Have you ever heard about the state of flow? Pyschologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, creator of the state of flow concept, describes the importance for a person in finding the right balance between Competition and Competence, as the key to being able to respond effectively and productively to the challenges that life confronts us, everyday.
What if we were able to lead an Agile-Digital transformation by mobilizing our people helping them to surf on a state of continuous flow?
Transforming organizations needs huge amounts of energies, effort, concentration and determination. The Cambridge Dictionary define the word transformation as follows:
A complete change in the appearance or character of something or someone, especially so that that thing or person is improved
We know how hard is to change and how much discomforting and discouraging for a person it could be to change as such to transform the way they live, behave, think, believe.
Any Agile and Digital Transformation is tough and it goes through the same pains above mentioned, but at scale. An organization, to transform, needs to change profoundly its own beliefs, values, principles, behaviors, mindset. In one word: culture.
When a person reaches the state of flow, she is able to confront the anxiety of the challenge with the right mix of mindset and competences, being immersed in a reality of focus, concentration and intrinsic satisfaction.
How an organization could create the conditions, for its people, to reach that state when facing a transformation?
The State of Flow
Let’s start by defining it.
The state of flow can be reached when there’s a good match between the kick needed to execute some actions and the skills the person has to face that challenge.
Let’s assume your best friend invited you to play tennis.
If your abilities are far more than the ones of your friend, the risk is for you to fall down completely bored. When, however, your friend plays tennis since she was 7 years old and you learned to hold the racket a few months before, your anxiety raises at every stroke.
Such a situation can be summarized through the schema below.
Well, actually flow happens only when skills and challenges levels, exceed an average zone. If the task at hand is very simple, like zapping the tv through the remote controller, there’s no need to be so much focused and trained.
Pre-Conditions to reach State of Flow
In their paper “The Concept of Flow“, Jeanne Nakamura & Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, among other interesting things, explain very well the underlying mechanisms for reaching that state. In that paper, the authors, report seven conditions that must be in place for any person who wants to swim in the flow.
- Knowing where to go (Vision)
- Knowing what to do (Mission)
- Knowing how to do it (Skills)
- Knowing how you are doing (Feedback)
- High Degree of Focus (Concentration)
- Challenges vs Skills stability (Balancing)
- Activities are intrinsically motivating (Reward)
Clear Vision and Mission, allow anyone to know what the objectives and the boundaries are to reach success. Sufficient training and coaching are necessary to develop the right degree of skills necessary, to not collapse into anxiety, thus remaining in balance.
Additionally, when exercising those skills, is key to have in place the right system which gives feedback about the performance, allowing the people to immediately adjust. The context where the people is immersed must allow them to have the right space and time to remain concentrated during the endeavor.
Finally, the people that are executing the activities, need to be motivated and interested in doing that.
Have you ever experienced a situation in which you were doing something so intense and interesting at the same time, where your level of concentration was very high, that you and the work were literally just one thing? When the world around you vanished and the perception of time stopped to have any sense?
You and the work were literally just one thing
Well, you were in the flow.
People which experienced that, report that you feel like it could go on and on, like you don’t have to think. Everything goes automatic, almost without thinking.
In that state, performance literally skyrockets. Certain studies say that, people that are in flow, are 200 to 250 percent more productive.
Actually, State of Flow could be a great “tool” to accelerate the way people learn and produce and remain engaged.
How can organizations could build the foundations for flow?