The pursuit of innovation happiness
As incredible innovators at Happen Innovation Agency we think about happiness a lot. Our own of course, definitely our clients, but it is the happiness of consumers that is the crux. “Delighting the consumer”, and finding new ways to do so, is at the heart of innovation consultancy success.
So for us happy consumers = happy clients = happy Happeners. Win; win; win.
However, a recent panel discussion we caught at FutureFest (billed as a “weekend of immersive experiences, compelling performances and radical speakers to excite and challenge perceptions of the future”) entitled A Room Without A Roof? After the Happiness / Wellness Agenda has left us questioning what we actually mean when we talk about happiness, and even whether promoting happiness might actually be a self-defeating exercise.
The first speaker Professor Sophie Scott (expert in the neuroscience of laughter), as well as talking about tickling rats in the lab to see how much they laugh (yes this is a real job apparently), unpacked the rather monolithic term “happiness” into 4 distinct positive feelings – amusement, relief, achievement and, well, sex. Now, for an innovation agency like us to innovate to meet the last of those needs might be a bit beyond the kind of relationship you want with your customers, the first three seem like the types of emotional pay-offs where businesses can innovate to deliver in new, better ways.
Andre Spicer (co-author of The Wellness Syndrome) questioned whether the current focus on happiness and wellness is really useful. It seems that focusing on happiness might actually be counterproductive and that just trying to measure happiness can make us less happy. Getting people to focus on how happy something is making them pulls them out of being absorbed in the task and disrupts our “flow” – making us less happy. Also, the pursuit of happiness – especially that which utilises wearable technology to monitor and track our progress – is often pitched a solitary task, meaning those desperately trying to make themselves happier might actually make themselves lonelier as a by-product.
Paul Dolan (author of Happiness by Design) also counselled against a day-to-day focus on happiness. Instead, he believes in designing environments that make people happier and then just forgetting about it. He also suggests looking beyond the intense, joyful emotions when we consider happiness. His Pleasure Purpose Principle – states that happiness consists of both pleasure, or Type-1 Fun – which you enjoy in the moment, and purpose, or Type-2 fun – which you enjoy later in retrospect (as a father of a 6 week old baby I’m all about Type-2 fun right now!). Happiness lies in having both of these in balance. If your life is overly hedonistic – you could probably do with a challenge to make yourself happier. If on the other hand you have lots of purposeful activity – you might want to consider getting out and doing something frivolous!
So what can we, as an innovation agency, learn from these insights into the psychology of happiness when we consider how to innovate? Firstly – a deeper understanding of what your customers are genuinely lacking – pleasure or purpose will enrich your view of what type of payoff we should be looking to provide – “wow” (joy), “phew” (relief) or “hurray” (achievement). And secondly – while we want to know how well we are doing in making customers happy, it’s important our desire to constantly improve our products doesn’t ruin the experience of using them. The constant entreaties to “rate your experience”, might actually be making customers less satisfied. We need to tread a fine-line between finding out how we can improve our products and distracting our customers from the pleasure of using them.
Anyway, I’m off to throw away my sleep tracker, mood monitor and personal improvement plan, and go and tickle some rats instead. Expect to see a big smile on my face next time you see me!