What is Flow?
Flow according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the optimal experience -- where nothing else matters. One experiences an intense concentration that doesn't allow for problems or anything else to distract the mind, where you lose yourself and time gets distorted.
In the Lean or Process Excellence world, flow is the stage of an organization where the reduction of non-productive activities, elimination of inventory, and continually improved processes allow the work to glide effortlessly through the organization. In other words, your product or service can make it's way to the customer without unnecessary distractions.
Whether you subscribe more to the definition by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi or the Lean definition, Csikszentmihalyi's eight characteristics of flow can apply to both individuals and organizations.
Complete concentration on the task.
Allow yourself or your organization to work in distraction free workplaces or carve out distraction free blocks of time. In other words, if you want to achieve flow, don't multitask.
Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback.
Whether you are an individual that enjoys getting better at an activity, a team working together or an organization seeking to create an engaging workplace nothing can substitute creating a clear picture of success with immediate feedback.
Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down of time).
Time flies when you're having fun, and yes this can be while you're surfing alone or working together in a team environment to reach an inspiring goal or milestone.
The experience is intrinsically rewarding.
Individuals and teams get the most out of work that is purposeful, allows for a sense of connection, and has a visible positive impact.
Effortlessness and ease.
Organizations that focus on building skills within an organization to streamline processes and design inspiring future states for the organization create effortlessness and ease in the workplace. For individuals, effortlessness and ease can come simply by putting down your device!
There is a balance between challenge and skills.
Activities or work environments that provide too much challenge will increase anxiety. Conversely, not enough of a challenge leads to boredom and relaxation. Focus on building the right skills for the activities and allow for learning and mastery.
Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination.
The more practice you have focusing on an activity that you find inspiring, the greater chance you have of achieving flow.
There is a feeling of control over the task.
Control and safety are linked in the mind. Learning a new skill with the understanding that there is no backfire for not getting it right immediately allows for a safe learning environment. A safe learning environment allows for the discovery and learning process to take place without the over-amplification of expectations.
Let's bring life back to work!