One of the basics of business is that what we measure determines where we focus our attention. Last year, when French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for countries to adopt new ways of measuring well-being because he considered gross domestic product (GDP) to be obsolete, he initiated an interesting discussion. The idea of revisiting GDP (the measure of the worth of all the goods/services a country produces in a year) is not new. But the idea that GDP should include things like personal well-being and sustainability is.
Measuring a country’s fiscal health using more than just productivity has interesting implications for business and could provide a point of leverage for those of us seeking to reduce corporate suffering. While I doubt the US will adopt Bhutan’s measure of Gross National Happiness anytime soon, just the fact that these discussions are taking place at the highest levels of government and business is a hopeful sign for all of us.
Historically American workers have worked longer hours than any other industrialized nation; however our productivity levels do not reflect that commitment. It makes sense—work too long you burn out, becoming less productive, not more. Not to mention the cost of long work hours on your health, your relationships and your community. If we measured things like maintaining a sustainable living standard, life/work balance and the psychological well-being of our citizens—as many other countries are doing—we would have to make substantive changes in our business practices to compete.
If it’s in nation’s best interest to broaden the definition of economic health, our corporations will follow along. And that would serve everyone’s best interests.