Monday, December 21, 2015

The magic of intangibles!

The magic of intangibles!**
……….. and the Happiness therein!

“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.” ~Albert Einstein

All my writings talked of the magic of smaller things, the misnomer for the biggest of things, the intangibles. As I delve deeper into the more inhumane side of the world, I feel I keep finding more of emotions. A little of business in fact taught me a lot more of emotions than 'the better side' ever could. This writing comes from a world that duly underestimates the power of the smaller things…Let’s get down to business!

While we were running behind the ‘dot com’ boom or the ‘recession’ or ‘big data’ for that matter, did we stop striving for something far more important to our existence? While we were chasing towards success and expanding business, did we forget to live? Did we forget that businesses are run by humans, humans who have needs?

Today, a generation which is more educated, earns more and lives longer compared to any previous generation is one of the most depressed generation in world history. Perhaps, the most ignored fact in businesses today, is the human content of business. Chip Conley, a noted businessman and a renowned speaker emphasized on the fact that some of the biggest companies around the globe already know that customer loyalty, goodwill and brand-value are worth much more than sales, margins and material assets. Around 80% of assets on Apple’s balance sheet is comprised of intangibles. In fact Harley-Davidson, Whole Foods Markets, Southwest Airlines and Google are all intangible-driven companies. We do know that the intangibles are worth a lot more than tangibles, but in the absence of ways to quantify the intangibles in a definite way, we end up having to ignore them.

It was in early 1970s when nations started realizing the value of intangibles. In 1968, during a very memorable speech, Robert Kennedy stated that “GDP measures everything other than what makes life worthwhile”. It was a game changing event in the political and behavioral scenario. GDP must have been an important metric during industrial revolution when production was synonymous to development. However, with an 80% decline in poverty, was produce of a country, the only way to quantify it?

In 1972, Bhutan’s fourth dragon King succeeded his father at the age of 17. At a time when Bhutan was known to be one of the weakest nations financially, he was asked about the GDP of Bhutan by a journalist. The king in his answer changed the way people looked at Bhutan and the way we judge nations based on only what they ‘produce’, not what they ‘have’. He proposed ‘Gross National Happiness’ as an all-encompassing metric. He not only mentioned it, but also set up a procedure of quantifying the same through 4 pillars, 9 KPIs and 72 different metrics. Today more than 70 countries use GNH as a metric. UN recently identified happiness as one of the key ingredients of development.

Prof. Daniel Gilbert, psychology, Harvard University has done commendable work on importance and analysis of personal happiness. He has studied multiple cases and reached at a few results very intrinsic to human behavior. He very interestingly says that people are bad at forecasting the reasons for their happiness. One might feel that they will become happy if they get a promotion, a job or a partner they wish for, but even after they get everything they want, do they remain happy forever? After a period of time people learn to deal with ultimate grief and similarly dissolve extreme happiness. The fact is there are many things that can ‘make’ us happy, but there exists nothing that can ‘keep’ us happy. Who would believe that having kids actually takes one’s average happiness levels way below?! I clearly remember asking for a doll to my dad when I was a child and believing it while I said – “This is the only thing I will ever ask you for. I will always be happy if you buy me this doll”. My dad just smiled and got me the doll; knowing that I will never end asking him for more toys and a lot more in life. We keep striving for a goal to become happy and the moment we reach that, we shift the ‘goal’ itself and hence end up making ourselves unhappy for eternity! It can be said for the mankind in general that the frequency of happiness is much more important than the intensity of happiness. Also, generally a situation of no alternative surprisingly keeps people happier than people who have alternatives. The good part is one can’t remain unhappy for life and humans have a way of finding a way around situations.

“Wisdom does not come with age. Maybe it is born in the cradle ­ but this too is conjecture, I only know that for the most part I have followed instinct rather than intelligence, and this has resulted in a modicum of happiness.” ~Ruskin Bond

In Prof.’s words, “The secret of happiness is that it’s not a secret; it’s like weight loss – You know the right things to do, you just don’t do it.” Happiness can be generated only by knowing what counts for you. Chip Conley devised a simple equation to explain the mathematics of happiness; which is more like gratitude/gratification; what you have vs. what you want to have. It's up to us to increase the numerator or denominator! :)

As our worlds grow bigger, we start to realize smaller the things are, the more they matter. Days that just go by waiting for our hours to get over, moments that just pass in a need to be noticed and people who just cross right before our eyes in hope of being acknowledged, all the small things that keep looking for our attention till the time we lose time and start looking for them when they are lost. A silent day, a lukewarm coffee, a half read novel and peace at heart is the way a perfect life is! Sunlight meshing from a canopy of leaves, droplets of rain on your face and a smell of the mountains, what else can a life wish for?

**Originally penned for internal usage at Mu Sigma Inc. – Please take permission before copying or reproducing