Subtitles and transcripts of podcasts

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Shawn Achor: Why a Happy Brain Performs Better

Why a Happy Brain Performs Better - HBR IdeaCast - Harvard Business Review podcast
(audio, 15 min, with the interesting part starting at around 6 min).
Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, describes how happiness increases performance at work. These ideas fit nicely with the experience of many people that a good boss, nice colleagues, and a healthy environment at work boost productivity. I think that in an ideal economy, happy companies finish first (higher happiness leads to higher productivity and thus to higher earnings).
Here are a few ideas from the podcast that I found the most surprising, especially with respect to how little effort is required, and how big the resulting changes are.
Doctors perform diagnosis 50% faster when their brain is positive.
When managers increase their praise and recognition of 1 employee per day for 21 days in a row, the teams have 31% higher productivity 6 months later, relative to control groups.
Another study was performed at KPMG, a big accounting firm, right before the busy tax season. They trained 50% of the KPMG tax audit managers for 3 hours on positive psychology techniques, encouraging them to create 1 positive habit over a 21 day period. A few days later, the training group was significantly happier than the control group that did not receive any training. All the way through the tax season, up to 4 months later, the training group had significantly higher levels of life satisfaction, job satisfaction, and lower levels of stress.


  1. Timur, it's interesting, but in fact he presents the old wisdom: "A person who wants is looking for opportunity, who doesn't want - looking for a reason" :) Of course, optimistic people are about opportunity.

  2. I agree that it is old wisdom. One can also say that the results in this podcast are not surprising at all - *of course* happy people work better! But many companies and managers apparently disagree - that's why "sweatshops" are more frequent than more enlightened companies such as Google.