A Less Positive Perspective?

You don’t often find Positive Psychology being overtly criticised (I suppose this would be very un-American) so when I came across this article on Richard Dawkins’ website, I thought you might be interested; it gives a very different perspective.

It would appear that the Templeton Foundation does fund a huge amount of academic research into many Positive Psychology subjects such as gratitude, strengths and wisdom, and that Seligman’s Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania was established on the back of a multi-million dollar Templeton grant. Templeton also funds other research unconnected with Positive Psychology, such as the natural sciences, world religions, freedom and free enterprise.

As far as I’m aware though, the Positive Psychology Summit (or the Global Wellbeing Forum as it’s now called) referred to in Ehrenreich’s article is actually funded by the mighty Gallup Organisation, which since the 1930s has provided consulting services and market research on public opinion to Fortune 500 clients.

According to one of my fellow MAPP students who attended the Washington conference, it was unexpectedly badly organised, so I think there are some sympathies with Ehrenreich’s opinion on that score. As for her criticisms of the content of the conference, there is increasing evidence ((see Lyubomirsky, King and Diener (2005) for example)) that positive and/or strengths-based approaches in organisations ultimately provide a boost to the bottom-line. Even without the supporting research, common sense tells you that business benefits if its employees have more job satisfaction and are more engaged. It makes good business sense; we have previously featured organisations like Norwich Union and Standard Chartered who have benefitted from taking a strengths-based approach.

Incidentally, it turns out that The Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business is also partly funded by the Templeton Foundation and by the Gallup Organisation. The Centre, whose purpose is to energise and transform organisations through academic research into the theory and practice of positive organising and leadership, is the number one source of information on this subject, so if you want leading edge ideas about business transformation and positive leadership, this is the place to start.

Thanks to UEL MAPP student Viv Thackray for this link

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