Opinion | What Happiness Means for Risk Management

By: | November 14, 2019

Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected].

Have you read your birthday cards from years past? Have you noticed the themes of what people wish for you? After we extract the funny, sometimes cruel jabs around the perils of aging, the most common things your loved ones wish for you are health, success, love and happiness.

Happiness seems to be the most popular wish of all.

This made me wonder, how often do we really think about happiness? What truly makes us happy? Is it important to be happy? Is there anything to be gained from being happy? What do we risk as an organization, community or nation when we are unhappy?

We do try to learn about our employees’ morale and happiness through surveys. It is known that productivity rises with happy employees while the risk of fraud and absenteeism drops.

That said, I often wonder whether we measure happiness appropriately. Moreover, does how we become happy change with time? Does our ability to be happy change with how the world changes and how it interacts with us?

It appears I am not alone in exploring theses notions. I recently read the 2019 World Happiness Report. It is the 7th of its kind. This comprehensive report is written by a group of independent experts who dig deeply into the science of happiness in specific regions and countries. This year’s report explores how global happiness has changed over the years. It looks at how risk and governance, information technology and social norms influence a community’s sense of happiness.

The report is a “short” 131 pages, so I won’t attempt to summarize it. That said, I found interesting some factors that influence happiness — the global rise of populism, use of social media for communication and interaction, weather changes, power of prosocial behavior, generosity, quality of governments and voting. Found within were interesting revelations and even counter-intuitive findings that we could all benefit from as we refresh our corporate strategic risk assessments and plans.

The report contains summarized data and charts. One chart I jumped to immediately. It is the “2016-2018 Ranking of Happiness” for 156 countries.

So, which country is the happiest in the world? Finland was ranked number 1 for happiness. Who else ranked highly? Canada was ranked at 9, Costa Rica at 12 and Israel at 13.

Countries get ranked according to their GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, perceptions of corruption and dystopia. Yes — dystopia. I am saddened even conceding that we have totalitarian regimes inflicting post-apocalyptic levels of suffering and injustice on their people.

Where did the United States rank? It came in at 19. Is that good? Is that what was hoped for?

Maybe it is worth comparing rank with some of the countries that seem to dominate current U.S. news cycles and influence U.S. politics, risks, governance and policies.

How do they rank on happiness? Russia ranked 68th, China 93rd, Iran 117th, Ukraine 133th, Syria 149th and Afghanistan 154th of 156 countries.

If we agree that happiness brings good things to our organizations, corporations and economies, we should really strive every day for that top spot. Emulating any of the nations struggling to rise in rank, or worse those that do not even try, doesn’t seem like a good idea.

Let’s not wish happiness only on our birthdays. Every decision made for the country should strive for fair, stable, prosperous, and healthy lives. That makes me happy. &

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