Let’s Talk about Happiness

Large wooden swing structure on a hill with mountain view all around

Bhutan can teach us all a few things about happiness

Our adventurous Co-Founder, Kenton Cool, is currently in Bhutan and is waxing lyrical about his trip whenever we speak to him. Everything about Bhutan is captivating: from the scenery, landscape and majestic buildings, to the pace of life and warm welcome from local communities. But the stand-out theme of his visit is ‘happiness’.

Back in the 1970s, Bhutan created the Gross National Happiness Index (GNH). It was the brainchild of the 4th King of Bhutan, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who declared that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product”. Ever since, the concept of Gross National Happiness has influenced Bhutan’s social and economic policies and captured the desire and aspirations of many around the world. Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Commission, made up of the Prime Minister and other government ministers, is responsible for implementing a 5-year plan and policies to support continued improvement.

The concept of wellbeing is deeply rooted in Bhutanese culture, confirmed by its inclusion in the official constitution of Bhutan which states that “we solemnly pledge ourselves to strengthen the sovereignty of Bhutan, to secure the blessings of liberty, to ensure justice and tranquillity and to enhance the unity, happiness and wellbeing of the people for all time.” It’s also interesting to learn that Gross National Happiness is seen as part of the Buddhist Middle Path where ‘happiness is accrued from a balanced act rather than from an extreme approach.’

The GNH Index is measured across Nine Domains, meaning that it provides a holistic overview of the wellbeing of the Bhutanese population rather than a subjective ranking of ‘happiness’ alone:

  • Psychological wellbeing
  • Health
  • Education
  • Time use
  • Cultural diversity and resilience
  • Good governance
  • Community vitality
  • Ecological diversity and resilience
  • Living standards

According to the World Happiness Report, Bhutan is 95th out of 156 countries, which surprises us given the feedback from Kenton’s travels. However, this might be explained via the World Happiness Report itself, as it uses a single item indicator measure of subjective wellbeing, rather than assessing it across all nine domains…

What can we learn from Bhutan?

  • Happiness is multi-dimensional, influenced by many factors
  • It takes time to build a culture and for it to be accepted – whether that’s the culture of a country or the culture of an organisation
  • For a culture to ‘succeed’, it requires proponents at all levels and real endorsement from the top
  • Wellbeing influences policy makers in Bhutan – perhaps the wellbeing of employees should more regularly influence organisational strategies?

ICC helps organisations to build high-performance cultures by supporting them to navigate the complexities of the many different dimensions of culture. We have witnessed awe-inspiring successes, some of our clients could even be referred to as mini-Bhutans! Get in touch with us today to find out more about ICC’s proprietary ‘GNH Index’…

And finally, here are a few images coming back to us from Bhutan, just to make you happy…

Finding tranquility and happiness
Traditional Bhutanese dress

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