What is it? You know that warm, sunny feeling you get when all your problems seem to slip into the background and life is good? Sure, it's been a while (without recourse to intoxicating stimulants, anyway). But a sense of 'general well-being' is now a serious policy goal for some people at the heart of government, and others in business. David Cameron himself has declared: 'It's time we admitted there's more to life than money and it's time we focused not just on GDP but on GWB - general well-being.' Easy to say if you're married to an heiress, perhaps.
Where did it come from? Go back to Aristotle and you will find him discussing the concept of eudaimonia - usually translated as 'flourishing'. This referred not so much to material success as spiritual contentment, being a good citizen, and living well. Today, Martin Seligman, the US academic, has popularised the idea of 'positive psychology', which in turn has encouraged the study of so-called 'happiness economics' by figures such as Andrew Oswald and (Lord) Richard Layard. But how exactly this new emphasis on well-being will help businesses under increasing pressure from emerging market competitors is not immediately clear.
Where is it going? No. 10 is seriously looking at how to make the well-being agenda work in both political and economic terms. Part of the much discussed (and much-mocked) 'Big Society' idea involves developing general well-being in the community - at minimal (or zero) cost. Business leaders may consider it good PR to sign up for well-being and express concern about 'quality of life' issues. But others will not be persuaded that there is any bottom-line benefit. And some managers will ignore 'well-being' altogether. For them, the mission statement will remain: 'Floggings will continue until morale improves.'
Gradient: A steep but happy climb.