whole-human experience, we see lower engagement, massive energy loss, and thus worse results. It is that simple. I show how we can measure this.

I invite you to see the other talks by my colleagues Matthew Lee, Brian Wellinghoff, and Katy Granville-Chapman, as well as Fr. Ezra Sullivan, and Jonathan Lever, as well as panels on each theme. I am grateful for this experience, seeing how to accelerate what is possible for humanity.

Truly Circular Economies Require Deep Collaboration: Recommended Reading

Ritchie-Dunham, J. L. (2023). Truly Circular Economies Require Deep Collaboration: The Principles Underlying Successful Circular Economies. The Impossibilities of the Circular Economy: Separating Aspirations from Reality. H. Lehmann, C. Hinske, V. de Margerie and A. Slaveikova Nikolova. New York, Routledge.

Zero Waste. No longer a fantasy, people are starting to figure this out. How to not generate waste and pollution with the products we consume.

To do this requires systemic logic, replacing the more commonplace linear logic. Design it out from the beginning.

How do you do this? We are excited to share a chapter we have written, “Truly circular economies require deep collaboration_The principles underlying successful circular economies” in the just-published book “The Impossibilities of the Circular Economy” (Routledge 2022).

You can purchase the print book [https://lnkd.in/eWtHmAHT]. An Open Access version is also available, at the same link.