We have all heard about the benefits of celebrating small wins and its proven effect on powering motivation and igniting joy, but what is the science behind this phenomenon?

Shawn Achor, Harvard professor, spent 12 years studying happiness in the work environment and in his latest book, The Happiness Advantage ,he covers some interesting insights behind the mechanics of human motivation:

"Feeling that we are in control, that we are masters of our own fate at work and at home, is one of the strongest drivers of both well-being and performance. Among students, greater feelings of control lead not only to higher levels of happiness, but also to higher grades and more motivation to pursue the careers they really want. Similarly, employees who feel they have high levels of control at the office are better at their jobs and report more job satisfaction. These benefits then ripple outward. A 2002 study of nearly 3,000 wage and salaried employees for the National Study of the Changing Workforce found that greater feelings of control at work predicted greater satisfaction in nearly every aspect of life: family, job, relationships, and so on. People who felt in control at work also had lower levels of stress, work-family conflict, and job turnover"

We gain a deep sense of control at work when we know how much our efforts are impacting the organisation. We want to know that we matter and that our work has a clear connection to goals and overall business achievements. One way to gain this sense of control is identifying a few things that really matter and focusing on them. 

Being able to see small and incremental changes in the overall performance of your role and share the sense of progress with colleagues can substantially affect the overall mood in the office. We often hear from customers how they have developed very simple routines that allow their teams have a sense of continuous achievement while becoming more data driven, for instance, one customer share with us:

“On our dashboard we have a mix of fun metrics and "real" metrics so the team is more likely to look at the board. For example, we post animated gifs that reflect our CEOs' mood that day. We also have a widget displaying the current Pac Man high scores. When a team member glances at the .gif of the day, they will also look and see our signups, server uptime and other important stuff that they may not have stopped to look at.”

Such a small change like displaying the metrics that matter to your business on a visible place in the office can dramatically and positively contribute to the culture of your team and the business as whole. It is an opportunity to get everybody involved in the bigger picture and daily small achievements at the same time.

It seems that the management of business data is not so different to the management of personal data. The better we get at identifying what really matters and the more we choose to focus on what actually makes a difference, the greater our chances for success and happiness.

For more information on how tracking personal data can contribute to happiness, check out this interview with John Havens, author of Hacking Happiness – Why Your Personal Data Counts and How Tracking it Can Change the World.