Sunday, March 6, 2011

Manufacturing happiness.



Happiness is contagious.

Definition 6 proved that Coca-Cola could enable happiness. But, what was the catalyst for the Happiness Machine's success? Yeah, college kids like free stuff, but that wasn't the magic. For the people in the videos, it was the element of surprise. An unexpected disruption during a mundane activity. For the video viewers, it was more about watching people's reactions to the machine in action. The happiness ripple effect. 

Corporations are manufacturing happiness.

Believe it or not, Stanford's MBA program offers a coveted class on designing happiness. Tomorrow's leaders are learning how to leverage happiness – boosting employee productivity and inspiring meaningful customer connection.

According to the Fast Company article, Professor Jennifer Aaker focused on: "how people find happiness, keep it, manipulate it, and use it as a resource."

And, successful companies are doing just that. Zappos is delivering happiness. In fact, after future Zappos employees go through training, they're offered $4000 to walk away from the job. If they stay, they want to be there. No question.

Google's infamous 20-percent time project demonstrates the benefits of allowing employees to pursue something they're passionate about. Some projects turn into Google-funded reality. One guy is trying to buy a country for his project. How will that help Google? Who knows. But, he loves his job. And that will come through in his work.

Happiness is a benefit superseding pay or even product feature incentives. If you legitimately offer happiness, you have our attention. Even BMW's campaign boldly seeks ownership of "Joy."

Aaker defines happiness as "a state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy." Younger people equate it with excitement. As you age, it's linked with serenity. But, meaningful experiences make people happy at any age.

So, it's as simple as that, right? Make happiness. Experience happiness. Be happy.

On a personal level, it's not always that simple. The desire for happiness is stronger than the feeling of fulfillment when experiencing happiness.

It's human nature. The endless pursuit of happiness is a double-edged sword. Anticipated possiblities and over-zealous expectations can hinder joy in the now. We search for more happiness, but don't always realize when we have it.

Does happiness mean as much when you don't know what it's worth?

It really is the little things, and learning not to take them for granted. The blessing of family and friends in difficult times. Career success after years of hard work. A tragically-beautiful song called Happiness, that drags you through darkness before enlightening you with an optimistic chorus. Or, when Edward Norton says, "This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time." And you realize, it is. And you should be happy. And you should find a way to manufacture happiness.

Because, like I said, it's contagious.

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