Happiness: A Secret Weapon in the Workplace?

By Lynda Leonard
Senior Vice-President, ITAC

Ashok Soota

Ashok Soota

Thursday was a pretty good day for me.
It started off with a visit to AMD to hear virtual reality expert Mike Macedonia speak about next generation virtual worlds. Mike is an industry veteran – past GM of Forterra Systems and credited with the development of the US Army’s first commercial X-box game. He outlined the challenges the industry still faces 65 years after Ray Bradbury first invented VR (see “The Veldt”). These include communications networks built for e-mail and video transmission. After HMD demonstrations in the AMD atrium I left Markham for the ITAC/IDC Directions Conference in time to hear a panel of CIO’s discuss the changing reality of the CIO job where technological acumen is just “table stakes” and where the consumerization of IT has made everyone in the C-suite and beyond a techie with opinions about the best solutions and vendors for the enterprise.
By 4 pm I definitely smarter than when I woke up. And then after dinner I got hear Ashok Soota. Ashok is the Executive Chairman of a young Bangalore-based company called Happiest Minds that hosted us on our last mission to India. The company was founded in 2011 on the deceptively simple premise that happiest employees make happiest customers. Happiness is not only part of the brand promise, it is also deeply embedded in the corporate culture that Ashok and his team take very seriously.
Ashok sketched for us the origins of the philosophy that guides the company – stemming from “Wellsprings” author Anthony de Mello and innovation authority Clayton Christensen’s writing on spirituality – and gave us a glimpse of how it is applied in business life at Happiest Minds.
He clarified that the company does not assume full responsibility for the happiness of employees noting that happiness is fundamentally a personal choice. The company’s role is to ensure that the conditions for happiness are in place. These include a strategically progressive profit sharing plan and a culture where each employee of a “happiness evangelist” for their colleagues. Happiness is measured and this year is a factor in the variable compensation scheme. And, because gratitude fosters happiness, staff meetings kick off with statements of gratitude by participants.

You may be tempted to dismiss all this thinking as new-agey and unworkable. But Ashok is highly credible. He is considered to be one of the leaders of the Indian IT revolution (having lead both Wipro and MindTree) and he is well on the way to leading the Happiest Minds team to fulfil their goal to be the fastest company in the world to reach $100 million in revenue. The company just posted its quarterly results and is looking at an annualized run rate of $50 million this year. Apparently happiness can be an asset in the workplace.
As for me, when I think about things I’m grateful for, days like Thursday come to mind.

Lynda Leonard