Years ago, Ricardo Montalban (known to his friends as Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán y Merino) understood that our moods were signals. Messages that told people that things were going okay, not-so-okay, or downright horribly.
Below, those things are smilees.
Stupid, simple, immediately recognizable facial drawings.
They are also perhaps the most important business metric you will ever find.
This image below is a team kanban using smilees to note how people felt about a particular task. Upon completion, the person or people doing the work, annotate the ticket with something denoting their mood. We’ve seen people do this with everything from simple faces, to pictures of angry cats or mushroom clouds.
This is to combat something called Availability Heuristic (among other things). Availability Heuristic says that we are more likely to estimate a higher probability of events that we actually hold in our memories. Meaning, if we remember it, we assume it will happen more often than events we have not experienced or previously heard about. In addition, we tend to remember emotionally charged events. So we would be more likely to remember the big wins and big problems over their less emotional counterparts.
This means we tend to focus on very painful or very wonderful (read relatively rare) events that we want to eradicate or experience, respectively. We will get together to discuss the emotionally charged, but rare, events and forget the smaller ones. They become the comme-ci comme-ca of our day – just normal stuff that happens.
But those small victories, those small pain-points are the ones where solution to continue or improve are much easier to envision and act out.
Those smilees measure Subjective Well Being at a very fine level. They say, “How did you feel today? Right Now! At the moment of doing?” That measure can then be used later to review tasks and see what is it in our daily work that really does make us perform better, that really does make us happy, that really does upset us just a little.
When we seek out what to improve as individuals, teams and companies, seeking out the real day-to-day minor victories and small imperfections and understanding their impacts is crucial. This gives us cost-effective, immediate improvements with very high return. It can free us from huge and unnecessary rules or changes to combat the rare, but emotionally painful events – and put them in perspective.
Note: Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman discuss their findings of Availability Heuristic in this very utilitarian Powerpoint. And the United States is still trying to catch up to El Salvador in terms of subjective well being.
Images of smilees and kanban by me.
Image of Mr. Roark and Tattoo by posterity.