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2020 Summit Special: Happiness is a serious business, with Nic Marks

In this episode 

  • Happiness vs work?
  • Feelings are data
  • Friday Pulse
  • Positive and negative emotions
  • Success = happiness?

Happiness vs work

Nic Marks grew Friday Pulse from a career-long passion for work-life happiness. He draws from Daniel Kahneman’s 2004 Day Reconstruction Methodology, in which people were asked to divide their day up into activities they did and then rate each in terms of how happy they felt. The data shows that the time spent on the activity is almost exactly opposed to the amount of happiness gained from it. Nic says, “I found this kind of desperately sad for the human condition. You know, we spend a lot of time at work, and we find it the least enjoyable activity.”

Feelings are data

Therapists often look at feelings as data and information we can use in decision making. Nic discusses Antonio Damasio’s understanding of feelings as a way of receiving signals from our environment. And how feelings help motivate us and adjust to our environments. These elements can help measure happiness “in every data set there is. It’s called an Eigenvalue, but basically it’s the structure of the data. So in the middle there’s a big Good/Bad signal”. 

Friday Pulse 

Friday Pulse grew from Nic’s passion for finding the Good/Bad signal for happiness and translating it into something usable. “We can look at happiness as our Good/Bad signal, and we can put numbers on that… we can say give me a 1 for this, give me a 5 for this, and suddenly we’ve translated a feeling into data”. Friday Pulse collected data on happiness across all client teams in the run-up to 2020, and through the first lockdown. This allowed clients to monitor their happiness each week. 

Positive and negative emotions 

It is important to point out the different forms of happiness. Emotions have multiple meanings and evolutionary formations – anger to deal with threats and sadness to deal with loss. So in assessing happiness at work, you also have to understand what type of happiness, and what forms of happiness you want to promote. For example, you want your team to feel curiosity as a form of happiness that is really intellectually engaged. These types of emotion are often harder to measure quantitatively and, as a result, require qualitative data and looking for trends against more obvious measures like staff retention and success. 

Success = happiness 

We all want to build happier, more successful teams to scale our companies faster, and Nic’s data shows that you can’t really maintain one without the other. “If you’re building an organisation, don’t think that team building and happiness is a nice to have, it’s essential”. Of course, happy unproductive teams may exist – but as you would expect they will quickly collapse and some teams may be successful even though they are unhappy, and members are likely to leave. “There is a correlation coefficient.  It’s true that success does lead to more positive feelings…but the other way round it was twice as strong.” To grow though the pandemic at a continued speed, teams will need positive energy for a creative, successful environment. As “in a world that demands more and more innovation from us all the time, mood is massively important.” 

Recommended Reading

Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman

The Strange Order of Things- Antonio Damasio 

Drive- Daniel Pink 

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