Happiness or Value?

21st century capitalism is shifting focus from making money to making meaning (ends vs. means, trailing indicators v leading indicators). This is good and necessary.  However, ‘happiness' is starting to dominate discussions about 21st C capitalism, even in governments' measures of economic growth.  While it is important to find happiness in life, make no mistake, even in the 21st C, business is all about value, not emotion.  To keep creating jobs, paying taxes for schools, donating to the arts, growing communities, etc., business must first and foremost create and deliver real value to customers (and then to other stakeholders, like shareholders).  Happiness  Value!

This is not to say that happiness isn't important.  It is.  It makes total business sense to try to create an environment in which employees can be happy.  The way Tony Hsieh has run Zappos is a great example of a ‘happy' culture...which delivers significant value.  But a company, a person, an experience is not responsible for another's happiness.

Happiness is taking on a tone of a right, of entitlement.  We must not go from "it's all about mywealth/stuff" to "it's all about my happiness" with "MY" remaining front and center.  Usually, happiness focuses on ‘me' - extrinsic, external things making me happy - my friends, my family, my job, my stuff, my stature, etc.  If happiness is the goal, it's a fool's errand - the desire/need to constantly feed it is insatiable.  The incredibly prescient Declaration of Independence states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident...endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..." As Saul Kaplan, a sage and friend, asked, what if the Founding Fathers had replaced ‘happiness' with ‘goodness'?

John Stuart Mill, a stalwart believer in free-markets and liberty, said, "Those only are happy who have their mind fixed on some object other than their own happiness...not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else they find happiness by the way."

What if that meant creating something truly good, truly valuable, consistently, for someone else?  Isn't that what companies should be doing? If they don't, we won't need to worry about happy employees and customers. So, in this 21st century, let's focus our energies, time, and resources on providing real and significant value.

Currency of 21st C? Connections!

Sitting behind me at BIF-6 last September was a nice, unassuming guy. We struck up a conversation. As a result, a wonderful friendship developed (which is easy to do at BIF).

This guy was Michael Lee Stallard. Three years ago, Michael wrote a very important book underscoring this very point, Fired Up or Burned Out. It was inspired from his own career experiences on Wall Street and Texas Instruments.

Michael’s point is that companies need to help their people achieve their potential if the company is to grow. The way to do this, while most call it ‘engagement,’ is by really truly connecting with your people and getting them to connect with each other. It’s not the formality of cross-functional meetings; it’s the depth of understanding and really connecting at a personal, even one-to-one level with your people.

Many companies go through various routines, some genuine, some perfunctory, to connect – town hall meetings, newsletters, videos, intranet discussion groups, picnics, etc. These are important ways to share information and help employees feel included.

But if there isn’t a real personal connection at some level, in some way, they can easily ring a bit hollow. This can be very threatening and confusing – it means making yourself vulnerable to those who work for you – but perhaps you really work for them!

In Michael’s book you learn how to start “connecting” with examples of how others have done it right, and wrong. He provides questions to ask yourself and others to get a feel for where you are and a roadmap for creating real genuine connections in your organization…ones that can make a big difference.

Interestingly, three years later, we are seeing this theme gaining traction and recognition. At the 2nd Annual Open InnovationSummit in Chicago, connections – relationships – trust was key to success.  At BIF-6, connections – relationships – trust was key to success (Saul Kaplan uses the term “connected adjacencies”).

Steve Denning’s new book, Radical Management, stresses the importance of connections – relationships – trust.  So does JohnHagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison in the Power of Pull.

In my professional life, it is the connections – relationships – trust that have gotten me to where I am (which is a good place) more than the achievements (patents, papers, etc.).  I had tremendous mentors at Bell Labs and AT&T, great clients who challenge me and wonderful colleagues who stretch and teach me.

This holds true in my personal life as well, with incredible parents, family and friends. The adage – it is all in who you know is really about how you know them as well. Read Michael’s book – it’s very worthwhile and worthy of your time. It can make a big difference for you personally and professionally…in fact, read it with your people!