I am looking forward to my talk tomorrow for Livable Houston(details here)on two scenarios for the future of Houston. I’m slowly realizing that Houston is my home, after moving around so much, and taking an interest in its future. I have a scaffolding about the future of Houston that I previously shared with my new friends at Houston Tomorrow and that I plan to continue to build on in the years ahead, and report on here in this blog as new ideas emerge. Andy Hines
A reader comment on an earlier post, Happiness is in our Choices, prompted me to think more about the role of values changes in our happiness. I visited the “gold mine” of values research, Inglehart’s The World Values Survey, and came across an excellent piece by Jan Delhey, From Materialist to Postmaterialist Happiness that did an excellent job of addressing this question.
As one might suspect, there is some debate about whether people are really moving toward postmodern value priorities emphasizing self-expression and quality of life, or whether they are still basically motivated primarily by money and material goods acquisition. It’s not necessarily either-or, but the view here is that the postmodern value priorities are gaining influence in the affluent countries. Put simply, if you are economically secure, your priorities change away from greater economic accumulation. If you are not economically secure, becoming so is the priority.
So, the author’s paper explores whether a so-defined happiness recipe is indeed more post-materialist in rich, post-industrial societies. He suggests that “…under the condition of affluence, happiness is increasingly derived from the fulfillment of post-materialist needs – what I call post-materialist happiness. At this point it is important to note that in the first place value change theory is about relative preferences: “Postmaterialists are not non-Materialists, still less are they anti-Materialists” (Inglehart 1997: 35). Yet materialist concerns should lose ground, relative to post-materialist concerns, in their capacity to make people happy – this is the prediction tested empirically in this paper.” Those qualifiers are important. It’s not as if one simply foregos any concern with material goods whatsoever, but that it becomes a less important motivator.
The conclusion of the paper is that indeed “money matters less in richer countries.” This may seem obvious — duh, right? Believe me, however, it makes a difference. In working with clients who make “goods,” this represents a sea change. Their customers are not going to continue to want more and more stuff — their priorities are changing, and unless organizations recognize this, they’re going to using a happiness recipe that their customers are not going to like. Andy Hines
This popular phrase, which my old firm considered as a title for a multi-client meeting in 2009, may be giving us the wrong impression. We went instead with “New Dimensions,” as we felt the New Normal provided a kind of false comfort that things were going to settle into a different, but entirely recognizable pattern. Basically, the future would be like the recent past, only less.
There is an element of truth to that, but it is a one-dimensional view, fixated on economics. For instance, a recent Business Week story, The New Normal Is So Normal, is focused entirely on the economic aspect. It represents what should be a new wave of “new normal” debunking stories that should soon be arriving with a message that the New Normal is bunk, and we’ll be returning to the “old normal” soon.
Regardless of which “normal” one believes in, the point is that the issue has been framed to over-emphasize the economic aspect. We used the “New Dimensions” idea to suggest greater changes were afoot. In particular, the slowly emerging shift to postmodern values, which suggests a consumption ethos of less, of feeling a sense of enough, of a desire to get back control of one’s time and life, of an emerging sense of sustainability, of a preference for the experience over material goods — these long-term changes have been underway for a generation, thus my belief that the current emphasis on the state of the economy may be obscuring them. Andy Hines