Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How Should We Measure Success. -- GDP or SWB?

"Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy." H.L. Mencken observed that religious dynamic a century ago, but much has changed between then and now. Whereas it once was considered selfish, if not downright sinful, to focus on personal happiness, in modernity it is hard to find someone who isn't focused on it most ofmthe time, most often in the form of the question, "Why am I not happier?"

In our book, "Why Work Isn't Working Anymore," Fritz Aldrine and I spent a lot of time on this question vis a vis work and its role in happiness and satisfaction, but mostly how work has failed to make us happier and why. The book is regretfully out of print but remains available at in PDF format.

With a broader inquiry, some of the most knowledgeable are debating the issue of happiness, its measurement, and whether by measuring Gross Domestic Product we are missing the point which is happiness and satisfaction which can also be measured but which has been all but ignored.

You can follow the debate at

Ed Deiner, a leading authority on the measurement of subjective well-being and oft-cited on "Why Work Isn't Working Anymore," observes the following to kick off what will be a lively discussion:

"We analysed the relation of subjective well-being (SWB)to income in the Gallup World Poll, covering over 150 nations, for a five-year period. We see that in general income and life satisfaction correlate both in cross-section and longitudinally. Despite the high correlation between income and life evaluations, there are instances of poorer nations, such as Costa Rica and South Korea, being much happier. Furthermore, although income and SWB move together over time on average, there are many instances where income rises and SWB does not, and even where they move in opposite directions. These exceptions indicate that other important factors can influence the SWB of societies. In addition, and importantly, income correlates at much lower levels with enjoying life than it does with life satisfaction. By measuring SWB we can understand more about factors other than GDP that affect the quality of life of nations."

The SWB of workforces is the focus of our Credible Connections program, used by companies large and small worldwide.

The only requisite to participate is to believe that people matter and that employees are more than units of labor and deserve communication, positive relationships and respect.

More on this discussion as it proceeds . . .


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