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26 Oct 2020

A Harvard-inspired approach to hacking happiness

Meet the woman developing an antidote to the Busy epidemic
“Productivity has become our disease and part of the reason why our society is so unhappy. We’ve created a ‘busy epidemic’. People are filling every minute of every day, leaving no space for creativity, for thinking, for being – which is where the magic happens.” – Penny Locaso


Penny Locaso left her home in Perth, an 18-year relationship and a senior executive role 16 years into a high-flying career in the pursuit of happiness. After some soul searching, she realised that the life she had created had been based on a societal definition of success rather than her own.

‘How do I live the life I want to live but keep up with the pace and scale of change that is occurring?’

Since answering this question for herself, Penny has found purpose helping others to do the same. As CEO of she works with highly successful, productive people who likewise want to learn how to define happiness on their own terms. She developed the Intentional Adaptability Quotient® (IAQ), a world-first Hacking Happiness measurement tool and educational program to enable them to experiment and realise more happiness within the everyday.

Ahead of her keynote speech at the Legal Innovation and Tech Fest - DIGITAL, Penny shares the story behind her methodology and why we need to re-think our expectations of happiness, busy-ness and productivity.

What is the thinking behind the Intentional Adaptability Quotient?

PL: A few years ago I came across an article from the Harvard Business Review on something called an Adaptability Quotient. It spoke about your AQ being more important than your EQ or your IQ in the context of the future. It said AQ was the new competitive advantage and that those who couldn’t adapt would be left behind because the pace and scale of change was so significant thanks to the technological revolution.

I thought that made a lot of sense except that it was all about productivity and I believe that productivity is part of the problem. I came up with a hypothesis where I took the Harvard concept of AQ and looked at it from a different perspective.  The premise of the Intentional Adaptability Quotient is to help people bring meaning and intention to the forefront of how they adapted.

Penny Locaso

How do you define happiness?

PL: I think we have been defining happiness wrong. Many of us believe that happiness is a goal. It’s like ‘if I tick these boxes, I will arrive at happiness’. The reality is that no one is happy every minute of every day. It’s not possible and it’s not healthy.  How do you experience happiness if you don’t know what sadness feels like? True happiness is having a balance of all emotions.

I define happiness as being able to ride the wave of every emotion life throws at you knowing that you can come out the other side just a little better than you were before.


Has society’s obsession with happiness become part of the problem?

PL: Without a doubt and I think part of the problem is comparing ourselves to what we see on social media. We see all these pictures and we end up comparing someone else’s showreel with our behind-the-scenes – comparing our lives with a reality that just doesn’t exist.


How important is workplace happiness – what if we’re worried about the state of mind of a colleague? Is it our place to do anything?

PL: I think if you’re in a leadership position you should. To lead is to serve and while other people’s well-being is not your responsibility – people have to be accountable for themselves - it’s definitely your priority to help your people explore happiness. All the research shows that happy employees hang around. Happy people are more productive, and they come up with better ideas.


Do you think we’ve learned our lessons about living our lives more meaningfully in 2020?

PL: It’s too soon to tell. Humans are very good at forgetting. The reason why there’s a comfort in ‘busy’ is because it distracts us from the things we find uncomfortable. I think we’ve had our eyes opened to what is possible. We’ve created space to come to a realisation as to what’s important and what we took for granted in terms of human connection. But do we have the skills to pave a new way or to reset the foundations in a way that is more intentional and more meaningful and not revert to ‘the busy’? That remains to be seen.


Hear more from Penny Locaso during her keynote speech at Legal Innovation & Tech Fest - DIGITAL. Prepare to have your perspective shifted as Penny challenges you to look at the world through a different lens. Consider a different kind of future and a different set of skills that will enable a future that is more intentional and meaningful and more humanly connected.





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