Writing Exercise From Umar Haque Essay “Betterness”

Umar Haque is one of my favorite new business authors.  I found his blog on the HBR list that I follow, and downloaded his short essay Betterness: Economics for Humans onto my Kindle to start reading it.

The essay is short, about 80 pages, and is an ideal read for entrepreneurs and psychology dabblers like me who have been following the Positive Psychology field grow out of Penn.  In the essay, Haque takes the principles of positive psychology and applies them to the economy.  Namely, just as positive psychology recast the paradigm of mental health from therapy to fix mental and emotional problems, into coaching for peak mental and emotional performance, we can also think of world economies as something to be optimized as well.

Umar does a brilliant job to redefine “wealth” as more than stakeholder returns.  He uses the word wealth in reference to higher order returns: emotional growth, social connection, emotional health, job satisfaction, to name a few.  Here’s a post that will elucidate this movement is already happening.

Just like business coaches help executives reach their peak performance, we can also envision economies measuring themselves according to higher-order returns, and performing at their peak instead of half-hearted therapeutic attempts to remedy wage stagnation and widening economic inequality.

“A move away from business towards betterness.”

Umar takes the mission statements of a few growing companies and singles them out as exemplars of growing wealth in human terms: emotional, social, personal, and mental wealth, as well as monetary.  He gives examples of those higher-order returns and challenges corporations and entrepreneurs to begin measuring their success according to the things they want the world to have tomorrow that it lacks today.  It’s a much-needed expansion on how we define “wealth” in human terms.

I carved out a simple writing exercise to help me think about the impact that I want to have on the world, and then how to measure it.  I’ve taken Umar’s lexicon from the book, and applied it to a simple set of questions that can be answered over time to develop a new business, a personal manifesto, or to re-examine how an existing business is measuring their impact and growth in terms of Purpose, Products over Trinkets, and how to create true value chains.

Let me know what you guys think:

  1. What kinds of higher-order returns to I want the world to have tomorrow that it doesn’t have today?
  2. Which kinds of precise benefits to I want to return, and to whom?
  3. How can I measure the human wealth that I create?
  4. Specify the Common Wealth with precision and accuracy.
    1. Whose wealth will be enhanced?
    2. Who will benefit most from what is put back into the economy’s buckets?
    3. Who will gain the wealth created?
    4. To whose common wealth will I add?
    5. How will the created wealth be enjoyed in common, shared amongst the community?
    6. How will the wealth created enrich others as well?

I hope this helps.

Austin W. Gunter