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Training Program Based On, And Backed By, Research

There is quite a large array of evidence that taking the time to learn all that is within the Wonderful Life Project training program will provide substantial benefit to you, your business, and your health.  In addition, your community can benefit if enough people participate.

Let’s look at the evidence.


Research Conducted by Wonderful Life Project
One line of evidence for the effectiveness--the benefits of taking time to learn the skills--comes from the early history of the Wonderful Life Project. 


Case 1: The project began as an attempt to reduce turnover at a hospital. The Human Resources department recognized that recruiting was becoming very difficult and that the job vacancy (percent of jobs unfilled) was approaching a point that decisions would need to be made about sending patients to other hospitals--doing otherwise would imperil the safety of the patients. Obviously, this was something the hospital most definitely wanted to avoid.

The challenge was to find some way to reduce turnover so that the need for recruiting was diminished. A strategy was developed--to create a work environment that was so wholesome and enriching that people would want to come to the hospital and, once they went to work there, they would not want to leave because they were learning and experiencing things that were not available elsewhere. This was the early “version” of the Wonderful Life project.

Although the training was not nearly as extensive as it currently is, the results were impressive (note that the effort at the hospital began in 2001 and continued through 2010):

  • Turnover dropped 40% (21% in 2000, 12,7% in 2010)--estimated savings $2 million per year.

  • Job vacancy dropped 50% (4.5% in 2000, 2.3% in 2010).

  • Even though the number of job openings dropped, the total number of applications each year nearly tripled.

  • Frequency of destructive conflict dropped nearly to zero. A dramatic increase in the quality of conflict was apparent.

  • Work environment was recognized as a preferred place to work, a place of happiness. Visitors commented on employees’ apparent “happiness.”

  • Many employees with substantial performance issues turned around and become model, top-performing employees that the managers spoke of with considerably higher levels of trust. Some went from being "employees with issues" to "employee of the month".

  • Many managers worked more effectively and addressed more complex issues without need of input from supervisors (as reported by their supervisors).



Case 2: In 2010, the owner of a local business asked if the training could be provided to his employees. Although his operation was much smaller and the amount of time put into the training was much less, the results--again--were impressive:

  • Productivity increased 15-20%.

  • Turnover decreased.

  • Co-worker relations significantly improved (e.g., people who had not talked for a very long time began to talk with each other).

  • Attitudes were enhanced.

The owner commented that one employee said she strongly did not wish to attend the training. (Her exact words were that he would have to “drag her to the training and nail her to the chair.”) The owner was able to convince her to go to the first training. She never missed one of the subsequent training sessions and was very supportive of the effort immediately after the first training.



Case 3: In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the Wonderful Life Project for participants, Daryl Kelley, Professor of Sociology, University of Nebraska at Kearney, conducted a focus group study to measure outcomes of the services provided. Dr. Kelley concluded that the stories shared by the participants after both years clearly indicated that they had benefited from the Wonderful Life Program. The participants integrated the skills into their everyday lives and found their social interaction to be much more satisfying. They clearly felt happier. 

Key findings included:

  • Many work problems were resolved.

  • Substantial improvement in communication, especially learning were gained.

  • Family relationships improved. In fact, the benefits noted were at least as strong at home as seen at work.

  • Respondents reported increased happiness and forgiveness.



Results Seen at Companies That Use Wisdom-Based Management
In fact, there are a growing number of companies that are emphasizing some variation of wisdom-based management. They focus intensely on managing the complexities of people at work. Their results are simply impressive.

Consider Daniel Coyle, in Culture Code, said that it is more difficult to get a job at Zappos than it is to be admitted to Harvard.

Raj Sisodia, Jag Sheth, and David Wolfe, in Firms of Endearment, have twice now looked at results of companies that use wisdom-based management. Consider some of the results they noted in their studies:

  • Patagonia receives 10,000 applications for employment each year for a few hundred job openings. SAS gets 150 applicants per opening.

  • Employee turnover at SAS is 2% in an industry that typically sees 22%; SEMCO has a mere 1% turnover rate.

  • SAS has 37 consecutive years of record sales and revenues. Jordan Furniture has sales of $950 per square foot in an industry that averages $150 per square foot. SEMCO saw sales grow over a six-year period from $35 million to $212 million as they moved to more effective people management.

  • Wegman's grocery gets hundreds of letters each month asking them to locate their stores in communities across the country.

  • Demand for Patagonia products is such that they charge 20% more and, as a result, see a nearly 50% gross profit margin.

  • Over a 15 year period, the S&P 500 went up 118%; these companies went up 1,681%.

When there is effective people management, productivity increases, turnover decreases, customer loyalty increases, and financial results are exceptional.



Other Research on Training Program Topics
The material developed for the Wonderful Life Project is based on peer-reviewed research studies from the fields of general psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, positive psychology, positive organizational scholarship, sociology, social psychology, to list a few.

It is important to note that there has been a development that initiated in psychology and later moved to business that has profound benefits for people and for business. We are in the early stages of a new and quite powerful evolution of our understanding of management.

Our first ideas regarding management largely started with engineers--Fredrick W. Taylor and colleagues (e.g., measure of productivity, organizational design, etc.). Then, with the Hawthorne studies, we learned that people don't fit well within a work environment that is designed as though people were largely the same as equipment. This started the Humanistic approach to management (e.g., employee satisfaction, engagement, group dynamics). Next, Edward Deming introduced a substantial shift in management. He demonstrated that we can understand and manage processes to achieve higher levels of quality.

Then, Martin Seligman, of the University of Pennsylvania department of psychology, a leading expert in depression, said that something quite significant was missing in our study of psychology--researchers have not spent much time researching what it is the typical person could use to enhance life. Dr. Seligman significantly enhanced the field of positive psychology which began to study and substantiate a person's level of well-being.

Later, this development in psychology was adapted by the field of business. Many, such as faculty at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, have created a new field in the study of management now referred to as Positive Organizational Scholarship. There has been quite a dramatic growth in the amount of research on how positive psychology can improve life at work.

In his book, Dying for a Paycheck, Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford University, argued that the world of work has become so exceptionally toxic that it is now the fifth leading cause of death. Moreover, David Whetten and Kim Cameron, in their book, Developing Management Skills, make a very powerful argument that effective management of people is, by far, the most substantial contributor to the profitability of a business. In fact, it has been shown to be three times as powerful as any of the other drivers of profit.

Obviously, a major change in how we manage is desperately needed--our current approach of command-and-control is doing great harm. We need an approach to management that more fully addresses the complexities of people at work. It became apparent to us that what is needed is a great understanding of practical wisdom--the way to a better life.

Using studies provided by such researchers as Paul Baltes of the Max Planck Institute in Berlin and through the Center for Practical Wisdom at the University of Chicago, the content contained in the Wonderful Life Project's training modules was carefully designed to meet an accepted definition of wisdom and the respective criteria.

As such, our training is focused on a new development in management. That development is wisdom-based management.

Our experience has shown that people from most walks of life benefit by enhancing wisdom. They are better able to address life's challenges and to move toward having what we somewhat grandiosely have referred to as a wonderful life.




The obvious conclusion is that research indicates dramatic and powerful benefits from understanding and learning the skills included in the Wonderful Life Project. Results shown at several organizations that participated the Wonderful Life Project certainly show the training produces substantial benefits--the participants benefit, the participant’s family benefits, business benefits, and the community benefits.

Few training programs can claim such impact.

Among other things, participants learn how to:

  • Stand up for what he/she believes is important and to do so quite effectively--the problem is resolved and there is a minimum of residual hard feelings.

  • Eliminate residual hard feelings thereby ending grudges. This leaves the person in a state of peace.

  • Overcome hardships from the past and present, and pursue somewhat risky efforts that are more likely to lead to fulfillment.

  • Experience less stress and to minimize destruction from the stress that does happen.

  • Build moral understanding and understanding of how we “fit” in the world so that decisions made are increasingly ethical. We do the right thing.

  • Move to higher and higher levels of fulfillment; concerns shift from our own well-being to that of others--we transcend.

  • Willingly and effectively undergo the somewhat frightening transformation necessary to move into the realm of being spiritually exceptional--and have a strategic plan to do so.

As a consequence, participants will:

  • Come closer to the ultimate meaning and purpose in life.

  • Develop a deep feeling of interconnectedness, being part of everything.

  • Have an inner peace and calm.

  • Will come closer to an inexhaustible source of faith and will power.

  • Come much closer to the ultimate end in life.

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