Category: Happiness

My Take: 2017 World Congress on Positive Psychology

I recently attended the fifth annual World Congress on Positive Psychology (WCPP) in Montreal with Aimee and Karen. It was four amazing four days of inspiration and reflection. I’m already looking forward to the next WCPP in Melbourne in 2019 (it’s a bi-annual event).

As I did after the the last congress, I’m sharing my thoughts and observations from the four day event. There were many concurrent sessions, so my notes only reflect a small slice of the event.

What is Positive Psychology?

In case you’re wondering what Positive Psychology is all about, here’s a definition from the Positive Psychology Center:

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 field is still pretty fragmented, without many standardized definitions. Many of the thought leaders have created their own models (and related books), which push the field into many different (and mostly interesting) directions. Amongst all of that diversity, here’s my takeaway on what positive psychology is all about (and why it’s so important to what we do at Temkin Group):

  • People have the intrinsic ability to be happy and to flourish.
  • Changes in mindset can improve physical and mental well-being.
  • It makes good business sense to help customers and employees flourish.
  • The world will be a better place if more of its inhabitants can flourish.

Highlights from the 2017 WCPP

The 2017 WCPP provided a wide array of content over four days of keynote speeches and breakout sessions. The keynote content was heavily focused on research that covered the connection between positive psychology and education, physical well-being, and organizational effectiveness. Here’s a very, very small portion of highlights from some of the sessions:

  • Martin Seligman shares 5 career highlights. Seligman, who many consider the godfather of the positive psychology movement, shared his thoughts about the five big ideas that he’s been involved with over his career, and where he thought they might be headed in the future. What an inspirational kick off to the event! Here’s a brief glimpse into the five areas:
    • Learned Helplessness: Helplessness is a learned behavior — usually caused after experiencing an adverse situation. Clinical depression and related mental illnesses are often the result  from a perceived absence of control. The research in neuroscience may be able to “unlearn” helplessness and eliminate depression.
    • Preparedeness: Human beings are prepared to learn some things and not others based on how coherent the information is to evidence already in our minds. But why are some things we learn sticky? We tend to listen/observe for 60 seconds and then a default circuit kicks in about every 60 seconds so that we can compare what we’re learning against our existing ideas.
    • Learned Optimism: Optimistic people believe that the cause of problems are temporary and causal, and this thinking can be taught through resilience training. Since pessimistic thinking is a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease, this training can be very helpful for people who have heart disease and depression.
    • Homo Prospectus: We used to think that people think and behave based on what’s happened to them in the past, when in fact people are future oriented. So treating problems with anxiety and depression must deal with how people view their future, not their past.
    • Positive Psychology: The PERMA model has defined what well-being means, and he is seeing it being brought into class rooms, families, organizations, and even nations. He believes that this movement can bring unprecedented prosperity in the world, and it can create a level of human flourishing that only comes along every 500 years.
  • David Cooperrider is improving the world. Cooperrider is one of the most unassuming and amazing people that I have ever met. He’s the creator of appreciative inquiry, which he’s successfully applied to industries, religions, and the United Nations. He’s planning a world summit that is focused on radically improving early childhood education. The approach he will use (which he’s been very successful with in the past) is to bring together representatives from every aspect of the entire system (educators, administrators, politicians, parents, etc) and run appreciative inquiry sessions. This is like a large-scale, co-creation form of design thinking that he calls “Design Democracy.” He expects that this summit will be the start of a decade long effort.
  • Kim Cameron shows the power of positive energy. Cameron shared some of the work being done at the Center for Positive Organizations. He discussed how positive energy is a more important element to understanding the health of an organization than is a mapping of hierarchies or influence levels. The bottom line is that people in organizations who add positive energy (Energizers) are much more more valuable to the performance of an organization than are those who subtract energy (De-Energizers).

  • Steve Cole discusses well-being and genomics. His research was fascinating, as it examined the actual connection between mind and body. He found that eudaimonic happiness (the pursuit of personal fulfillment)  improves a person’s genomes, while hedonic happiness (the pursuit of pleasure) does not.
  • Alejandro Adler improves education. Adler is a postdoctoral fellow at UPenn who won an award for his amazing work on the field of education. He’s shown that infusing well-being into educational curriculum can have a dramatic impact on the success of the children. He discussed extraordinary results with large-scale interventions in Bhutan, Mexico, and Peru.
  • Johannes Eichstaedt measures well-being via social media. Eichstaedt used text analytics to study the correlation between well-being and the language that thousands of people write on Facebook and Twitter. He showed many fascinating connections, including the topics that are predictors of heart disease (see below). He then examined differences by locations and political affiliations.

  • Elissa Epel discussed the biology of aging. Epel showed that our pace of aging is not pre-determined, and that our perception of stress impacts our genomes. Her research shows that chronic stress shortens telomeres, which leads to increased inflammation and disease. In other words, we can lengthen our lives by better coping with stress.
  • Laura King inspires us to appreciate what we have. I need to say this… King was awesome. Her speech was passionate and impactful. She explained that people constantly seek and find meaningful associations in the world… like pavlov dogs. She made the case that we should not strive to “find meaningfulness,” but instead we need to recognize that our meaning in life is deeply rooted in our everyday experiences. We just need to open our eyes and notice the meaning in our lives.

Hopefully some of the connections between positive psychology and customer experience are pretty obvious. In a later post, I’ll more explicitly discuss the linkages between what we heard at the WCPP and CX.  For now, I’ll end with a slide from Kim Cameron’s presentation and urge that you inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.

The bottom line: You can make a positive difference in your life, and in the lives of others.

Happiness Affects How Consumers View Companies

After an inspiring weekend at the 2017 World Congress of Positive Psychology in Montreal, I decided to take a look at some of our data that connects positive psychology with customer experience. I started by examining the question:

Does the innate happiness of a consumer influence how she perceives her experiences with companies?

The answer is yes!

I analyzed the happiness of consumers (based on the degree to which they agree with the statement “I am typically happy“) and the Temkin Emotion Ratings ( a subset of the Temkin Experience Ratings) that they gave to companies with which they’ve recently interacted. The data represented more than 106,000 interactions across 20 different industries.

As you can see in the graphic below, consumers who are happier are more likely to rate their interactions as being positive emotional experiences and less likely to rate them as being negative emotional experiences.

The bottom line: Happy people make more emotionally connected customers.

Embrace Your Unalienable Right to Be Happy

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Happy July 4th!

While not everyone who reads my blog is celebrating a holiday today, I hope that everyone can embrace the sentiment described in the famous line above from the U.S. Declaration of Independence. If we look through the mindset of the time and replace “men” with “all people,” then this sentence is a powerful blueprint for our collective well-being.

It’s interesting that one of the three unalienable Rights that the founders of the country chose to highlight is the “pursuit of happiness.” As it turns out, happiness is also one of the three items that we’ve included in the Temkin Well-Being Index (along with healthiness and financial security).

As shown in the blog post The Human Side of Employee Engagement, happiness is a key ingredient to engaged employees. So how do you take advantage of this information?

Here are three simple steps:

  1. Be Happy. If you’re not happy, then you won’t have much capacity to think about other people, employees or customers. So how do I recommend being happy? By being grateful. A growing body of research shows that the act of being grateful actually makes people happy. So take some time every day to focus on the things that you are grateful for.
  2. Hire Happy People. Your organization probably screens employee candidates for professional experience, skills, and maybe even cultural fit. But those only tell a portion of the story about successful employees. If you want to build organizational empathy, screen candidates to make sure they are typically happy. Another way to say this is: Don’t hire unhappy people.
  3. Keep Employees Happy. HR processes focus a lot on hiring, firing, reviewing, and adjusting employees’ titles and compensation. But these are not the key drivers of employee happiness. What does motivate employees? Four intrinsic rewards: The sense of meaningfulness, choice, competence, and progress. Make sure that you focus on providing those things to your employees.

The bottom line: Have a very, very happy July 4th!

The Demographics of Happiness

1611_demographicsofhappinessTomorrow I will join millions of Americans in celebrating Thanksgiving. Many of us will spend the day with our families devouring turkey, stuffing, and other savory dishes while watching football games. It’s also a great time to actually give thanks.

I have a lot to appreciate; a wonderful family, a great group of friends, a thriving business, an amazing Temkin Group team, and the world’s best clients. As we know from the positive psychology movement, the act of appreciation creates happiness—and all of that makes me very happy.

Given the holiday, I decided to dig into Temkin Group’s Q3 2016 Consumer Benchmark Study and see who’s happy. I analyzed which of the 10,000 U.S. consumers in our study agree with the statement “I am typically happy.”

This first chart shows data from the 27 states where we had at least 100 respondents. As you can see, happiness ranges from a high of 83% in Oregon down to a low of 67% in Wisconsin and Indiana.
1611_hapinessbystate

The next set of charts show the level of happiness across different demographic segments:

  • Genderations: The happiest females are 75 and older, while 65- to 74-year-old males are the happiest (85% say that they are typically happy). 18- to 24-year-olds are the least happy, followed closely by 45- to 54-year-olds. Between the ages of 18 and 44, males are happier than females. Females are happier between 45- and 74-years-old.
  • Education: As the level of education increases, so does happiness. Eighty-five percent of those with an advanced degree are happy, compared with only 60% of those who did not graduate high school.
  • Ethnicity: There’s little variation in happiness across ethnic groups. Caucasians are the happiest (73%), but only three points above African Americans (73%).
  • Income: Only 60% of consumers making less than $25,000 per year are happy. Happiness rises with income until consumers’ household income hits about $100,000, after which happiness plateaus around 86%.
  • Family: Married people are happier. Eighty-four percent of those who are married with young children are happy, followed by married people with older children and with no children at all. The least happy people are those who are not married and do not have kids; only 66% are happy.

(more…)

Infusing Humanity Into CX, Discussion With Barry Schwartz

It’s CX Day in New Zealand, so that’s reason enough to kick off Temkin Group’s CX Day celebration. I can’t think of a better way to start CX Day in The Year of Emotion, then to share my Q&A with Barry Schwartz.

During this one hour video focused on Infusing Humanity into CX, we discuss some of Barry’s key findings about people and happiness, and explore what it means for customers, employees, and leaders. Sit back and enjoy the discussion, and then follow the links below for more information.

In case you don’t know Barry (and you should!), he’s the Emeritus professor of psychology at Swarthmore College, and has spent forty years thinking and writing about the interaction between economics and morality. 

This Q&A was a real pleasure for me, because Barry has heavily influenced my thinking over the years. He’s one of the key thought leaders of our time, and I believe that all CX professionals (and all leaders) can learn from him.

Here’s some of Barry’s work that we discuss:

Here’s some of our research that we discuss:

The bottom line: Thank you Barry Schwartz!

Off Topic: Feeling Grateful on Thanksgiving

While only some of you are celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope that all of you can find a way to be thankful today. Gratitude is a powerful tool that I hope you regularly embrace. I’m taking advantage of Thanksgiving to share 10 things for which I am very thankful:

  • My growing family. I am blessed to have a wonderful family that gives me great joy. Additionally, I’m really excited to meet my soon-to-be-born great niece.
  • The CXPA community. I really enjoy leading and being a part of the Customer Experience Professionals Association, because of the wonderful volunteers and the amazing culture of sharing across our community.
  • Temkin Group clients. We’re very lucky to work for and with such a wonderful group of people who are passionate about improving customer experience within their organizations. More importantly, they’re just really nice people.
  • Our Temkin Group team. We may be a small company, but I’m very proud of how our team sets the pace in CX thought leadership. We’re lucky to have such great people on our team.
  • The New England Patriots. I was bummed out when the Patriots lost to Kansas City, but it’s been really fun watching the team go on a dominant winning streak after that disappointing game. Now I’m hoping to see the team in the Superbowl. There’s a lot to learn from how Bill Belichick builds a resilient organization!
  • Red Sox retooling. Despite the Red Sox’ terrible year, I love following the team’s off-season (“hot stove”) activities, both rumors and transactions. It’s fun to watch how Ben Cherington and the rest of the Red Sox front-office are assembling next year’s team. I like the the Sandoval deal, but am not crazy about the Ramirez contract (although I like having his bat in the line-up).
  • Boston Celtics’ resurrection. I’m enjoying trying to figure out what moves Danny Ainge will make to (hopefully) transform the Celtics’ collection of young players and draft picks into a championship contender. I have mixed feeling on whether to keep or trade Rondo.
  • MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. Every year I look forward to spending two days at what Mark Cuban affectionately calls the dork-a-palooza. This wonderful conference combines two of my favorite things: sports and analytics. Actually, make that three things, since my son has been joining me the last couple of years.
  • NetFlix. After watching both seasons of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, along with my recent binge-watching of Prison Break, I’m hooked on NetFlix. Who wants to wait a week for the next episode of anything?!?
  • A sense of humor. I really enjoy laughing and am blessed to find so many things to be funny. That’s why I enjoy sharing this picture every year on Thanksgiving.

The bottom line: I hope that you and your family have a fantastic day (Thanksgiving or just plain Thursday) and that you find the way to be grateful for many, many things.

Female Sports Enthusiasts are the Happiest

In recent posts I explored the demographics of sports enthusiasts and the demographics of happiness. So why not  look at those two topics together? I dug into our U.S. consumer benchmark and examined the happiness of males and females who enjoy watching sports. As we know from the previous analysis, females are happier than males. But this analysis also shows that:

  • Females who enjoy golf are the happiest consumers.
  • The happiest males are those who enjoy golf, soccer, or tennis.
  • Consumers who enjoy sports are much happier than those who don’t.
  • The largest female-male happiness gap occurs with consumers who don’t enjoy sports. When it comes to sports enthusiasts, the largest gap is with golf, basketball, and football.

SportsHappinessGenderThe bottom line: Sports enthusiasts are happier people