Anyone who has worked in any creative capacity understands the concept of flow. Something magical happens when one is able to focus on a single or small set of tasks for an extended period of time. This state is very important for productivity—for you and for all your team members. In this video, learn how to promote flow in your organization.
- [Narrator] Flow is a psychological concept, also referred to as the zone or slow mind. Many of us have experienced flow. This is the state where you're deep in work, writing or programming or doing something you enjoy and everything around you melts away and you're completely absorbed in what you're doing. This is a key aspect of being productive and it's our job as managers, to ensure that we can facilitate our team to get here on a daily basis. So how do we do that? First, let's look at what the state of flow is. This concept has been hinted at in Eastern religion as an ecstatic state by composers, poets, artists, mathematicians and even athletes.
Even Einstein talked about it, in relation to how he first imagined the forces of relativity. The concept has been popularized by the TED Talk of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 2004, which I highly recommend watching. He interviewed dozens of people in different fields in search of what happiness is and he kept running into this state. In his talk, he describes a man so consumed in the state of flow, that he is unaware of his body, his hunger and his surroundings, so completely absorbed and what he is doing is all that exists.
It is essentially, a state of hyper focus and one that we should all aspire to create when we are working on something. The state is defined by the following criteria. Intense and focused concentration on the present moment, merging of action and awareness, a loss of reflective self-consciousness, a sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity, a distortion of temporal experience, one's subjective experience of time is even altered, experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience.
So how do we attain the state? And most importantly as a manager, facilitate our team to be able to attain it. The key is to be able to be involved in a task with clear sets of goals and progress, to have immediate feedback, so that individuals can check in and adjust their performance in real time, and have a balance of perceived challenges and their own perceived skills. If something is too easy or too hard, one can easily fall out of the state. Let's break this down into management objectives.
First, we need to make sure our team has clear objectives and clear goals with marked progress and divided up so everyone has work to do now and knows what to do next. This can be done by having a board, real or virtual, with posted tasks and people assigned. This is part of the agile methodology, which I've personally embraced and there are courses about using it here. Next, make sure there's a good feedback loop, both in creating tasks that are large enough to have their own reward, such as making the checkout system work but also making sure that comments and feedback happens fast through processes.
There should be a way for people to avoid distractions. To be able to turn off, slack an email, put on headphones or do something to indicate they're heads down and need some time to achieve flow. And lastly, it's important to give people the time to have the skills they need to get their jobs done and to have tasks assigned that are in their skill level. Taking time out to do a course like this one or read an online article can be a lot more productive than jumping out of a task to constantly check google or stack overflow for solutions.
These are both distractions that take away from our productivity. Doctor Csikszentmihalyi explains the problem of maintaining flow, using a chart of skills and challenges. One one axis is the challenge level, on the other is the skill level. If we have low challenge, and low skill, on either side of these, we end up with either apathy or boredom or worry. If we have high skill, but low challenge, we're going to have someone who's very relaxed and casual about the project at hand.
If we have the reverse, high challenge but low skill, we're going to put people in a state of anxiety. The ideal that we're looking for is a high skill level and a high challenge level. That is the state of flow. As we get closer, we can get into states of arousal and control, but ultimately, we're looking to find that perfect combination. The state of flow is important to productivity when managing a creative, innovative team and it's a good practice of CTO to promote this for yourself and your team members.
- Hiring a great team
- Enhancing team communications
- Creating a product roadmap
- Capturing and using data and analytics
- Identifying key performance indicators
- Choosing which platform to use
- Managing the product life cycle (PLC)
- Taking feedback
- Public speaking
- Running efficient meetings
- Marketing and launching products
- Growing and scaling
- Managing crises