LORD Percy of Newcastle, Britain’s minister of education in 1924-29, was no fan of the fad for happy-clappy “progressive” education that spread among the country’s schools on his watch. He declared that it was all nonsense: “a child ought to be brought up to expect unhappiness.” This columnist feels the same suspicion of the fashion for happy-clappy progressive management theory that is rushing through the world’s companies and even some governments. 

The leading miscreant is Zappos, an online shoe shop. The firm expects its staff to be in a state of barely controlled delirium when they sell shoes. Pret A Manger, a British food chain, specialises in bubbly good humour as well as sandwiches. Air stewards are trained to sound mellifluous but those at Virgin Atlantic seem on the verge of breaking out into a song-and-dance routine. Google until recently had an in-house “jolly good fellow” to spread mindfulness and empathy.

A weird assortment of gurus and consultancies is pushing the cult of happiness. Shawn Achor, who has taught at Harvard University, now makes a living teaching big companies around the world how to turn...Continue reading