Happiness lives in Kilimanjaro - Creativity in the service of purpose

Sep 06, 2021


It was 4pm and the sun was reflecting intensely on the shores of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Planet Earth. I had 0,70€ in my pocket, a backpack with some belongings, food for two or three days, a bottle of water and the intention of moving to Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point of Africa, which is where happiness lives.


This introduction sounds a bit like Alchemist, elixir of life and Chinese gong… and it's just what it sounds like to many people when we put happiness and work in the same sentence.


Meanwhile, I sat down in the shade of a hut, better fastened my leather sandals, which were already tied to my legs with contraptions that were difficult to understand, and took my notebook out of my backpack in a way of someone who needs to reflect…

A question emerged in my mind "How to get out of the Dead Sea, cross Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya... towards Kilimanjaro?"


When I dived into the topic of happiness at work, people started to ask me if happiness at work consisted of providing table soccer, ping pong, fresh fruit and having a fun person cheering employees. I said no but if there is, that's great! I always felt this topic as something very serious and even painful because for me happiness at work requires awareness and purpose seeking. This process, while worthwhile, can be quite challenging. But then I lightened my perception because...


In the notebook I started to draw a kind of matrix while the sun started to burn my feet. In the first quadrant I wrote “What does Kilimanjaro mean to me?”.


I was lightening it up because I learned and accepted that not all people feel work, as I do, as a way to fulfill my life purpose - to contribute to a better world. Happiness is a subjective and complex concept (everyone has its own perception) and, therefore, the purpose of some people is realized in another sphere of their lives.


In the second quadrant I wrote “Why do I want to go to Kilimanjaro?”.


So, if there are multiple perceptions of happiness within a company, how creative can we be or what can we do to promote happiness within companies? Or more concretely, how to create environments or organisational cultures in which many, and so different, people feel good, respected and valued?


This is all very cute, searching for happiness... but I started to despair with the heat and with the crazy idea that had gotten into my head, with only 0,70€ and a lot of weight on my back! Until…


It seems like a crazy idea, an unreachable goal and even some people think it's not a work matter. They say: "Work is work, cognac is cognac!"


Until a man of indecipherable age appears. The kind of person who can have several ages, be from anywhere and know everything or nothing. Well there is no one who doesn't know something, however small it is. He asked me a question that filled my third quadrant - What are you doing? - to which I added an "already" and, without thinking too much, I wrote in the fourth quadrant – “What I still don't know or what am I missing":



But the truth is that in 2021 there is no longer room to give much credence to this rigid division between brandy and work. Emancipation of women, gender equality, remote work, work life balance, well-being, burnout, talent retention, purpose, millennials, and… does anyone want to continue?


After talking for a while I realised that this man had found happiness at the Dead Sea. I started comparing myself and wondering if I was wrong and if it would make more sense to stick around. Until the man interrupted me and surprisingly said “I come from Kilimanjaro!”. And now? What could I do if his ending point was my bottom line?


Back to my question of what can we do to promote happier environments. The answer is complexly simple: make use of creativity - create activity. If it doesn't exist or we don't have a thing, we only have two ways: to create it or to buy it. I don’t think we can buy happiness, so I guess we really have to create it.

So how to create something so subjective and unique for each person, which can have multiple paths and multiple directions?


I asked him “So this means that I can use your path to Kilimanjaro?”. He promptly replied “Yes you can, but the stones you’ll find on your roadside will not be the same ones I found in the opposite direction. I am also wearing different shoes and, furthermore, you can always discover new possibilities.”


My suggestion is to create a Creative Question, which allows:

  • Getting to the real problem to be solved
  • A powerful starting point for generating ideas
  • Break the current system (disruption)


The man, who I alreading considered wise, asked me in a challenging tone "How are you going to get to Kilimanjaro loving the experience?


Formula: Action + User + Needs/Goals + Insight

                  To get + You + Kilimanjaro + Loving the experience


In the workplace:
Example1: How can we [offer] [workers] a [work experience] that [they love]?

Example 2: How can we create a work environment where workers feel happy?

Example 3: How can we design our culture so that people feel valued?


As curiosity and summary of this short story, some of the steps that lead us to the Creative Question, which we can categorize in Divergent Activity (AD) and Convergent Activity (AC):

 However, night was fallling calmly. I ate something and decided to stay overnight. 

That night, under the starry sky, I had several dreams. And so it was, after an extensive exploration of the topic where I combined rational analysis with an intuitive and associative process of gathering insights, that I started the art of visioning my journey to Happiness.


Source: Inspired by Thnk Innovation Flow (Sensing, Visioning, Prototyping, Scaling)

Joana Rita Pinheiro