Happiness as a company driving force

Happiness as a company driving force

In episode 257 of the Simpsons, the most intellectually gifted character, Lisa, “demonstrates” that “as intelligence increases, happiness decreases” but, as the Australian economist Justin Wolfers showed, it is not quite as simple as that.

The most educated people tend to earn higher wages, they possess a more diversified vocabulary and, consequently, are more likely to experience a variety of feelings and communicate them.

Ignorance does not guarantee happiness; in fact the reverse is true.

Why take an interest in happiness?
As Aristotle said, “Happiness is the supreme Good. It is the unconditional purpose of human existence."

Being happy is not limited to feeling good: research shows that it is also good for health, productivity and goodwill! Happiness is linked to what we feel but it goes beyond a simple state of mind. We are emotional beings and we experience a wide spectrum of feelings on a daily basis. Negative feelings — such as fear and anger — help us to flee danger and defend ourselves. Positive feelings — such as pleasure and hope — help us to connect with others and build our capacity to survive the worst circumstances.

Most important, perhaps, is the fact that happy people are more inclined to contribute positively to society. They are more likely to vote, commit to voluntary work and participate in public activities.

If you are reading this, you have probably read other articles on happiness at work. Most present a list of things that make us happy: transparency of communication, trust, empowerment, recognition, clarity, wages, control, belonging, interest, meaning — most often associated with an amusing idea such as free sodas, a happy hour or taking your parrot to the office.

“Individuals differ enormously in terms of what makes them happy — for some, competition, victory and riches are great sources of happiness; for others, competence and socialisation are more important,” says the American psychologist Steven Reiss.

His argument: happiness is not a generic solution.

From a quantitative research point of view, behaviourists have identified 23 sources of motivation at work, from Creativity to Impact and Development of others to Wages. Their conclusion is as follows: if you wish to be “happy" at your work and perform at full capacity, it is essential to dig deeper and understand a few of these sources of motivation.

7 ways to stimulate happiness, validated by science

  • See the fruit of our work make us more productive.
  • The less we feel appreciated for our work, the more money we want to do it.
  • The more a project is difficult, the prouder we feel in accomplishing it.
  • Knowing that our work helps others stimulates intrinsic motivation.
  • The promise of helping others makes us more inclined to obey the rules.
  • Positive reinforcement concerning our abilities increases performance.
  • Images that generate positive feelings increase concentration.

Happiness as a business strategy

Happiness’s big brother, well-being, is a concept that was incorporated into economic science a long time ago. Unlike happiness, which is often received with scepticism when evoked in terms of “measure,” well-being is easier to analyse. Initially, subjective well-being was seen as difficult to measure but when we want to, we can.

The examples are numerous in terms of business strategy. For example, Amazon offers its employees working in warehouses $5,000 if they decide to resign. Strange as it may seem, there is a logical reason behind this initiative.

The CEO, Jeff Bezos, describes his HR strategy: “In the long run, an employee who stays although he doesn't want to is neither good for him nor for the company […] The objective is to encourage our associates to reflect on what they really want.”

Employees’ commitment may seem superfluous in a difficult economic context but it may make a difference to the survival of companies. In a study conducted in 2010, Gallup’s director of well-being at work, James Harter and his colleagues, showed that a low level of satisfaction was the precursor to low financial performance. When people cease to care about their job and their employers, they are increasingly absent, produce less and the quality of work suffers.

The research shows that an inner life at work has a profound impact on the creativity, productivity, commitment and collegiality

of employees. They are more likely to have new ideas when they feel happy. Popular wisdom suggests that pressure improves performance — our data, however, shows that performance is improved when associates are happy to be involved in what they are doing.

Managers can make sure that people are happy to be involved at work. This does not necessarily generate any extra costs. The well-being of associates depends, for the most part, on the ability and will of managers to facilitate the accomplishment of associates — by removing obstaclesproviding assistance and acknowledging the effort.

Adults spend the majority of their waking hours at work. Work should revive rather than kill the human spirit. Promoting the well-being of associates is not only ethical, it is economically smart.

Favouring a positive inner life requires from leaders that they articulate the meaning they give to work in order to reach all associates in the organisation.

- Daniel Lacombe, Senior Consultant, Sage Consulting

Sources : Freakonomics, The Guardian, Inc.com, TED.com, The New York Times.

Woman proceeding to an online purchase, credit card in hand

Can happiness be bought?

Can happiness be bought?

It turns out that whoever said that money does not buy happiness was wrong.

Money can buy happiness, for example, if you give it away or use it to buy an experience rather than a product.

Research to date has been unable to show definitively that rich people are happier than the less rich but certain studies seem to indicate that this is effectively the case.

According to the researchers behind the Princeton study, well-being — or the pleasure derived from daily experiences — no longer increases when your household reaches an income level of US$75,000.

That said, “assessment of your life" or how you feel with regard to your life and your accomplishments, can continue to grow at higher levels of income and education.

Happiness and energy

The productivity of happy people is explained by their capacity to recognise that their level of energy depends not only on their physical state (illness, fatigue, etc.) but also on their psychological state. People are happy quite simply because they think they are capable of being happy.

Subjective vitality increases when the psychological requirements of independence, skill and belonging are fulfilled.

Remember the role independence plays with regard to energy levels; compare, for example, the effect of an action originating from an independent decision or an action subject to an outside demand on our thinking or behaviour.

While independent behaviour may maintain or increase the level of energy, controlled behaviour tends to lower it. As a manager, this means that giving more latitude to associates may improve their feeling of well-being and perhaps their productivity as well.

A study made it possible to note that when patients in a weight-loss clinic are motivated to follow a treatment for external reasons, they show less vitality than those who are there for reasons determined independently.

This clearly shows that intrinsic motivation increases the level of subjective vitality and the perceived level of energy. We also retain that independence can generate feelings of energy and well-being. In conclusion, if you want to raise your energy level and that of your associates, make sure you delegate the power of decision to them for their own tasks.

Happiness and confidence

The level of confidence in a working environment serves to predict its level of happiness, the economist John F. Helliwell tells us. Helliwell decided to conduct an economic analysis of well-being and discovered a number of factors that influence happiness. The nature of the work leads the way obviously but direct contact between colleagues and with management has a considerable impact.
It is nevertheless not as simple as just saying “trust me.” Several politicians have made it next to impossible to believe in this formula! Trust has to be shown by behaviour, ideally, outside dedicated sessions.

One of the actions that obtains a high score in perceived trust is encouraging common involvement throughout the organisation, from bottom to top.

These ideas must come from the members of the organisation themselves. Since trust is established by collective action, this decision can not come from senior management. Collective action embodies two other key elements of well-being: commitment and efficiency. This is why voluntary assignments are useful, they make it possible to work together in a different context.

Trust is asymmetric however. Once lost, it is difficult to win back. There are undoubtedly many workplaces in which the people are aware of the low level of trust and the scale of investment required to repair the harm done.
Remember that all human beings must enter into a relationship sooner or later. If it is impossible to use this time of connection to create a positive, shared commitment, the time will be lost in internal political conflicts. The connection is made but the result is not the same!

Happiness and creativity

“Reverse the happiness and success formula. We think we will happier by working harder and achieving a goal but research shows that each success changes what the brain perceives as a success. If, for you and your team, happiness is the opposite of success, you will never get there. However, if you improve your level of happiness during a difficult period — by seeking an investment in an unfavourable economic context for example — the level of success increases considerably.” - Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage

The key elements of the creative personality, such as the search for novelty and perseverance, are good indicators of satisfaction. This works both ways: we tend to be more creative when we are predisposed, possibly because we do not concentrate on partial information but rather on the overall view. A study showed that happy doctors diagnose twice as fast! - Rowe & Hirsch, 2007.

“Committing to a creative quest allows individuals to explore their identity, cultivate their skills and reflect on the state of the world in a critical manner. In their turn, this self-knowledge and these relationships serve as sources of strength and resilience.” - Paul Silvia, University of North Carolina.

Laughter at work

Recent studies have revealed that laughter can contribute to your health and performance at work by stimulating your immune system, increasing blood circulation, and reducing stress for a period lasting up to 45 minutes. Ten minutes of laughter burn approximately 50 calories, which lets you eat another biscuit (a small one)! Not forgetting the social benefits of laughter: better communication, team work, creation of links and mitigation of conflicts!

Introducing pleasure at work is not new. The President of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, well-known for his light approach to business, proposing to resolve a legal matter with an arm-wrestling match (which he won) or arriving at work dressed like Elvis. The ice cream manufacturer Ben & Jerry’s has what it calls its “Joy Gang,” a group of employees who encourage the organisation of amusing activities such as spontaneous theatre plays or theme meals. Richard Branson, the prolific founder of Virgin, places his employees at the centre of his business strategy; he operates according to the following formula: happy employees make happy clients.

Even if your company does not have systems such as these, do not forget to have fun at work and laugh more to achieve real satisfaction at work and really love what you are doing.

Daniel Lacombe, Senoir Consultant, Sage Consulting
Béatrice Loubier, Instructional Designer, Novaconcept, Québec

Sources : Freakonomics, The Guardian, Inc.com, TED.com, The New York Times, Huffington post

Minka's interface

Minka, a serious game for learning

Minka, a serious game for learning

Why do games have a childish connotation? Is it adulthood snobbery to want to relegate games to mere entertainment? It’s quite possible, but if we look beyond this connotation, games have a lot to offer us, especially in skills development.

At Novaconcept, we are convinced that games are a very serious lever for learning in business. This is why we developed MINKA, a collaborative and educational gaming platform. How does it work in two sentences? The learners grouped into rival teams answer a series of questions organized by level. Jokers and bonuses help and spice up their respective courses. In short, the MINKA platform is based on a playful and fragmented learning approach.

Almost convinced of the approach? Here is our reasoning.

Acquiring new skills is a process that requires the learner to invest. It’s an investment in time and concentration that pays little in the short term, but whose results are more obvious in the medium and long term. The simple will to learn for the sake of learning is often strained by the accomplishment of everyday tasks. Motivation and energy are lacking when it comes to training.

What if, to motivate employees, you had to tap into another register and seek commitment in another form? A form where the reward is more immediate, where the positive reinforcement effect pushes for continuous improvement. Games have the ability to awaken motivation and make us think twice.

This is known in technical jargon as “gamification,” that is to say the addition of design and game mechanisms to contexts that are usually devoid of them.

Online training is particularly conducive to gamification, as connections with the video game world can easily be made. For our collaborative and educational platform, we have relied on two well-known game mechanisms to generate engagement: collaboration and competition.

  • Collaboration motivates learners in that it spontaneously creates a feeling of belonging and a strong team spirit.
  • Competition, for its part, seeks the motivation of learners who want to measure themselves against their game opponents and obtain positive results.

Finally, let’s not forget that motivation has a time dimension. Just like concentration, learner motivation decreases when subjected to time: therefore the more time passes, the less learners are motivated.

The solution: break the content into bite-size pieces so as not to give learners time to lose their appetite for learning. The benefits of fragmentation don’t end there; it also contributes to better retention of content in learners.

A study1 has shown that a group exposed to content cut into several pieces, interspersed with questions, performs better than a group exposed to the same content, presented in a block and followed by the same number of questions. Afterwards, an evaluation was conducted and found that the group of learners subjected to the fragmented content recorded a success 20% higher than the other group, while taking 28% less time to complete the evaluation. It’s pretty significant, don’t you think?

Far from being childish, games know how to captivate, mobilize and motivate. These are qualities that we want to use for the development of skills within companies.

To learn more about Minka, visit the link below or contact us at : minka@novaconcept.com


(1) Kapp, F., Proske, A., Narciss, S., & Körndle, H. (2015). Distributing vs. blocking learning questions in a web-based learning environment. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 51(4), 397-416. doi:10.2190/EC.51.4.b

Vector illustration of a man discussing money on the phone while on his computer

How much does an online course cost?

I am often asked: “How much does it cost to design and produce a 30-minute online course?” To that, I always answer the same thing: “How much does a 30-second ad on TV cost?” You will therefore understand that it depends on a multitude of factors…
I therefore suggest three questions to ask yourself to determine your e-learning budget.

First question, how do you plan to allocate the necessary resources?
There are many ways to collaborate with e-learning experts, and depending on your internal resources, availability, and timeline, you may choose to outsource the design or part of it to us. Some clients provide us with their own script, for review or not, while other clients often hire our instructional designers to produce a script from raw content.

Now, what is the desired level of interactivity?
Depending on whether the course objectives are formative or informative, you must determine the desired level of interactivity. Interactivity can be:
 non-existent, with strictly linear animated content,
 limited, with a menu and multiple choice questions, for example,
 moderate, we are talking about essay questions, connection, integration of elements of varied content,
 or immersive, with custom feedback, simulations, avatars, etc.

Of course, our experts are there to guide you in this decision and ensure that the chosen format serves the content well, but it is important that this decision be made ahead of the project since it has a significant impact on the budget. With this information in hand, you are now able to answer the following question: what is the production’s complexity level?

The production includes scriptwriting, graphic design, integration and programming. A variety of elements impact the complexity level. They include:

  • the content level (from simple to expert),
  • graphic elements (use of existing equipment versus development of custom graphic elements),
  • navigation needs (linear, contextual documents, connections to several scenarios),
  • shooting of videos or taking photos,
  • assessing learning and using a passing grade.

This information is used to determine the number and expertise of resources to be assigned to the project, the number of person-hours for each specialty and the needs in terms of other resources (actors, storytelling and/or filming studio, artistic director, etc.)
It goes without saying that the answers to these questions should come from a discussion with internal experts and your favourite e-learning partner! It is important to involve all stakeholders from the start to share a common vision of the final product—an essential element for the smooth running of the project—within the allocated budget.

For more informations on our services, do not hesitate to visit this section of our website or contact us!

Ghislain Bélanger
Chief Executive Officer