Blind Spot: A book review by Bob Morris

Blind Spot: The Global Rise of Unhappiness and How Leaders Missed It
Jon Clifton
Gallup Press (September 2022)

High-impact evangelists: The “secret sauce” for organizational success 

Jon Clifton wrote this book in order to explain “where the world is suffering in each of Gallup’s five elements of wellbeing [work, finances, physical health, communities, and relationships with family and friends] and where it can improve…The book starts by outlining the indicators [i.e. early-warning signs] that leaders can watch so that they are never surprised again by rising stress, sadness, or anger…I hope this book makes you think differently about measuring happiness. And by the time you are done reading it, I hope you become more interested in understanding how people feel in your organization, your community, and your country.”

The insights shared in this book are based on about five million surveys that were conducted in almost 170 countries; roughly two million in the U.S. and three million globally. “We also conducted panel studies, which allow us to track the same people over time we can better understand what causes changes in wellbeing, such as economy collapse, a job loss, or the death of a spouse…Gallup’s wellbeing research is truly global, covering over 98% of the world’s adult population. It includes almost every ethnic group, religion, and income level and virtually every kind of human experience worldwide.”

It would be a disservice to this book as well as to everyone involved in its creation to reveal the key points made in chapters. They are best revealed in context, within a frame of reference. However, it may help to reveal that Gallup’s subjects focus on issues such as these:

Chapter Three: “The Happiest People in the World?”
Four: “How on Earth Do You Measure Happiness?”
Seven: “The Five Elements of a Great Life”
Thirteen: “The Serious Outcomes of Unhappiness”
Fourteen: “How Are Women’s Lives Ging?”
Eighteen: “What Public Sector Leaders Can Do”
Nineteen: “What Private Sector Leaders Can Do”
Twenty: “What Public Sector and Private Sector Leaders Can Do Together”

Gallup’s narrative is research-driven in ways and to an extent far greater and more complicated than almost any work of non-fiction I have read in the last decade. Key points must be shared in context, within a frame of reference. This is especially true of relative terms such as wellbeing, happiness, and success.

With regard to this book’s subtitle — “The Global Rise of Unhappiness and How Leaders Missed It” — it is important to keep in mind the importance of measurement that is appropriate as well as accurate and sufficient. For example, telephone surveys indicated that incumbent Herbert Hoover would achieve a landslide victory over his Democrat opponent, Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1932 Presidential election. In fact, Roosevelt won 46 of 48 state and had 472 electoral votes to Hoover’s 59. Why was that method of polling inappropriate and thus essentially worthless? Most of the people who could afford a telephone in 1932 were Republicans.

Check out “The “New World Happiness Report” (Page 217) that ranks foreign countries in combination with U.S. states, viewed as if they were also foreign countries. To what extent differently (if any) would workers in #1 Finland define wellbeing than how workers would define it in Brazil, Luxembourg, and Malta, tied for 70th and last among countries? To what extent (if any) would workers in Israel (ranked #13 in a tie with New Zealand) define it than would define it in Utah (ranked #7 in a tie with Alaska)? Leaders in both public and private sectors need to know what such differences are and how best to address them.

Many years ago, Southwest Airlines’ then chairman and CEO, Herb Kelleher, was asked to explain why its profits and cap value were greater than its nine major competitors [begin italics] combined [end italics]. He replied, “We take great care of our people. They take great care of our customers. And our customers take great care of our shareholders.” If you disagree with this approach, consider this: companies annually ranked among those most highly admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those most profitable, with the greatest cap value in their industry segment. That is not a coincidence.

Jon Gallup shares an abundance of valuable information, insights, and counsel that can help leaders in almost any organization — whatever its size and nature may be– to understand trends that might otherwise be ignored or misunderstood. His book is a “must-read” for leaders in organizations that now have problems with employee engagement and especially with retention of highly valued employees as well as problems with both market and customer share.



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