Happiness Summit and Asia HRD Congress & Awards, 2018 Vietnam

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The 2018 Asia HRD Congress and Awards organised in conjunction with Anphabe’s Happiness At Work, Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam was an interesting event. Over 400 participants, 22 awardees and a host of great speakers from many different countries. Thanks to Thanh of Anphabe, Kannan and Deen of CEO and our colleagues Ann Nei, Yanie, Dr Amat and Dato Asariah, we had a great event. We have all the time heard about the Happiness Index and the happiest country yet we see so many unhappy people.

Happiness is an elusive concept to many and linking it to the engaged workplace and organisational productivity has been the hallmark of the work of researchers in the Human Capital economics area. Happiness defined from the context of mental and emotional states refers to contentment, joy and satisfaction. The book The Happiness Advantage authored by Shawn Achor focuses on how happiness impacts people in the workplace. His research focusses on the direct connection with employee engagement. It was also intriguing to read a newspaper report this morning that highlighted teaching is no longer a passion but a burden today. The teachers, role models in society for a long time – are they longer happy. Are they stressed so much that there is a need for continuous counselling. So, is happiness a component of employee engagement, or vice versa.

In this context, it is worthwhile to highlight the World Bank’s human capital index that ranks countries’ productivity with Singapore topping the human capital list. The report is meant to influence governments to invest more effectively in education and healthcare. So many concepts, so many lessons from the workplace and opportunities to network at the well organised event. While I was there for only a day trip, it was evident from the happy participants the benefits of learning from the event. To me I took away many learning points but two concepts that ignited my thinking:

• The environmental and psychological triggers that can derail us at work and in life according to Marshall Goldsmith’s Triggers . He highlights that our triggers do not result in a vacuum. They are usually due to the triggers in the environment. He highlights how we can overcome the trigger points in our life.

• While on the flight back I read Intel founder Andy Grove’s lovely book Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company. Paranoid and paranoia are words that I learned in my early years of my psychology classes. While paranoia is a thought process fuelled by anxiety, fear and a general distrust of others; paranoid refers to suspicion and being intensely worried. While friends have said that sometimes I have been extremely anxious or unable to handle the triggers that affect my happiness or engagement, I was intrigued to read Andy Grove’s book. In business and entrepreneurship, I agree with his comments. He says: “Business success contains the seeds of its own destruction, success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survives.” He urges continuous innovation and asks for executives to prepare for the unexpected. Grove explains his thoughts: “A corporation is a living organism; it has to continue to shed its skin. Methods have to change. Focus has to change. Values have to change. The sum total of those changes is transformation.”

The message that Happiness and Engagement are directly correlated to productivity, we need to manage the triggers and need to be paranoid for success were my learning points.

While the summary may look too simple, the take aways from Vietnam will stay with me for a long time to come.

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