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Alex Liu, published on July 17th, 2019 on Harvard Business Review

Amid the dazzle and hopes of the digital age, it is easy to forget that old-fashioned human desire is as essential to achieving business goals as ever.

Right now, for example, companies are making massive investments in technologies that can more closely link their people to each other, to customers, and to other stakeholders. Yet many companies struggle because their cultures get in the way — too many layers and silos, too many colleagues who prefer to stay in their comfort zones, bask in their KPIs, and resist new ways of connecting and working.

This is a big problem. And joy can be a big part of the solution. Why? For two reasons. People intrinsically seek joy. And joy connects people more powerfully than almost any other human experience.

The connective power of joy is clearly visible in sports. When a team performs at its awe-inspiring best, overcoming its limitations and challenges, every player — indeed, the entire arena — experiences a brimming ecstasy that lifts the team even further.
Success sparks joy. Joy fuels further success. Everyone is caught up in the moment.

Can the joy that is so apparent in championship athletics be replicated in business? Absolutely.

In any team environment, joy arises from a combination of harmony, impact, and acknowledgment — all of which business leaders can engender in their organizations.

Harmony. On winning teams, each player has a distinct role in achieving the goal. One player might be a great passer. Another is a great scorer. Yet another may bring a certain intensity and competitive fire. When the diverse skills and strengths of teammates are really clicking together, it feels great.

Impact. Team harmony leads to impact, which further fuels joy. Even if the result is just a single sublime play or golden moment, the palpable joy of each teammate rises. You can see it in their faces as they throw their arms around each other and jump up and down like jubilant children. They are saying to each other: “Can you believe we did that?!”

Acknowledgment. Great coaches instruct their players to, when they score, immediately point to the teammates who created the scoring opportunity. Acknowledging each player’s contributions and cheering for each other powers the entire joy-success-joy cycle.

This is a pattern rife with opportunity for business leaders. By providing people with more of the experiences that engender joy in any team setting, leaders can tap more of the practical power of joy in their companies.

To test this premise, A.T. Kearney conducted a survey in December 2018 that explored people’s workplace experiences across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region. The sample included more than 500 employees of various ages in companies with more than $2 billion in revenues and in a range of industries.

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