Today - Wednesday, 20 March 2013 - is a special day. It is the International Day of Happiness, proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations, because the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human need. But what is happiness anyway? And what does this mean to companies?
The status of a country is usually deduced from their Gross National Product: the total value of all goods and services produced in a given period. Not in Bhutan, where King Wangchuk in 1972 developed a new measure: Gross National Happiness. On the basis of 33 indicators the 'turnover' of the country is measured, including health, psychological well-being, education, culture, governance, community, ecology, living standards and the use of time. In Bhutan they look further than their pay check, people come first. Notwithstanding these noble initiatives, there are also critics: many measures are subjective and negative developments (such as crime) are not deducted. But still, we can learn much from Bhutan.
Over the years Bhutan has become an inspiration. In 2012 the Earth Institute published - commissioned by the United Nations - the World Happiness Report. Some notable conclusions in it: -
How entrepreneurs can use this knowledge?
Ricardo Semler is the CEO of a Brazilian company called SEMCO. He is a man devoid of authoritarian structures. This is proved by the fact that on his first day as CEO he fired as much as 60% of his executive team. Multiple times Semler was proclaimed 'Brazilian businessman of the year’ because of his unorthodox management style. SEMCO is characterized by an open culture with lots of room for personal initiatives: there are no fixed working hours, no dress code and a minimal number of procedures. The company consists of independent cells where every employee has access to and participates in de business, even on financial level. The employees have real freedom, there is a genuine trust. And it pays off, because annually SEMCO grows 25% on average!
Actually, the message is simple: the happier employees are, the better they perform. Ensure that people are genuinely involved in the organization and enjoy their work, that's the point. Or as Semler himself puts it: "If we do not let people do things the way they do, we will never know what they are really capable of and they will just follow our boarding school rules."
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