March 23, 2008

Gross National Happiness and Enterprise Architecture

“Gross domestic product, or GDP, of a country is one of the ways of measuring the size of its economy. GDP is defined as the total market value of all final goods and services produced within a given country in a given period of time (usually a calendar year).” (Wikipedia)

Generally, enterprise architecture looks to improve business processes and enable them with technology to improve results of operation and productivity measures. Our national productivity is often measured in terms of its gross domestic product (GDP). But is productivity alone really the measure we need to be focused on?

The Wall Street Journal, 22-23 March 2008, reports that in the “tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan,” they have developed a new measure, called Gross National Happiness (GNH).

The idea of GNH is to balance the country’s modernization and democratization with things that will “boost morale.” The leaders of Bhutan “want to prove that they can achieve economic growth while maintaining governance, protecting the environment, and preserving an ancient culture.

“By traditional economic measures, Bhutan is doing well averaging about 7% growth annually over the past decade.” However, “fast growth should also not usher in a consumerist invasion that affects the national mood.” In other words, materialism isn’t and shouldn’t become the be all and end all!

GNH is a commitment “that if we are going to manage this change, we have to be able to measure it.” So “the government has contracted a local think tank to conduct a nation-wide survey to determine what makes people happy and what makes them sad or stressed out.”

“Researchers have fanned out across the country interviewing more than 1,000 households…the sample size is considered large in a country with only 750,000 people and not a single traffic light.”

The survey is quite comprehensive and includes “nearly 300 questions [that] take several hours to complete.”

Interestingly enough, Bhutan’s planning commission was even renamed early this year to the Gross National Happiness Commission—as we know, enterprise architecture is all about planning and governance too; wouldn’t it be cool to call EA, enterprise happiness and have it focus on a balance of organizational performance factors that are not just based on productivity, but also on truly improving human life?

Even the blueprint for Bhutan’s future (or their target architecture) includes happiness as a goal. The plan is called “Bhutan 2020: A Vision for Peace, Prosperity, and Happiness.” How many of us can say that our organizations’ strategic plans or architectures includes happiness as a dimension of our planning?

While, we focus on architecting our organizations for success, we need to remember that success is multi-dimensional. Yes, productivity, innovation, efficiency, and technological prowess are important. But we must not lose sight of the bigger picture, which is respect for the individual, and as the United States Declaration of Independence so eloquently puts it—what really important— “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”


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