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