Flow is a mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment. Learn more about the Flow Model and how it can increase employee engagement and productivity.
Flow is a concept first proposed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor at the University of Chicago. In his book, Flow, he defined this concept as a mental state of complete immersion mentally, physically and emotionally.
People who experience Flow often lose track of time when the immersion first occurs. Take a look at this chart.
The degree of challenge is plotted on the Y-axis and skill and confidence is plotted on the X-axis.
If a person with a low skill and confidence level performs an action that has a high degree of challenge, they will panic and feel anxiety.
If an individual with a high skill and
confidence level performs an action that has a low degree of challenge, they will feel bored.
To be in the Flow channel, the individual’s skill and confidence level must match the activities’ degree of challenge.
For example, if a person wants to run a marathon for the first time, they need to start off with a shorter race to increase their level of skill and confidence to be able to match the challenge of completing a marathon. When skill and confidence is higher (X-axis) the individual will be able to race longer, as the X-axis moves to the right the Y-axis moves to the top, the balance between these two makes the Flow channel.
Flow at Work or Home
Applying the concept of flow at home or work may be the difference of enjoying or suffering through any activity.
If we focus our attention on the teams/groups, as a leader it’s important to remember the Flow channel varies depending on each person and the activity they are performing. Understanding this concept can influence your decision-making process on promotions, trainings and other areas.
As leaders, how often do we ask ourselves:
- Am I in Flow with my business?
- Is my team in Flow?
- Am I in Flow with my family and my hobbies?
For example, I personally like trekking. The question I ask myself is, “What do I need to do in order to have the same feeling of fulfillment when I trek and when I am doing any other activity?”
The answer is explained by the Flow chart. If I’m bored or anxious at work or at home, I need to move toward the right side of the X-axis or to the top of the Y-axis.
Flow in Teams
Observing the team dynamic is a critical step, which can be hard to do if the leader is in operational mode. You may need to take a step back and observe the dynamic. This will allow you to identify which team members are constantly looking at the clock and which team members are engaged in Flow.
How might you encourage and empower all of your team members to be in Flow and fully immersed in all aspects of their day?