Tag Archives: Blue Zones

(pssst….Don’t Tell Anyone) We’re PEOPLE! Human Economics, the new Business Hip

A few points to ponder for starters:

  • The human dynamics of change are powerful and can be a deal-breaker whether a new continuous improvement initiative, strategic shift, organizational re-structuring, or even something simple as a new assignment;
  • The importance of a culture and values fit between employees and the company is clear. Yet, hiring and promotion decisions are typically based solely on competencies and achievements;
  • The Blue Zones longevity study, Gallup-Healthways wellbeing index, Engage For Success wellbeing / engagement report all provide increasingly clear evidence of a powerful correlation between whole-person wellbeing and not only increased levels of engagement but that people can live longer, more productive and more stress-free lives;
  • The new, enhanced well-being includes spiritual factors: sense of purpose, belonging, sense of community, values. Yet, focus remains nearly exclusively on eating your veggies and exercise;
  • The obsession over STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) in education, at the expense of instilling values, ethics, norms in young people means that the emotional development of young people in the education system is embarrassingly, dangerously short-changed.

But the evidence is overwhelming, experts are in violent agreement: we’re human beings! That realization may be causing a few ripples, but we need a tsunami. I’m going to lay out some “whats and whys”. Would love to see some “hows” from you experts out there.

From a recent HBR article by Dov Seidman From the Knowledge Economy to the Human Economy:
In the human economy, the most valuable workers will be hired hearts. The know-how and analytic skills that made them indispensable in the knowledge economy no longer give them an advantage over increasingly intelligent machines. But they will still bring to their work essential traits that can’t be and won’t be programmed into software, like creativity, passion, character, and collaborative spirit—their humanity, in other words. The ability to leverage these strengths will be the source of one organization’s superiority over another.

Seidman references findings from a global study by IBM in which over 1,000 CEOs participated, that executives are placing a high priority on hiring people who are “collaborative, communicative, creative, and flexible.” Another study finds “…a majority of executives insisting that “human insights must precede hard analytics.” (Only Human: The Emotional Logic of Business Decisions)

In The Effective Executive Peter Drucker made this observation:
Direct results always come first. In the care and feeding of an organization they play the role calories play in the nutrition of the human body. But any organization also needs a commitment to values and their constant reaffirmation, as a human body needs vitamins and minerals. There has to be something “this organization stands for,” or else it degenerates into disorganization, confusion, and paralysis.

McKinsey on Meaningful Work
The McKinsey Quarterly ran an interesting piece, Increasing the ‘Meaning Quotient’ of Work by Susie Cranston and Scott Keller January 2013. Note—the download link may require registration.

There are several quotients out there. IQ is, of course, intelligence quotient. Thanks to Daniel Goleman and others, just about as well-established is emotional quotient (EQ).
Intelligence quotient: derived from standardized tests designed to assess intelligence. IQ tests are designed to measure a person’s general ability to solve problems and understand concepts. This includes reasoning ability, problem-solving ability, seeing relationships between things and ability to store and retrieve information. Because IQ tests measure capability to understand not quantity of knowledge, IQ scores remain stable no matter what the person’s educational attainment level.
Emotional Intelligence: human qualities that are widely recognized as differentiating outstanding leaders from competent managers —self-awareness, self-management, empathy, social skills.

Along comes the New Kid, Meaning Quotient, a feeling that what’s happening really matters, that what’s being done has not been done before or that it will make a difference to others. The McKinsey article likens meaning to flow, championed by positive psychologist Mihàly Csìkszentmihàlyi’. (chicks-sent-me-highly, his own phonetic interpretation).

The article does a deep dive into what business leaders can do to create meaning. Meaning is an essential driver of higher workplace productivity: MQ was tapped by executives as the most essential to performance and results of the three quotients. This article is highly recommended reading.

IQ + EQ + MQ = Q cubed
The sum is greater than the parts, and one can be destructive without the others. And all three have attributes that contribute to an environment capable of supporting increased levels of engagement:

  • Intelligence Quotient: skills, tools, systems, capability to do the job, results / contribution;
  • Emotional Quotient: relationships, values, inner harmony / well-being, growth; satisfaction with the job and the work you do;
  • Meaning Quotient: alignment, connection to the top, hearing the calling of the work; immersion in the task at hand because it is challenging and to my liking (Mihaly’s “flow”).

IQ DESCRIPTION: ability to solve problems and understand concepts. Reasoning, critical thinking, problem-solving, perceiving relationships between things, storing and retrieving information.
IF IQ IS HIGH: Able to more easily acquire the right skills. Given the right tools and systems, should have the capability to do the job and deliver results.
Low IQ: inability to perform, incapable of understanding more complex task-intensive expectations.
Hi IQ, low MQ: higher order motivation of purpose is untapped. Capability is underutilized, skills are bottled up. Skating by, bored with the work. Personal agendas pursued by highly skilled manipulators when they don’t know or don’t care about the purpose.
Hi IQ, low EQ: survival instinct, reluctance or fear to perform, too paranoid to work with others. “Me first” because I’m better than you and I can’t trust you anyway.

EQ DESCRIPTION: the human qualities that differentiate outstanding leaders from competent managers, but also at the heart of healthy work relationships and environment. Self-awareness, self-management, empathy and social skills.
IF EQ IS HIGH trust and respect are both high. Constructive conflict, sense of humor, a general feeling of “we’re in this together,” and a corresponding ability to collaborate effectively.
Low EQ: office politics, bruised egos, avoidance of tough issues, bickering and fault-finding.
Hi EQ, low IQ: inactivity for fear of looking bad, being wrong. The person doesn’t feel capable, whether a personal or support issue. There is significant internal conflict and stress when a high EQ person struggles against these issues.
High EQ, low MQ: feeling frustrated, discouraged. Tendency to take the meaning disconnect personally. If there is a solid emotional connection the feeling is why the heck should I care this much? But I just can’t help myself, it’s the way I’m wired.

MQ DESCRIPTION: a feeling that what’s happening really matters, that what they’re doing will make a difference. Also reference Mihaly and flow: the work is challenging and has personal relevance.
IF MQ IS HIGH it can be a peak-performance experience: high stakes; excitement; challenge; feeling that work matters and it makes a difference at work and in the world. High commitment to achieving goals.
Low MQ: people put minimal effort into their work and don’t fully utilize their skills because they don’t see the point in doing more than getting by. “It’s just a job” that gives little more than a paycheck.
Hi MQ, low EQ: people see and buy into the big picture but may be ruthless in finding their place in it, or in the way goals are attained. For them, the end often justifies any means to get there.
Hi MQ. low IQ: while they hear the calling loud and clear they still need significant, specific guidance for things that need to be done. They may try harder but they simply lack the capacity to deliver results.

The McKinsey article ends with this:
Of the three Qs that characterize a workplace likely to generate flow and inspire peak performance, we frequently hear from business leaders that MQ is the hardest to get right. Given the size of the prize for injecting meaning into people’s work lives, taking the time to implement strategies of the kind described here is surely among the most important investments a leader can make.

Of all the human needs beyond basic survival needs the most powerful is purpose. We need to feel that what we do matters and that we are making an impact.

I have a vague memory from my higher education days, way too many years ago. It was the belief way back then that the New Millenium would be the age of humanity, of realization and attainment. That vision has so far been a delusion, but it may finally be coming to fruition. We must first divorce ourselves from our love affair with making stuff better—a transformation that requires heaping helpings of change management, especially for the human dynamic elements.

The Knowledge Economy is dead, long live the Human Economy. I can’t wait for the coronation.

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The New Wellbeing-a Trifecta WIN

I have been an employee engagement addict since my first experimentation in 1996 with Gallup’s Q-12 process. I am currently a “guru” in the UK’s Engage for Success movement, not noted as a resume feather but because e4s is an essential connector to experts and thinkers in this area that helps keep me up-to-date.

This past summer, a hospital CEO friend introduced me to Blue Zones (see below) and the new, proactive direction of health care management for providers. At the same time, e4s published a report that establishes an undeniable connection between well-being and engagement. Last, I discovered that my home state of Iowa has embarked on a Healthiest State Initiative,  which uses the Gallup-Healthways report noted below

It was exciting that my old friend Gallup is moving in parallel with my evolving personal interests! But what sealed the deal for me was that several key indicators of well-being are also among the critical drivers of high-engagement. Result of this Summer of Discovery… I am hopelessly caught up in this new collaborative initiative where well-being and engagement join forces.

I do hope you’ll check the links. Well-being is way more than just a slogan or an occasional CSR event that generates another t-shirt (I have a closet full). Well-being is a trifecta win and deserves to be front and center.

WIN for Me
Personally embracing well-being helps you live a longer, healthier, happier life. But the parameters of “well-being” have grown. It’s no longer just about bean sprouts and exercise. Well-being is also impacted by spiritual things: sense of community or belonging, being part of something greater than “me” or having a purpose or calling, living within a strong values base, personally and professionally.

I pay marginal attention to exercise and diet, I’m far from an exercise nut. Way far from. But those spiritual elements are dead-center in the middle of the world of engagement, therefore wildly important to me. And that “live long and prosper” thing is pretty tantalizing too.

WIN for Organizations
Healthier people are more productive and not just because they are at work rather than home sick. The cost of poor health for business is huge, and the social price tag is equally staggering. Even Harvard economics guru Michael Porter weighed in on this, in the context of shared value:  “There are numerous ways in which addressing societal concerns can yield productivity benefits to a firm. Consider, for example, what happens when a firm invests in a wellness program. Society benefits because employee and their families become healthier, and the firm minimizes employee absences and lost productivity.”

Springing from Porter’s shared value, Triple Pundit’s core philosophy is that the economy, environment and society are inseparably related, and an understanding of all three is critical to long term profitability.

Is it just me, or is promoting well-being a high-impact sustainability strategy?

WIN for Community
People and employers co-exist in the community. When citizens are generally physically and spiritually healthy, the community overall is a vibrant one. When a community’s citizens are spiritually and physically healthy, social issues—crime, drug use, abuse, truancy and dropout rates—all improve.

Citizens are also employees. A healthy citizenry and robust surrounding community means local organizations have a deep, well-stocked talent pool in their back yard. Recruiting and retention are both a breeze—people want to relocate to the community, and they want to stay. In other words, the entire region’s economic development status gets a major boost.

I have this urge to build one of those three-circled diagrams with the sweet spot in the middle. That sweet spot is the Trifecta WIN. The really important thing: the relationship is a reinforcing loop / virtuous circle. Each one of the three impacts the other two. So, how to kick things into motion?

Billion-dollar Questions
1. Which stakeholder stands to gain the most from well-being? Answer: ALL THREE.
2. Which of the three stakeholders is in the best position to have a major impact on well-being? Answer: while it starts with “me” the most influential institutional force in our adult lives that can trigger broad benefits is the employer.
So, what’s the holdup?

(a little more information…)

Blue Zones
In 2004, author / traveler Dan Buettner drew a really tough assignment from National Geographic: identify pockets around the world where people lived longer. He found several areas where people reached age 100 ten times more often than in the United States. Scientists then went to each location to study what could explain the difference in longevity and found that all these pockets had nine common lifestyle characteristics.

The real kicker for me is that these life-prolonging characteristics include both physical and spiritual elements. Purpose, values, connecting, social networks, family and sense of community all lead to a better, longer life. Still, most of the well-being community continues to lock in on the physical aspects only. Is it because that spiritual stuff is a little weirder therefore harder for people to embrace?

The Gallup-Healthways Report  (link to recent reports)
Healthways and Gallup conduct an annual analysis of well-being across the United States. In true Gallup bigger-is-better fashion, more than 178,000 interviews were conducted on physical and emotional health, healthy behaviors, work environment, social and community factors, financial security, and access to necessities such as food, shelter and healthcare. And it is ongoing: “Gallup conducts 500 telephone interviews a day with Americans to gather their perceptions of well-being, for a resulting sample that represents an estimated 95 percent of all U.S. households.”

From the introduction pages of the 2013 Gallup / Healthways report: “…individually, high well-being means a life well-lived—all the things that are important to each of us, what we think about, and how we experience our lives. In the aggregate, high well-being means healthier populations, more productive and profitable businesses, and more economically vibrant communities….Where a culture of well-being takes hold, positive health, cost, and productivity outcomes follow…. Simply stated, people with higher well-being cost less and perform better.”

“Well-being is about the interaction between physical health, finding your daily work and experiences fulfilling, having strong social relationships and access to the resources you need, feeling financially secure, and being a part of a true community.” (Tom Rath, Gallup / Healthways Report intro)

Greater Good II-Changing Landscape

Go Large” (Greater Good I) was my cut at defining the systemic relationship among organizations, culture and “me”. I wrote it before stumbling into a new world. There is a ton of new thinking and re-defining of performance excellence, CSR, sustainability, leadership, values, wellness, health care, work-life balance, spirituality, the meaning of life….whew. I can’t go after all those yet, not here!

Before going public with it, I shared an early draft with a friend. He mentioned two game changers, both of which were brand new to me: Blue Zones and Healthways. Interesting: “arguably no state is more invested in well-being than Iowa, with the Healthiest State Initiative (HSI).” Right in my own back yard and I didn’t know it!

Blue Zones – Origin
In 2004, Dan Buettner teamed up with National Geographic to identify pockets around the world where people lived longer. They found several areas where people reached age 100 ten times more often than in the United States. Scientists then went to each location to study what could explain the difference in longevity. All Blue Zones had nine common lifestyle characteristics.

Now, through The Blue Zone Project by Healthways, “a global well-being company”, Blue Zone community initiatives are popping up across the US. The Blue Zones Project “…is a community well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to environment, policy, and social networks.”

The real kicker to me is that the Blue Zones life prolonging characteristics include both physical and spiritual health factors. Purpose, values, connecting, social networks, sense of community lead to a better, longer life. Still, it looks like most of the Blue Zones / wellness work is locked in on the physical aspects. Is it because that other stuff is a little weirder therefore harder to embrace?

Healthways and Gallup conduct an annual analysis of well-being across the United States. In true Gallup “go large” fashion, more than 178,000 interviews are conducted on physical and emotional health, healthy behaviors, work environment, social and community factors, financial security, and access to necessities such as food, shelter and healthcare. And it is ongoing: “Gallup conducts 500 telephone interviews a day with Americans to gather their perceptions of well-being, for a resulting sample that represents an estimated 95 percent of all U.S. households.”

From the introduction pages of the 2013 Gallup / Healthways report The State of American Well-being:
“…individually, high well-being means a life well-lived—all the things that are important to each of us, what we think about, and how we experience our lives. In the aggregate, high well-being means healthier populations, more productive and profitable businesses, and more economically vibrant communities….Where a culture of well-being takes hold, positive health, cost, and productivity outcomes follow.”

“Well-being is about the interaction between physical health, finding your daily work and experiences fulfilling, having strong social relationships and access to the resources you need, feeling financially secure, and being a part of a true community.” (Tom Rath, Report intro)

The CSR -> CSV Connection
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) grew up into something much larger when nobody was looking. This “greater good” is not such a weird concept after all. It’s what CSR has evolved into, on steroids.

A great site for sustainability in general helped re-acquaint me with CSR, especially How the 4 stages of employee engagement ensure a bright future about the work of Coro Strandberg who says: “The ultimate vision…a blurring of the boundaries between employees working for the company and employees working for the community — where shared purpose becomes ‘one purpose.'”

Even Michael Porter and his Harvard crew are riding the crest of this New Wave. Regarding Creating Shared Value (CSV), from the website Harvard Business School Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness: “There are numerous ways in which addressing societal concerns can yield productivity benefits to a firm. Consider, for example, what happens when a firm invests in a wellness program. Society benefits because employee and their families become healthier, and the firm minimizes employee absences and lost productivity.” In other words (1) Social deficits and environmental impact create economic costs for companies; and (2) Community weaknesses affect company productivity.

Conclusion–the new bottom line is a trifecta: people, planet….and profit.

“Companies have overlooked opportunities to meet fundamental societal needs and misunderstood how societal harms and weaknesses affect value chains. Our field of vision has simply been too narrow.” (Michael Porter)
And when Porter talks about reinventing capitalism, you know something serious is going down!

Honorable mention: Indian Awakenings Rishikesh is in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, on the sacred river Ganges. The Beatles went there in 1968 and hung out with a guru until they found enlightenment and inspiration for the White Album. But more importantly, Rishikesh has been a Hindu holy place for thousands of years. Now, westerners go to find their way. Or to seek inspiration if they are determined to write one of the classic albums of the era.

MORE REFERENCES (Sorry for the redundancies!)
I nearly didn’t include a full description of The Greater Good here. But it is what truly drives my personal passion for this project and it’s an underlying theme even though it isn’t directly explored in the workshops. My fear in including the Greater Good here was in giving the impression that Supercharger is some long-haired call to arms to change the world. It is a nuts and bolts approach to improving the bottom line and the material design and presentation is bottom line-driven. It just so happens that along the way the impacts reach far beyond the bottom line.
Then, new learning pushed the potential Greater Good impact even further. In finalizing the section, I came across the “new direction” of CSR, sustainability and CSV. See the last page for alphabet-soup decoding. And, thanks (once again!) to Steve who threw open a whole new door by explaining that health care is soon to be accountable for wellness—preventing health issues.

One Pond emphasizes balancing “people” and “process” focus. The same applies here: is there enough emphasis given to the soft side of wellness (values, purpose, spirituality) or is it all physical—diet, exercise, lifestyle? True, the heart is the motor and the body the vehicle. But the brain tells the heart to beat, and the spirit says how hard. How about “whole-person” wellness, connecting with your personal values and purpose, and understanding and reducing your stress levels? I love the Zen message …must have balance, grasshopper!
Steve has also turned me on to “Blue Zones” which, in turn, led me to Healthways. There is a movement welling up that will transform society and business that I must be part of!
What if influence of the organization and influence of the individual were exerted at maximum strength? Following the reference links is a deeper look at the dynamics and the macro benefits of purpose, values, and engagement. There are some great links at the end too!
Blue Zones
True Happiness Test 4 minutes to get your own True Happiness Grade and personalized recommendations.
USA Today Short Article with 9 points Blue Zone summary
Healthways Home
The State of American Well-being: full Gallup report to download.

“Arguably no state is more invested in well-being than Iowa, with the Healthiest State Initiative (HSI) More links for HIS:
http://www.iowahealthieststate.com/blue-zones
http://www.healthways.com/success/library.aspx?id=917
https://www.facebook.com/HealthiestIowa

The Only Sustainability Strategy That Matters

Based on a multitude of studies and hundreds of thousands of data points we know this much: people thrive in an environment that offers them a purpose to what they do, provides a sense of community and belonging, and a work relationships based on a strong sense of shared values. We’ve also learned a real magic trick–such a forward thinking company would realize incredibly enhanced improvements in every bottom line area that matters. It’s been proven over and over.

Maybe the real target for engagement isn’t in attaining marketplace supremacy, but in impacting the human condition. Proposed: focus on the human resource, which is the most basic input to the process, and pay absolute attention to the realization process (producing the company’s stuff). Repeatable economic success and therefore sustainability are outcomes…they just come along for the ride.

What if…..