Jay Cross helps people work and live smarter. Jay is the Johnny Appleseed of informal learning. He wrote the book on it. He was the first person to use the term eLearning on the web. He has challenged conventional wisdom about how adults learn since designing the first business degree program offered by the University of Phoenix.

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Emotional Business

posted on
February 3rd, 2013


Some of you have inquired about my research into happiness and well-being. I paused the project for six weeks. Upon return, I realized there’s a lot more to it. Taking a broader perspective, I realized you can’t deal with happiness without addressing joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, love, sadness, anxiety, anger, motivation, and relationships, too.

Emotional business (which I will christen EB right here and now) concerns precisely the same thing it takes to replace 19th-20th century management with Management 3.0: treating people like people. That’s what it take to be an emotional business.

Today’s volatile business ride requires marines, not slaves. It’s a higher order game. Millions of people accustomed to being complacent cogs in the machine are taking on roles as savvy, enthusiastic, customer-facing folks who need to delight customers. To enable people to be their full, productive selves on the job means addressing good emotions and bad, the full spectrum. That includes making allowances for personal baggage. We’re all in this together. It takes trust to tango.

EB escalates the importance of the topic: emotion + business = all of us performing honestly as our true selves emerge. It’s the make or break discipline of social business.

Business has shunned psychology for too long. It’s now a positive field rather than the “nuts and sluts” attitude I studied at Princeton in the 60s. It holds many of the keys for leading a contented, satisfying life.

If we organize work around organic principles and fluid human networks, living more joy-filled lives can create a self-sustaining virtuous circle. “To become a better writer, become a better person,” wrote Brenda Ueland. Same thing to become a better corporate citizen. Work with your signature strengths, things you enjoy at a gut-level. You can change the nature of your contribution at work to spend more time doing what makes your day. Do what makes you satisfied and content.

I began with happiness but found you’ve got to deal with a whole range of other emotions.

Companies will be against this matching of person and the relationships they are expected to make and maintain. Dangerous coddling. They would be wrong. Corporations always crave conformity. Better to have robots. Corporate cultures want to knock off people’s rough edges. Reward structures, old boy networks, and power struggles work against change in areas where the old boys do not trust the workers, where it’s still us vs. them. Dismantling something like that would be rewarding but I’d rather deal with people who are coming from a positive direction.

ggscA couple of miles from Internet Time Lab sits the Greater Good Science Center, close to the U.C. Berkeley Campus. Their vision takes the ideas I was drawn to further than I’d imagined.

Since 2001, we have been at the fore of a new scientific movement to explore the roots of happy and compassionate individuals, strong social bonds, and altruistic behavior—the science of a meaningful life. And we have been without peer in our award-winning efforts to translate and disseminate this science to the public.

They have an arsenal of behavior change findings ready to be harvested and put to work. The breadth of their vision and mine match perfectly, although they are sometimes overly academic and I want to see more practical implementation in corporations: the numbers, please.

Check out the the Greater Good Science Center website. I’m going to spend a lot of time there!

I’ve become webmaster for the GGSC members. The site is

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