Positive psychology suggests that by focusing on people’s strenghths rather than on their development needs we can transform wellness at work and as a consequence improve organisational performance.
Positive Psychology is the emerging field of the study of optimal human functioning. It is a term first used by Martin Seligman in his presidential address to the American Psychological Association in 1998 where he attempted to encourage his fellow psychologists to think beyond relieving people of their problems to helping them live the best life they can.
The notion behind the work that is being done under the banner of Positive Psychology is to enhance our experiences of love, work and play and by doing so encourage wellbeing. This is in contrast to the traditional ways of thinking in both psychology and business where the focus is on finding what isn't working and trying to fix it.
Techniques such as Appreciative Enquiry and Strength finders (Gallup) as well as writers such as Csikszentmihalyi in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience have been extolling the value of adopting this approach for some time. In Gallup’s case they have produced some strong statistical evidence that it works.
There are, however, some challenges to this compelling notion. Obviously, people's jobs don't always correlate with what they're good at, development may be needed in key areas of a person’s role and if ignored this may lead to issues. Further, managing people fairly without clear structures such as competency frameworks could be a potential problem if positive psychology is fully adopted.
I am drawn to this approach for a couple of reasons. It seems to make sense to let people do what they are good at regardless of what is says in their Job Description (or Job Restriction). Also, anything that challenges the status quo in HR is a good thing for me. If HR is to develop into HR 2.0 it must seek new ways of creating meaning in the workplace and positive psychology might just be one of the key leavers supporting this change.