Maybe you’re too shallow for real innovation and happiness

“Don’t worry, be happy”…has it wrong.


Deeper conversations make for happier people… and better innovation.

I wrote about the connection between deeper conversations, happiness and innovation in a previous blog.

What I keep coming back to is the idea that happy people talk about meaningful topics and have deep conversations with their friends and colleagues. Research from the University of Arizona found that unhappy people had 3x as many “small talk” conversations as happy people, and happy people talked about substantive issues twice as often.

This is true for innovation too  —  Our own research and experience working with over a hundred organizational transformations has taught us that true innovations come from diving deep to discover treasures of unexpected insight. Cosmetic innovations are easy, almost predictable, and come from routine questions. Deep conversations open up new perspectives that invite innovative ideas, create a “Flow” experience, and challenge you to stretch into new space and achieve new insights. For innovators, there’s nothing like it — this feeling of happiness and satisfaction.

That moment of unexpected breakthrough makes you want to break into your happy dance.

Deeper conversations drive better business results

A deeper conversation about your customer

Our client was having a familiar team conversation, listing product ideas and evaluating them. When we shifted that planning-level discussion into a deeper conversation about their customers’ personal lives, it opened up new space. What is important to them? How do they live? What gives them joy? We helped the leaders bring that conversation out into cross-functional teams embedded throughout the company. The teams gave names to each customer type, developed narratives about their lives, envisioned what kind of products might best meet their desires and needs, and developed the market messages that would resonate with them. They supported all of this with research and by having direct conversations with customers who fit this profile.

As a result of this enterprise-wide conversation, the company developed a whole new, game-changing category of products that were meaningful to a newly discovered market segment. By deeply discussing the customers as whole people, not just a demographic segment, the business opened new growth opportunities, made a deeply emotional brand connection with their customers and broadened their market appeal.

A deeper conversation about your future

Another client had already developed a “solution” to diminishing growth by creating a longer list of products. We soon discovered through deeper conversations that that they had been defining themselves by their products — this is like myopic railroad companies that define themselves as being in the train business rather than in the business of transporting people and goods.

Defining your business as a list of products is always a danger sign, because the future doesn’t reside in things, it comes from you…it emerges from the essence of who you are and how you connect to the hearts and values of your customers. We expanded the focus of their strategic planning discussion from the predictable product problem-solving pattern to one of a deeper conversation about what is at the heart of their future innovations. In the process of uncovering and engaging this “essence of the business”, our deeper conversation helped them see a new future; they had the basis of a broader platform from which to launch multiple new business units.

Now the company has a portfolio of businesses and services instead of a single category listing of products. This diversity means they’ve been able to seize opportunities they couldn’t even see before. They’re now one of the most respected and successful lead brands in their field.

Want to build a better future and increase your happiness? Have a deeper conversation.

Written by Dan & Meredith BEAM

We’re dedicated to screwing up the status quo to create value and enrich life.