Friday, December 18, 2009

Happiness for all

If you're angry, anxious or depressed, there's new hope. Richer, happier lives are now possible thanks to a new approach to mental and emotional well being called positive psychology.

And there are better days for the rest of us who live normal or contented lives. We too can now become happier and more successful. All thanks to Dr. Martin Seligman, who founded the field in 2000.

It's goodbye to the old disease model that dominated our thinking for much of the 20th Century. Back then we treated alcoholism and depression just like any other medical problem, as victims of pathologies rather than life choices. With drugs and psychological methods. The best we could hope for was to reset our misery clocks back to "zero" to live "empty", inert and unfulfilled lives.

Seligman discovered there are very few differences between happy and sad people. Happy people are not better looking, richer, fitter or more religious than miserable people. Just very social, with secure romantic relationships and a rich repertoire of friends.

And there are three kinds of happy lives, in ascending order of enjoyment:

* the pleasant life. We enjoy as many pleasures as we like, but be warned. The effects wear off through frequent use (or over indulgence) via a process of habituation. And because 50 per cent of the benefits are genetic or cultural -we get that from our parents - there's not much you can change.

* the engaged life. We become so absorbed in our work, parenting, leisure activities, games or romance, we enter a state of peak experience called Flow, where time flies and we are completely in harmony with the world around us.

* the meaningful life. We pursue relationships that make a difference to our lives. We apply our best strengths in the serv ice of a purpose greater than ourselves.

So here's a workshop that prescribes some of Dr. Seligman's positive approaches. The activities draw on skills quite unlike the expert-driven disease model:

1. Fun - Brainstorm a list of fun activities. Design a day when you can enjoy them all.
2. Gratitude - Write a testimonial to a person you have never properly thanked who did something enormously important that changed your life.
3. Build on strengths - Make a list of your five greatest strengths and your life partner's five greatest strengths. Then design/describe an evening/date with your life partner where you can make use of them.
4. Serving a higher purpose - Think of someone or some group in need. Design/describe what you will do to help them.
5. A beautiful day - Design yourself a beautiful day and use SAVOURING and MINDFULNESS to enhance the pleasures that flow from it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dire and not-so-dire-tribes

David Logan has been researching tribes for the past decade. Not the ancient or nomadic, but the tribes that dwell within 21st Century organizations.

He is the author of Tribal Leadership, the co-founder and senior partner of CultureSync, a management consulting firm. He also teaches management at the University of Southern California.

Logan says each of us lives in a tribe of 20 to 150 people. It's where all our work gets done and societies are created. Or so says his extensive research program involving 24,000 people in all kinds of organizations.

The yawning chasm between our widely differing tribal beliefs leaves organizations wide open for failure. It's no wonder we struggle to create new knowledge that is aligned with the emerging future. It's no wonder the collective jigsaw we create is often missing vital pieces. It's no wonder many people feel their opinions are never heard or acted upon. It's no wonder the future turns out to be different to what we expected. It's no wonder that some are able to say, "we told you so."

There are five tribal stages. Stage 1 (1% of us) is "Life sucks". Our members are desperate people who do whatever must be done, including bad stuff, in order to survive. Think gangs and prison inmates.

Stage 2 people (21%) believe "Our Life sucks". It's life on the treadmill, barely making ends meet, surviving by the skin of our teeth, the fun is always had by someone else.

Competitive, self-centered narcissists occupy Stage 3. That's 48% of us. We see the world through an "I'm great and your not" lens. It's all a zero-sum game. We believe that for some of us to gain, others must lose.

At Stage 4 (22%) "We're great". Our kind of people value creativity, having fun and "being a little bit weird". We find something to unite us, start doing stuff together, then we click as a group, and transform to a "we" kind of world. We shift from being motivated individualists to a tribe that performs remarkable feats. We are the first of the tribes to see ourselves as a tribe.

Just 2% of us ascend to Stage 5. For us, "Life is great". What we do is change the world. Our actions are determined only by our values. We serve a purpose, higher than ourselves. We comprehend all the levels, whereas lower level tribes can only understand the stage above or below them.

Tribal leaders have a role to play in expanding the influence of their tribes, nudging them forward to the next level. We also expand our influence by introducing other tribal leaders to each other.

The toughest task is to nudge Stage 3 tribes to Stage 4, from a zero-sum world to a world of abundance. For the fun-loving and creative stage 4 tribes there's not much incentive to go to the self-less noble life of a stage 5. Few make the journey anyway.

So here's a workshop to explore this space:

1. Brainstorm examples of each of the tribal stages. Stage 1 (Life sucks). Stage 2 (Our life sucks). Stage 3 (I'm great but you're not). Stage 4 (We're great). Stage 5 (Life is great).
2. What kinds of tribes live in your organization? Give examples.
3. If we believe "Life sucks" or "Our life sucks" why might our beliefs constrain what we can do with our lives/with our work?
4. You have the task of designing a corporate brainstorming event. All the tribes are mixed for maximum creativity. What must you do to ensure everyone "hears" each other?
5. How might tribes choose to differentiate themselves from tribes immediately higher or lower on the scale? Think about language, symbols, signs...
6. What kinds of cultural/communications difficulties might you encounter with a roomful of all the tribes?
7. Brainstorm a list of ideas to help/encourage/nudge Stage 3 (I'm great) people to explore the Stage 4 (We're great) tribal belief system.
8. Thinking about each of the stages, Stage 1 (Life sucks). Stage 2 (Our life sucks). Stage 3 (I'm great but you're not). Stage 4 (We're great). Stage 5 (Life is great), how could you get each stage to understand the beliefs/attitudes of the other stages?
9. You're the leader of a Stage 1 tribe, and can speak all the levels. What's stopping you from ascending to other levels?
10. What life circumstances might cause you to migrate to an early and unhappier stage of tribal development?
11. When you randomly introduce one person you don't know, to another person you don't know, how does that expand you and your tribes influence? Give examples of the possible effects/outcomes.