In Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, opens the door and lets anyone interested come in and learn about the secrets to his company’s success. This is not the first door he’s opened. Zappos regularly allows people to come into their offices for extensive tours of the facilities. They’ll also send a free copy of their “culture book,” which they claim to be key to their success, to anyone who asks for it. And last month, they broadcast their employee meeting over the web to anyone who wanted to listen in (if you missed it, you can watch the recording here.) In fact, Zappos has recently created a whole new branch of their organization, ZapposInsights, which is dedicated to sharing with the world the secret sauce that makes Zappos such an amazing place to work. (You can read more about this on my Psychology of Wellbeing blog today: “Why Zappos is the Workplace Utopia of the 21st Century”.)
BOOK REVIEW: Hsieh, T. (2010). Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. New York: Business Plus.
It is hard to understand why any CEO would be willing to invite colleagues and competitors alike to learn how to re-create the culture that has been at the root of the company’s success. But reading Delivering Happiness, which is autobiographical in nature, you follow Hsieh (pronounced “Shay”) on his path from a quest for profits to passion and finally to purpose. If your goal is more profits, sharing your ideas with competitors is a horrible idea. But if you want to change the world, you have to let people in, argues Hsieh.
Many people don’t realize that Hsieh was already a success story before he founded Zappos. He co-founded an internet start-up called LinkExchange at the height of the dot com boom and sold it to Microsoft for $265 million. It turns out that getting filthy stinking rich while doing something you are not passionate about is a good way to learn that wealth and happiness do not necessarily go hand in hand. It helped Hsieh realize he needed something more.
Zappos evolved out of Hsieh’s quest for meaning. While selling shoes online may not seem, at first glance, like the most meaningful of business models, to Hsieh, the product and the platform are irrelevant. Tony Hsieh is delivering happiness to customers and employees. For him, the company is not about shoes at all: it is about a culture of happiness and the very best in customer service. His hope is that one day, no one will even remember that Zappos started as a shoe company. It will simply be the place to go to get whatever you need, efficiently, and in a way that brings a little more joy into peoples’ lives.
But Hsieh seems not to be content with the mission of dominating the planet in customer service. He has found a way to create a workplace that is fun and engaging and brings meaning to employees and customers. He wants to be a role model for changing the way the world works. He recently said that Zappos is “starting a movement” by showing others how to create the culture that has turned Zappos customers and clients alike into loyal, raving fans.
The book is not, by the way, specifically about positive psychology. In fact, positive psychology is not mentioned as influencing the business until page 229 (of a 244 page book). On the other hand, Hsieh devotes the last chapter to his own studies of positive psychology and how they have informed a lot of his decisions. By including that chapter, Hsieh makes this the most prominent public example of the application of positive psychology to a business. In the ten years of its existence, Zappos created enough value to be bought by Amazon for $1.2 billion (Source: Techcrunch and New York Times). As a case study, Zappos is a success story of astronomical proportions, which means that while Hsieh is revolutionizing the way we look at work, he might also be revolutionizing the way we look at positive psychology.
Note: You may be able to get a free copy of Delivering Happiness. Zappos has generously provided me with an extra advance paperback copy of the book to give away to one of my readers. I will randomly select a winner from among the comments on this blog and my Psychology of Wellbeing blog to receive a free copy. Commenting on both blogs will increase your chances. Winner will be selected and notified on June 21.
Editor’s Note: For almost all book reviews on PPND, including this one, a copy of the book is provided to us by the publisher or author.
Hsieh, T. (2010). Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. New York: Business Plus.