Note from Storm: In my 15 years or so of full-time work on community revitalization worldwide, I’ve noticed that the citizens and leaders of places that are recently-revitalized–and those that are still revitalizing–seem to be happier than those of places that are in stasis or on the decline. Neighborhoods that are coming back to life are universally the “cool” spots in a city. In other words, being in a place that’s on the way down makes us unhappy. Seems logical enough.
The interesting insight (and this is purely anecdotal) is that folks in distressed places that are on the way up seem to be happier in general than folks on places that are already up. My guess is that it’s because we humans have a tendency to take our blessings for granted, not long after they are granted. Those living in areas that have been down and that are now on the upswing tend to appreciate the improved conditions, which (I believe) makes them happier. Why is this important to business? Because the new research referred to below indicates that companies in happy places do a better job of planning and preparing for the future.
If that happiness is the result of local improvements in health, wealth, safety, or whatever, then we might speculate that being in a place that’s getting better makes us more optimistic. That, in turn, encourages us to invest more in our endeavors. It would make an interesting thesis, should some student wish to but some numbers behind all this speculation…
From the article: Companies located in places with happier people invest more, according to a recent paper by Tuugi Chuluun of Loyola University Maryland and Carol Graham of Brookings. In particular, firms in happy places spend more on R&D. That’s because happiness, they argue, is linked to the kind of longer term thinking necessary for making investments for the future.
Chuluun and Graham wanted to know if the optimism and proclivity for risk-taking that come with happiness would change the way companies invested. So they compared U.S. cities’ average happiness, as measured by Gallup polling, with the investment activity of publicly traded firms in those areas.
Sure enough, firms’ investment and R&D intensity were correlated with the happiness of the area in which they were headquartered.