Wheeee! Why Building Fun Into The Workplace Increases Productivity


Imagine having slides next to the staircases at work.  Now this might just be one of my own fantasies, but I reckon zooming down a slide at work would make most people feel better after a hard meeting.  And, being faster than walking, it is, of course, an efficiency improvement.

But there is a more serious reason for thinking about how the working environment can be built to help us feel good. Scientists studying the evolution of human emotions have worked out that emotions create very specific forms of action, each of which increased our human ancestors’ odds of survival and reproduction.

Negative emotions narrow our attention onto threats that might hurt our chances of survival if we don’t address them.  For example, feeling angry quickly focuses us on a transgressor and sparks us to take action.

By contrast, positive emotions broaden our attention, encouraging us to explore and engage with others.  This generates long term survival benefits because it drives creativity, helps build social connections and increases environmental knowledge.

Indeed, scientists have worked out that positive emotions have 5 key functions:

pos emo summary

  • By broadening our attention and cognition, they help us see the big picture, create connections, integrate ideas and become more creative.
  • When we feel positive, we are more likely to behave playfully.  This builds our physical strength and creates more flexibility in our response to events.
  • Positive emotions build intellectual resources because, when we feel good, we engage in better, more persistent problem solving and we master subjects more quickly.
  • They build our social resources because feeling good makes us more likely to help people.  This creates gratitude which makes it likely that the help is reciprocated; – and this creates stronger relationships.
  • And positive emotions actually undo the harm that negative emotions do to our health.  They speeds physical recovery and restores our ability to perform after a difficult day.

Each of these 5 acts synergistically with the others.  For example, when we feel positive, we are more likely to act playfully which helps us create positive relationships with others and so builds our social resources.  When we have a good network we are more likely to have the stimulus that builds our intellectual resources and so creates higher quality results.

So positive emotions fundamentally raise the capacity to be productive.  And research shows that they can be increased.

So, you might choose to improve positive emotion by installing slides 🙂 but you can also increase people’s capacity to generate positive emotion for themselves and build leaders’ abilities to evoke it in others.  Contact us to find out more.


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Productivity: why bother?


Is it fair to say that the term Productivity is a bit of a turn off?

Or do you find that your heart takes a little leap of joy when you hear about Gross Value Added per employee?

From a scientific perspective, we know that people are motivated when they feel they’ll truly benefit from something, rather than if it’s something they should do, or that’s rationally sensible.

So, if we’re going to increase productivity we need to be able to express it as something that’s truly beneficial to people, organisations and nations.

We need answers to the question: what are the true benefits of being productive?

So can you help? Please contribute your answers on the LinkedIn ProductiveUK group.



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If productivity matters to you, read this

organisationOur mission in life is to help people flourish and organisations be more productive.

This year we developed our Version1 software and we are besides ourselves with delight to announce that we recently won an InnovateUK competition to look at the feasibility of developing our approach into a platform to improve UK Productivity.

In this busy, complicated world, we all stand to gain if we can become more productive. As organisations we can mitigate the risks of Brexit and get superior results; as people we can enjoy more time to do what matters and a greater sense of accomplishment.

BUT our capacity to be productive is the result of many inter-connected factors. As people, these include our energy, our capacity to think effectively and our ability to get things done. As organisations, it includes leadership, talent and culture to name just three.

We know that you know a lot about this! And all of us working together could create something rather awesome. So, will you join our LinkedIn group to help us identify the key factors that increase (and reduce) productivity for people and organisations?

In the group we’ll be gathering and sharing insights to help us all create continuous positive change.

Here’s the link to the group: ProductiveUK


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The happiness meaning see-saw



It’s Friday! Always a good reason to be happy!

But take a moment to consider:

  1. To what extent do you have happiness and meaning in your life?
  2. What’s the balance between the two?

Here’s the reason for the questions.  A 2013 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Barbara Fredrickson and Steve Cole found that people who are happy but lack meaning in their lives show the same gene expression patterns as those who are struggling with prolonged adversity – their bodies are preparing to fight off bacterial infections.

The problem with this is that if it continues in a prolonged state, it can increase the risks of major illnesses like cancer and heart disease, because the body is in a constant state of inflammation.

Frederickson said that the problem isn’t with being happy but that meaningfulness needs to  outweigh happiness. Otherwise we risk affecting our immune systems in detrimental ways.

And sadly, this is a fairly common state. People with high happiness scores and low meaningfulness scores formed 75% of the study’s participants. And only 25% actually had more meaning in their lives than happiness.

Clearly the optimal state we should aim for is a balance between the two. Without enough meaning in our lives, we can become ill and be lacking in purpose and direction. Without enough happiness, however, we’ll become, well, unhappy. And who wants that?

For many people, happiness is more common than meaning and so it’s worth looking at how you can add more meaning to your life to create more overall wellbeing for yourself.

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Are Company Values Valuable?


There is an accepted wisdom in businesses that company values are a good thing.  Somehow, so the thinking goes, we will do better if we all share values.  So the top team have an away day and invent some that really matter – to them.  Then they communicate their importance and start to score people on how well they conform to these values.

This, they are sure, will promote business performance and effective working relationships.

But there seems to be a problem.  Big organisations are regularly exposed for falling short of their values.  VW espouses Social Responsibility but used software to mislead customers over car emissions; RBS valued “Doing the Right Thing” then got fined £390m for its part in the Libor rate-fixing scandal.

So what’s causing the problem?

Could it be that organisations don’t, of themselves, have values?

It’s the people within the business that have the values.  And values are at the core of every human being.  They are unique to each individual – as much a part of you as your heart or liver.  Values are a key motivator: if you put energy into something that meets your core values, you will feel motivated and satisfied.  By contrast, if you put energy into something that does not meet your core values, you will feel dissatisfied and frustrated.

Living in accordance with your own personal values enables you to play your best game and be experienced as authentic by others; really focusing on your values helps you get through adversity.

Where organizations create and reward company values they inadvertently create the sense in the employee that they cannot “be themselves” at work.

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Personal Advent Calendar – Your Kids’ Strengths


We’ve been talking about how leveraging your own character strengths improves your leadership, relationships, health and longevity.

But Christmas is all about the kids, so I thought I’d sign off for the holidays with something about them.  Lots of research has been done on children’s character strengths and how they help them do well.

You can predict school success by looking at kids’ strengths of self-regulation, perseverance and love of learning (Weber & Ruch, 2012b); a child’s popularity is linked to their character strengths of leadership, fairness and forgiveness (Park & Peterson, 2009b).

Character strengths are a wonderful way to help all children feel they have something special to offer (regardless of whether they’re good at footie or maths) and they can be actively developed.

The most prevalent character strengths in very young children are love, kindness, creativity, curiosity, and humour (Park & Peterson, 2006a) but everyone’s different.  What are your kids’ strengths?

By the way, parent’s strength of self-regulation is strongly associated with his or her child’s life satisfaction, but not their own (Park & Peterson, 2006a). I think that means if you resist the “just one more drink/mince pie/cheese” thought, your kids will thank you in the long run but then again it’s christmas and you deserve a break too!

Merry Christmas!




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Your Personal Advent Calendar Day 17


When working with groups to understand their strengths, it always interests me just how many people have the character strength of kindness in their top 5.

Not because I don’t think leaders are kind – but because kindness is not one of the key words that people use when talking about leadership.

Indeed many leaders are a bit taken aback when they see it listed there.  But when they understand more about what it brings to their performance, they find it uplifting and feel that they have been given permission to be more themselves at work. In fact it works wonders on their teams and colleagues.  Here’s why:

When in touch with your strength of kindness, you are compassionate and concerned about the welfare of others.  You perform good deeds for others and take care of them.

Kindness is underpinned by the philosophy that we are all part of a common humanity in which others are worthy of attention and affirmation.  Kind people do not help others because they expect this help to be reciprocated, or reputational gain or other benefits but simply for the sake of being kind. (Paradoxically though, it massively increases the likelihood of others being kind to you).

Kindness is fulfilling.  It takes us “outside ourselves” and focuses us on taking care of others, which helps make us feel complete and content.

Observing kindness elevates others; it seems to enable them to connect with their own inner compassion.  Researchers have shown that merely seeing someone act in an altruistic way leads others to do the same.

Kindness is associated with many mental and physical health benefits.  Volunteering, specifically, has been linked to a reduced risk of early death.

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Your Personal Advent Calendar Day 16


It’s the last week of work before Christmas and I bet you don’t have much time to read blogs so here’s a heavily summarised version of why leveraging your strength of Fairness will increase your performance and wellbeing:

  1. It’s fulfilling.
  2. It builds self-esteem by creating a feeling that you have done the right thing, even if that was difficult.
  3. It promotes personal growth because thinking about what is fair enhances perspective taking (the ability to imaginatively place yourself in the issues of another) and emotional responsiveness.
  4. Exposure to alternate views, beliefs and values enables you to reflect effectively on your own ways of approaching life and make appropriate adjustments for your own benefit.
  5. It’s linked to loving to learn and seek new challenges; enjoying intellectually stimulating environments; reflecting; setting goals; and having broad social support for work and accomplishments.

Fairy good (geddit? groan!)

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Your Personal Advent Calendar Days 11-13

app beautyWeekend again!  So hopefully there’s a bit more space for being rather than doing.  Perhaps some time to get in touch with the character strength Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence.

This strength enables you to feel awe, admiration, wonder and elevation.  It connects you to something larger than yourself whether it is beautiful music, skilled performance, the majesty of nature or the strength of other people.

Appreciating beauty and excellence helps you find more joy in day life, more ways to find meaning in your own life and more ways to connect deeply with other people.

The appreciation of beauty is fulfilling in that it leads to a feeling of oneness with the universe, a sense of truth and a vividness of sensation and perception.

Scientific research links appreciation of beauty and excellence to openness to experience, agreeableness and extroversion.  By contrast people with a high degree of materialism seem less likely to be high in this sort of appreciation.

Whilst there is little research in this area, Martin Seligman suggests that appreciation will correlate with a wide variety of positive outcomes such as relationship commitment, altruism, warmth and connection towards others, enhanced social relationships and greater purpose in life.

So, maybe take a moment to look up at the stars rather than down at the Christmas shopping list this weekend 🙂

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Your Personal Advent Calendar Day 10


The lovely Hari Miller at TSB shared a fantastic Christmas card from the Quietroom today:

christmas card


It’s a fantastic entree into another character strength we all have (some more than others, but in there nevertheless) – humour.

When you’re in touch this strength, you are skilled at laughing and gentle teasing, at bringing smiles to the faces of others, at seeing the light side and at making (not necessarily telling) jokes.

On a serious note, humour make the human condition more bearable by drawing attention to its contradictions, by sustaining good cheer in the face of difficulty, by building social bonds and by lubricating social interaction.

People with a humorous outlook are able to understand the insufficiencies and shortcomings of life but also tolerate and forgive them.

Humour and playfulness are fulfilling.  They produce amusement and other positive emotions both amongst onlookers and those who initiate it.  It feels good to play and make others laugh.

Humour is linked to good mood and it buffers the effect on mood of life stress and daily hassles.  It is also healthy: habitual laughter can create physiological changes for the better across multiple bodily systems.

So more funny cards please!

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