Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Are You Happy Now?

That’s what British lawmakers want to know. In the wake of moves by some other countries, the UK Government is embracing the fact that people’s well-being has more to do with immediate experience than with GDP, unemployment and the national deficit. That’s why officials might soon start measuring the happiness of the British people; and not before time.

As I’ve written, money and happiness don’t always go hand in hand. Money definitely helps people achieve their goals and have meaningful experiences, but in the day to day it’s no guarantee.

This is a truth for governments to get a handle on. Economies will have good years and bad years, but what’s truly important for the health of a nation isn’t the bank balance of its citizens; it’s their wellbeing. It’s the job of lawmakers to create an environment where people can thrive and enjoy those experiences that make life meaningful.

This goes for business as well. Enterprises that become loved don’t just focus on delivering the best value to people; they leap the high bar from ‘Product as hero’ to ‘Consumer as hero.’ They switch price-focused value to priceless value. There is a determination to make consumers’ lives better in ways that transcend price.

The experience could be anything from the youth, escape, and freedom in a can of Pepsi to gesture-based time travel of the universe on an iPad.

By shifting measurement from GDP to something like GDH, “Gross Domestic Happiness”, governments get into the priceless value business. In Britain the deficit is gaping, and the Cameron government is determined to scale back government spending at every turn. The goal should be to trim the fat in ways that make people’s everyday lives better. In the Age of Now, measuring national happiness will be integral to pulling this off.


a.d. said...

Maybe I'm naive, but I'd like to think that for most people, happiness would be an automatic state of affairs if the stresses of life were removed.

I know that many of my friends have huge mortgages. They have to work at least one job (both parents working), and they worry constantly that ill health or retrenchment will pull the rug out and they'll have to face losing the house. The fear of the worst-case scenario plus the belief that the mortgage-holder is their nemesis rather than their friend, adds up to a constant stress and thus minimises the chance of real happiness.

An alternative to this one example of losing the house in the event of mortgage default might be to transition to some sort of rental at an affordable level, while putting actual mortgage repayments on ice for up to two years.

I believe there's always a less-stressful way of handling life's difficulties - we simply have to agree to look for it.

Perhaps governments could improve the GDH just by enforcing a gentler approach from commercial entities when people fail to live up to their commmitments. Acknowledging that we all fail sometimes and deciding to work together to overcome problems might be an entirely happiness-focused way of approaching life.

OZECHAD said...

Yes you are correct. There's a lot more going on here. Fundamentally much of the world as we know it is broken! Who can "we the people" really believe or trust anyway! - Governments are failing, Financial Institutions greed have sent 'us' broke, Health, Immigration, Education is becoming a farce...it would seem the very systems/institutions designed by smart people to look after us are totally out of touch. As a professional who works within the economic development space Kevin has hit the nail right on the head as did Don Tapscott (wikinomics) when he recently posted something very special:
Tony Chadwick (ozechad)