Our world is changing at an incredible speed. Many things we still use today are already outdated tomorrow. What about the classical job model: work in an office every weekday from nine till five? And what about the classical recruiting process: advertise a job, test applicants, employ one of them? These models might be outdated tomorrow as well. But then, what could employment look like tomorrow?
There are already a few online services that allow workers and employers to be flexible, such as TaskRabbit or Slivers-of-Time. At TaskRabbit, TaskPosters outsource tasks that they would like to have done by others and TaskRabbits use their time and abilities to complete these tasks. These can be grocery shopping or furniture assembly, but also more complex tasks like developing IT code and the like.
At Slivers-of-Time, employers can indicate for what kind of job, where and when they need someone and then the system suggests workers that are available. Employers can get more information on the workers’ profiles and book those who are interesting for them. The worker selected is notified and only has to confirm the assignment. The job can also be seen as a work sample, so in case the employer is looking for someone to employ permanently, there is a pool of employees who have already worked for them that they can select from.
But Wingham Rowan would like to take this one step further and establish a system that works like the one that is being used at the stock market. He calls it “Modern Markets for All”. This system will of course advertise jobs and allow for finding the matching candidates for the job. But there will also be statistics on supply and demand and pricing, on job requirements, most profitable options, and so on, which will help workers decide where they want to become active. Of course, also policy makers, i.e. government, will have to be involved to make sure mechanisms like proving one’s identity and licensure etc. are granted. He calls the idea “atomised capitalism”: there are small trades by small people, but very informed, safe, convenient, low overhead and immediate. He concludes with the words “Do not underestimate the transformative power of truly modern markets”.
On the TED website, Kate Torgovnick posted, along with the one mentioned here, a number of TED Talks with various other ideas on future job markets that are very worthwhile checking out: 7 talks with big ideas for hiring.
The quest for true happiness in one’s life has become “en vogue”. Also on the cut-e scienceblog, we frequently discuss what we can do in order to improve our happiness and well-being. But what if this search for happiness does not make us happier at all? And by the way: what IS happiness?
Jennifer Aaker from Stanford University gives an outline of two studies she conducted on exactly these two questions. She found that what drives our happiness is often not what we think drives our happiness.
In their first study, she and her colleagues asked two groups of people to do two different things within the next 24 hours: one group was told to create happiness, the other to create meaning. The next day, both groups were asked how happy they were and it turned out that those who had created happiness were less happy than those who had created meaning. The latter group felt more connected to this world and the people around them. The researchers conclude that it is this feeling of connectedness that makes us happy, not so much the search for happiness itself.
In their second study, they asked individuals to define happiness. People at younger ages agree more with the statement “Happiness = Excitement”, whereas individuals older than 40 years of age agree with the statement “Happiness = Peacefulness”. However, for younger adults, this attitude can be changed by making them breathe deeply and stay in the moment for a while. After this exercise, they agree much more with the statement that happiness means peacefulness.
Professor Aaker concludes that the meaning of happiness shifts over the life course, but it can shift even in five minutes.
The second study reflects what we know on many studies conducted on mindfulness: we are happiest when we are in the moment. Moreover, the first study reminds us of Martin Seligman’s PERMA framework in which meaning plays a crucial role for happiness and life satisfaction (with the other factors, as we might recall, being Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, and Achievement). Thus, when looking for happiness, it makes sense to work on one of these factors (or several of them). And we need to be aware that happiness does not necessarily always mean the same. It changes, like nothing in life is ever going to be permanent!
It is widely acknowledged and has been shown again and again that we are most creative when we are in a positive emotional state. For example, Barbara Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions posits that positive emotions broaden thought-action repertoires. However, we also know that positive emotions are not always appropriate and that negative emotions can be beneficial in certain situations. Recent research now shows that negative emotions may even enhance creativity!
In their initial study, Ronald Bledow from Ghent University and Kathrin Rosing and Michael Frese from Leuphana University of Lueneburg had individuals rate their emotional state in the beginning and in the end of some subsequent working days, along with their creativity. They found creativity to be highest when the day started off in a rather negative state that improved during the course of the day.
However, here the causal link might as well be the other way round: participants started their day in a negative mood, but when they saw that they had made progress on some of their creative tasks, their mood improved.
The researchers thus backed up their findings with an experimental study. First, they had individuals write an essay on either an unpleasant, neutral, or pleasant life event. Then all participants wrote another essay on a pleasant life event and subsequently participated in a brainstorming exercise. Those who had started off with the negative life event had more varied and unique ideas than those in the other two conditions. Thus, starting off in a negative mood that improves seems to be beneficial for creativity.
The findings can be considered to be in line with a meta-analysis by Matthijs Baas, Carsten K. W. De Dreu, and Bernard A. Nijstad from the University of Amsterdam. They reported that individuals are more creative in positive than in neutral or negative mood states, especially when the positive mood has an activating component (such as happiness as opposed to relaxation). But interestingly, they did not find a significant difference between positive and negative moods with respect to creativity, which might point to the findings Ronald Bledow and his colleagues reported. Thus, an improvement of mood might lead to enhanced creativity.