In the Know: A Call for the Re­design of Our Knowl­edge In­fra­struc­ture

Rotman Management Magazine - - FEATURES - By Jen­nifer Riel and Roger Martin

With­out a mind­ful re­design of our knowl­edge in­fra­struc­ture, our eco­nomic sys­tem will de­te­ri­o­rate

and pros­per­ity will de­cline.

Renowned Psy­chol­ogy and Man­age­ment Pro­fes­sor

coined the term ‘flow’ to de­scribe the over­whelm­ing plea­sure that peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence when they fully im­merse them­selves in a task they en­joy. Though it is fre­quently ap­plied to peo­ple en­gaged in cre­ative or sport­ing pur­suits, many peo­ple, re­gard­less of their oc­cu­pa­tion, de­scribe peak mo­ments when their work just seems to flow ef­fort­lessly — when their ac­tions and con­scious­ness are per­fectly aligned.

The ben­e­fits of flow are im­me­di­ate and clear. At the in­di­vid­ual level, they in­clude bet­ter per­for­mance, in­creased mo­ti­va­tion and a pos­i­tive spirit. At the cor­po­rate level, this pos­i­tive at­ti­tude and max­i­mum com­mit­ment trans­late into a col­lec­tive will­ing­ness to work to­gether for or­ga­ni­za­tional suc­cess. Flow starts with in­di­vid­u­als em­pow­ered to boost their own ef­fec­tive­ness and with man­agers of­fer­ing help­ful sug­ges­tions and con­struc­tive crit­i­cism. Ev­ery­one sup­ports each other so that the or­ga­ni­za­tion per­forms at its best.

Flow en­com­passes eight di­men­sions, but we ad­vise man­agers to take spe­cial note of the first three, as these are con­sid­ered pre­req­ui­sites for flow in the work­place.

Bal­ance chal­lenges with skills. This is the first rule of flow: peo­ple must have a rea­son­able chance of ac­com­plish­ing the tasks set be­fore them. Of course, the tasks should present vary­ing de­grees of com­plex­ity, so there is room for the per­son’s skill lev­els to be el­e­vated. Each per­son’s out­look will con­di­tion the ex­tent to which a par­tic­u­lar ac­tiv­ity is found to be grat­i­fy­ing.

Set clear goals. Peo­ple won’t be able to im­merse them­selves in an ac­tiv­ity if they don’t know which task to un­der­take. Ob­jec­tives must be clear, for both the short and long term. Too of­ten, peo­ple miss the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence ‘the mo­ment’ be­cause their fo­cus is on an end goal at some dis­tant point in the fu­ture, in­stead of en­joy­ing the process of get­ting there. Give im­me­di­ate feed­back. Com­mit­ment comes in large part from a sense that what we are do­ing has some larger pur­pose and is of value to the rest of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. This means that for peo­ple to de­vote them­selves to an ac­tiv­ity, they need to know if they are per­form­ing well or not. Feed­back can come from col­leagues, su­per­vi­sors or clients — in tan­dem with our own per­sonal bench­marks set for our­selves.

When chal­lenges and skills are well aligned, goals are clear and feed­back is rel­e­vant, we are ready to ex­pe­ri­ence the re­main­ing five di­men­sions of flow, sum­ma­rized be­low.

In­tense con­cen­tra­tion. Our mind is or­derly and fully fo­cused on a task at hand.

Ef­fort­less­ness. On en­ter­ing a deep state of con­cen­tra­tion on the task, we do it al­most with­out ef­fort, pres­sure or ten­sion.

Con­trol. We have the feel­ing of con­trol­ling the ac­tiv­ity and the fear of fail­ure dis­ap­pears, giv­ing way to a feel­ing of em­pow­er­ment.

Loss of self. There is no longer any room in the con­scious­ness for in­se­cu­rity or frus­tra­tion stem­ming from so­cial com­par­i­son; we be­come our stronger selves.

No sense of time. When we sur­ren­der our phys­i­cal and men­tal be­ing to the mo­ment, time ei­ther flies or seems plen­ti­ful. Once you fin­ish the task, you dis­cover the fi­nal di­men­sion of flow: a pro­found sense of ful­fill­ment and achieve­ment that is a re­ward in it­self; and a de­sire to do it all over again.

-A. Rib­era and J.L. Guil­lén

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