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MANAGEMENT UPDATE.

HAPPINESS IN CALIFORNIA

It may be that this is the kind of thing that could only happen in California, but the California State Assembly has formed a “Committee on Happiness and Public Policy Outcomes” which had its first hearing on March 13th.


It’s the brainchild of former speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon. Some statistics that were shared during the hearing were from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), which showed that 58% of Californians are pretty happy, 17% are very happy and 26% are not too happy. While that doesn’t sound horribly shabby, the positive numbers have been declining over time. 


What kinds of issues can the new committee tackle to turn the trend lines around? According to the PPIC, the factors that determine an individual’s happiness include jobs, leisure activities, personal finance, and housing.


The effort is an interesting take on performance-informed management. Typically, governments measure their success by the degree to which individual programs appear to be delivering the services they promised, but as Rendon said at the hearing, “If we have everybody clothed, everybody housed, everybody has a job and they’re miserable, then we failed at what we’re trying to do. So, if we don’t reverse that and think about happiness as a first principle rather than happiness as a last principle then we are failing at the jobs that we do here in this building.”



The inspiration for the Committee, according to Rendon was his binge-watching the 2011 documentary “Happy” 14 times over couple of days. According to a blog postthe documentary “jumps from scientific research conclusions to funny, sometimes emotional testimonials of people from 14 countries (Denmark, Namibia, Scotland, Japan, Bhutan …) dubbed with comments by experts in positive psychology such as Daniel Gilbert or the Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard.”


The panelists who presented at the hearing didn’t come up with any direct policies the state should put into effect, but some of the usual gang of suspects were raised, including universal health care and fostering urban green spaces.


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