CHIME: Is a happy CIO a better CIO?

Happiness guru Shawn Achor takes on the CHIME crowd
By Bernie Monegain
06:20 AM
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CIO and doctors

More than 600 CIOs at the CHIME15 Fall Forum were asked to consider happiness and how they might have more of it.

Judging by the intermittent laughter at the keynote session Thursday, they seemed to take to the concept. The CIOs were talking to one another, smiling, looking into one another's eyes, as Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness, served up a large dose of his "Happiness Advantage" training.

It may sound hokey, but Achor is dead serious about the connection between happiness and success. He has the credentials and the data to prove his assertion: "Joy fuels our potential." You might see it as one man's campaign to manage population health.

Achor, a Harvard graduate, launched his research into happiness as an undergraduate. His work was published in the Harvard Business Review. His TED talk has garnered 11 million views. His PBS lecture has been seen by millions.

He is co-founder and CEO of GoodThink, a company he describes on its website as "bridging the gap between academic research and the real world, so that our message is not only instructive and inspirational, but evidence-based."

"Rational optimism does not start with rose colored glasses," he told the CHIME crowd.

However, he added, it's important to "escape the cult of the average. Most of us are not average, If we study what is average, we will remain average. By focusing on the outliers, we learn how to move above average."

[See also: CIO: No longer just 'the IT guy'.]

Achor had met with CHIME leaders before his talk and learned about some of the challenges facing the industry and healthcare CIOs today: cyber attacks, scarcity of resources, increasing costs.

The positives? Incredible advances, telemedicine, more touch points, innovation.

His research has shown that three factors are predictors to success:

  • Optimism – the belief that your behavior matters
  • Strong social connection
  • Perceiving stress as a challenge

Stress is actually enhancing, but it depends on whether you perceive it as a threat or a challenge, he said to CIOs who are contending with the demands of meaningful use, big data, patient engagement and security threats, an increasing workload and growing expectations.

[See also: CIOs grapple with growing workload.]

Achor offered the audience five ways to move toward happiness. They are the same tips he wrote for an article for Psychology Today and published online.

  1. Write down three new things you are grateful for each day into a blank word document or into the free app I Journal. Research shows this will significantly improve your optimism even 6 months later, and raises your success rates significantly.
  2. Write for two minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours. This is a strategy to help transform you from a task-based thinker, to a meaning based thinker who scans the world for meaning instead of endless to-dos. This dramatically increases work happiness.
  3. Exercise for 10 minutes a day. This trains your brain to believe your behavior matters, which causes a cascade of success throughout the rest of the day.
  4. Meditate for two minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out. This will help you undo the negative effects of multitasking. Research shows you get multiple tasks done faster if you do them one at a time. It also decreases stress and raises happiness.
  5. Write one, quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising a member on your team. This significantly increases your feeling of social support, which in my study at Harvard was the largest predictor of happiness for the students.

To the audience, he concluded: "Find ways of deepening relationships as you spread technology in the world."