Matt Tenney: Changing the world by changing what we measure


Matt Tenney is a servant leadership and mindfulness speaker, and author of ‘Serve to Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom’.

Tenney_photo-minIf I were made ruler of the world tomorrow, the first thing I would do is ask whoever put me in charge if perhaps they got the wrong guy.

Assuming, as the hypothetical situation purposed by the staff at Salt suggests, that they felt I was in fact the right guy, I would change what we measure.

At present, we are measuring the wrong things. We are too focused on wealth. As a result, we have too many short-sighted policies that are based on greed. This has in turn created a planet on which the majority of people live in poverty and which will likely soon be unable to sustain human life.

I don’t believe I have all the answers to solve the problems that currently plague our planet. But I am very confident that together, we could create a healthy world with our collective intelligence. By changing what we measure, we could empower people to work together to create that wonderful world.

As leader of the world, the primary metric on which I would focus is happiness. Success for my administration would be measured by the level of sustainable happiness realised by the citizens of our planet. With sustainable happiness as our metric, I would imagine that my team would create some extremely impactful approaches to improving our world.

For instance, I envision free education for all citizens through college. Every institution worldwide would be required to offer a degree programme in social entrepreneurship. Every institution would also be required to include the following coursework, which would be required for obtaining any degree:

Courses at every level on how to realise sustainable happiness in life. People would learn that sustainable happiness has nothing to do with accumulating wealth. Sustainable happiness is a result of developing emotional intelligence and of living a life of meaning.

Courses at every level on developing emotional and social intelligence. To further encourage social entrepreneurship, I envision highly valuable incentives, customised to match the motivations of each recipient, for people who create companies and non- profits that meet the legitimate needs of our citizens, solve problems in our world, and otherwise contribute to the sustainable happiness of people. With just these two measures, it would likely not be long before we see the following benefits:

  • The vast majority of people would know how to realise sustainable happiness that doesn’t require external conditions to be met
  • The vast majority of people would realise that one of the keys to happiness is serving others
  • Since happy people don’t tend to hurt others or horde resources for themselves, we would see a gradual decline in poverty and violence
  • Companies would gradually transform into organisations that actually improve the health of our planet and its citizens


Although, for the sake of brevity, the approach above is highly oversimplified, I am confident that by changing what we measure we would empower people to fill in the details of this approach with the innovative solutions that can change our world.


Photo credit:Alex from Flickr