Positive psychology, or the science of happiness, is a discipline that has challenged the field of human sciences to reconsider the positive aspects of life. Instead of drawing on a “disease model,” it encourages empirical research into factors that enable individuals and communities to thrive and focus on finding the best in oneself. Areas of study include well-being and its determinants, neuropsychological bases of positive emotions, resilience, creativity, economics of happiness and positive institutions.

The basic premise of positive psychology is that human flourishing cannot be achieved simply through curing pathology and eliminating behavioral and emotional problems, but requires building and capitalizing on strengths and capacities. Since its creation in 1998, the field has grown dramatically, judging by the research output, widespread popularity and recognition by business, educational and governmental institutions. A strong relationship between well-being and performance has been established, both at the individual and collective levels. US data shows that the average annual new disease burden cost for people with high well-being is $723, compared with $1,488 for those with low well-being. Workers with low career well-being begin to disengage after just 20 hours of work in a given week and are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression next year. Recent European studies have shown that staff are 12% more productive when in a positive mental state (University of Warwick, 2010), increasing employee well-being can increase sales by up to 9 per cent (IJSIM 14, 2003) and staff well-being and engagement programs are showing an ROI of 9:1 in the first year alone (AJHP 22, 2007). Nowadays, positive psychology is credited with substantially increasing the performance of employees using creativity, personal strengths, hope and optimism as drivers (in Mars, Aviva, Toyota). 

This module will expand your awareness and skills with regard to: 1) the key philosophical, psychological and economic issues relating to the science of happiness; 2) the range of existing and potential applications of this knowledge to personal, organizational, leadership and policy contexts; 3) the main levers to leverage performance and engagement in organizations. This will give you science based knowledge and tools towards personal happiness and the extra psychological advantage as future leaders. As part of the class, you will engage in diverse exercises intended to build your personal and professional skills, followed by debriefing and concise lectures on the science of positive psychology. 

Learning outcomes

At the end of this module, you will be able to: 

1. Discover the objectives and impact of positive approaches to management of the organizational performance and of your own development as a person and manager.

2. Develop competence in using organizational interventions designed to improve employee well-being and engagement, providing a compelling rationale and clear recommendations for implementation. 

3. Identify the main drivers of positive management (strengths, resilience, flow, empathy, emotional intelligence, awareness, intuition, etc.) and experiment with applying them in practice. 

4. Develop four competences (vision, awareness, empathetic connection and audacity) of positive leadership in yourself. 

5. Investigate the opportunities for, and consider limitations to, applying the principles of positive psychology to organizations, public policy and governance.