When you know how to create the conditions for ‘Flow’, you can achieve more than you thought would be possible in your business – you’ll see great results as if by magic, while you only do what you love to do. Here are some practical tips on allowing your business to grow by achieving ‘Flow’.
Imagine a mighty river, with the water rushing naturally forward in a great torrent. What will happen when you jump in with the intention to swim upstream? Well, it’s simple enough – you won’t get very far, or you may even find that you are swept away in the opposite direction!
Now imagine the same river, but this time your intention is to swim downstream. Will this not be a much easier experience? In fact, you would not need to do much more than steer yourself so that you stay in the strong current. Your progress will be rapid and you’ll reach your intended destination soon…
In business it’s the same. When you’re working against the natural Flow, everything seems difficult and it feels as if you are going more backwards than towards achieving your goals. However, if no-one has shown you how to identify the direction of Flow in business, how could you know which direction would be best suited for you? It will be a matter of randomly taking a chance. And perhaps, if you’re lucky, you may find your natural business Flow every now and then. But more likely than not, it will be like swimming upstream!
If you could observe your business environment as you can with a river, it would be easy to see which direction to take. And here is the good news – you can! You can create the conditions for you to get into your own Flow and the Flow of your business.
For an individual, Flow is that experience of achieving great results without much effort. It is when it comes magically together – or, you could say, when you achieve ‘automagical’ results!
Sports people explain the experience of achieving great results through absorbed focus as being ‘in the zone’. It is the state you experience when totally wrapped up in your activity; when you lose the sense of self and become one with what you are busy doing. It is when you achieve results greater than you thought would be possible. It is when you look back at what you’ve just done, and experience a great sense of achievement.
You can create the conditions for yourself to experience Flow more often and you can create the conditions for your business to do the same.
Luckily we do not have to experiment with creating these conditions, since we can learn from what others have already found. For instance, renowned positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi spent the past 30 years studying Flow. After more than 250 000 observations, covering people from all walks of life, he identified some of the key conditions we can create so that we may experience Flow.
Csikszentmihalyi says the following conditions will help you in finding your Flow:
- The goals of your activities should be clearly defined.
- You should get direct and immediate feedback on how you are doing.
- You should feel that you are making a contribution to something bigger than yourself.
- Your activities should neither be too easy nor too difficult so that the challenges of the task and your skills are matched or, preferably, that your skills are slightly stretched by the challenges.
- The activity itself should be intrinsically rewarding so that you get joy just from doing it.
- Distractions should be removed, so that you can concentrate and experience a sense of personal control.
These conditions are what you should create in your own environment to make it possible for yourself to experience Flow and achieve ‘automagical’ results.
However, when we apply these conditions to a business, the conditions are different. While for an individual the aim is to stretch ‘skills’ by the ‘challenges’ of the activity, for a business it is stretching the ‘capacity’ (the ability of the business to deliver) with the ‘opportunities’ (the possibility of solving a problem or meeting a need).
For a business to be in Flow, the capacity to deliver should be matched (and stretched) by the opportunities presented by its customers. High capacity and low opportunity leads to relaxation and even boredom amongst the staff and managers in the business; while low capacity and high opportunity leads to anxiety and worry. Flow, and achieving business growth, become more likely when the business maintains a match between capacity and opportunity. The ideal is for a business to face opportunities where its capacity is slightly stretched – say 20% from what was achieved before. This is the best way to create Flow in a business that grows.
And then, you should also create specific conditions for your team to achieve Flow so that they can direct the business towards continuous growth. The most important of these conditions are:
- You should work in a team where the individuals are allowed the space to be themselves and focus on the activities they are naturally good at.
- Each person’s role in achieving the overall goals should be clearly defined and individual contributions should be recognised and acknowledged by the team.
- The processes and systems in the business should be functioning effectively and efficiently, so that the team members can achieve productive results.
When you’ve successfully created these conditions in your business, you’ll find that it is possible to achieve your goals without needing big effort – you’ll see ‘automagical’ results!