Flow

I came across this concept in two completely different areas recently – Flow, as described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Basically, a mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity – a concept that sports people (these days) also know as being “in the zone”.

Interestingly, my two areas were

  • my work – where the latest theory of our HR director is that we should aim for our staff spending as much of their day as possible in a state of “flow” – the work is just hard enough and interesting enough that they are fully immersed in it
  • gifted education – where the aim of educators of gifted children (and all children, really) is to pitch the level of the work where children are in a state of “flow”

It made me reflect on what I am usually doing (workwise) when I am in that state. Two main things get me there – writing something from scratch that develops an idea and explains it to others (which is probably why I’ve started blogging – I don’t do that that often in my work) and trying to analyse numerical data in order to draw a conclusion (I voluntarily analysed a friends local council voting figures to try and figure out the trends for next time, for example).

The interesting thing is that the concept doesn’t lend itself readily to doing things with other people, but I also sometimes feel that I approach “flow” when I am doing an interactive presentation – I’m fully on top of my subject, but being asked challenging, thoughtful questions that really make me put my words together carefully on the fly.

Coming across the concept again made me thing I need to organise my work to get myself doing more “flow” things – and introduce the concept to my team.

  2 comments for “Flow

  1. August 17, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    One of my favorite writers when I was a kid, Madeleine L’Engle, talked about this concept. She didn’t call it “flow” — I don’t think she had a name for it — but it was a regular state of being for most of her main characters, who were always artists of some kind.

    I’m in that state while writing and also while doing certain rhythmic concentrated physical activities, like hiking or climbing a mtn or snowboarding or (when younger) gymnastics.

    It’s interesting to think of helping your employees get there. What a great company you must work for — if it’s a serious effort. I do like what I do but can’t imagine it putting me in the flow like that… I’m too stressed. Too aware of how little time I have to complete my projects, of other demands on my time.

  2. August 18, 2006 at 8:47 pm

    Sadly, I think my company (it’s actually my old company) wasn’t totally serious about it, but it’s still a great concept think about with my team.

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