How happy is Cayman?
Reinvent or Die
Thoughts, ideas, insights to focus Cayman’s businesses on continually assessing and even reinventing themselves to compete in our rapidly changing world.
In last month’s column, I focused on the need to remove the friction in the gears of business for Cayman Inc. so that we can move forward with the new ideas we so sorely need to reinvent our country. However, even if we can lubricate those gears, we still need to shake our thinking up, as the evidence shows we are still not doing enough to think different.
Abraham Maslow, author of Hierarchy of Needs said: “When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to resemble a nail.” We all have a tendency to go with the tried and trusted, rather than choosing a more effective option but with which we are less familiar, skilled, or experienced.
To give just one recent example of old hammers in Cayman, we are so used to a system where electoral districts have multiple representatives that the Boundary Commission report of June 2010 called the option of single member constituencies controversial despite the majority of respondents favouring that option.
So, to stir up (I hope!) some to think different, let me ask: How Happy is Cayman?
For more than a generation, Caymanians have been driven to achieve, but to achieve based almost solely on material measures. Put another way: Money, money, money!
Now, as we sit mired in a global recession, but after 25 or so years of the Cayman economic miracle, let’s pause and ask ourselves how happy has this made us?
We have larger homes, but we have bigger mortgages. We now run the a/c all the time instead of opening the windows, but complain about the electricity bill. We drive trucks and massive SUVs, but complain about the price of the gas they guzzle. Worst of all, we spend so much time working to fuel our new Cayman lifestyle that we forget that time is the ultimate measure of wealth and have less and less time to spend on what matters, like our children’s upbringing, our elders, our community.
Let’s look beyond our shores to an unexpected source. In 1972, in the Himalayan mountain Kingdom of Bhutan, a teenage king came to the throne. Early in his reign, he was asked by a foreign journalist about the GDP of his country. He replied “Why are we so obsessed and focused with gross domestic product?
Why don’t we care more about gross national happiness?”
Decades later, the Bhutanese now have their government, society, economy focused on four pillars, nine key indicators and 72 metrics that actually help to measure their GNH.
Much of the above I picked up from following Chip Conley, a thought leader on the ideas of Maslow and others. Chip spoke about GNH in a recent TED speech, I encourage you to Google it and other TED Talks; they are most thought-provoking.
On a trip to Bhutan, Chip’s thoughts crystallised to the Bhutanese believe happiness equals wanting what you have — imagine gratitude — divided by having what you want — gratification. The Bhutanese aren’t on some aspirational treadmill, constantly focused on what they don’t have.
Here in Cayman we have so much to be thankful of in our daily lives, our family, our friends, our beautiful Islands. I’m not suggesting we go back to the old days of smoke pots and thatch, but is the constant pounding of the treadmill seeking ever more material gains truly the best future for Cayman, or is it just the only hammer in our toolkit?