Resources: Blog Post

September 10, 2015

4 ways to achieve a ‘flow state’ in business

Flow state

I recently read that Accenture will abandon their annual performance review system in place of a more fluid system that provides timely feedback to people. The replacement of traditional performance review programs has become a growing trend in recent years for many organizations and as professionals working in the area of human performance, this is a great opportunity to help shape the future of workplace performance.

As a high-performance athlete and a professional working in workplace performance and learning, I have had several opportunities to meet and work with experts from various areas within the human performance realm. One of the growing areas of interest I have noticed is how we can make work more engaging and meaningful to people.

The answer: flow state.

When people enter into a flow state, work becomes effortless, time stands still, and they produce their best work. People in the arts, along with many high-level athletes, experience this flow state. As a practitioner, I am continuously searching for ways to create workplace experiences that allow people to thrive while producing their best work. Revamping outdated performance management practices is an important starting point.

When moving forward and creating improved systems, it is important to be aware of some of the psychological “triggers” that allow people to perform at their best. The performance science behind flow state can give great insight into reshaping human performance within the workplace.

If you are in the process of revamping your performance management practices, keep these four flow triggers in mind:

  1. Focused Attention: With countless distractions during the day, it is important to have performance management processes in place that allow people to focus their time and energy. This could be as simple as establishing quiet rooms where people can work, free from emails, phone calls, and other distractions.
  2. Clear Goals: Establishing clear goals is essential for any new performance management program. These need to be daily, weekly, and monthly in nature. Annual and biannual goals are too vague and, as we have seen, not effective.
  3. Immediate Feedback: This can be done directly with the individual or frequently from other team members. The key is the feedback needs to be immediate and relevant.
  4. Challenge/Skills Ratio: Stretch goals are nothing new, and by nature, we need these types of goals to keep people engaged in their work. This also ensures that businesses and organizations are continuously in a state of growth. Even during times of change and uncertainty, giving people goals that are just beyond their current skill level will allow them to produce their best work.

Working in a flow state is just starting to gain popularity within the workplace. Being in a position where you can encourage this type of work environment will ensure people are always engaged in their work, while at the same time producing great quality work. The starting point is ensuring new performance management practices recognize flow state science and incorporate it into practices and policies.

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
–Mihaly Csikszentmihaly

Paul Boston

About the Author
Paul Boston is the president of Actus Performance Inc., a high-performance development firm. Paul started his professional career working in the world of marketing and advertising with Fortune 500 companies and organizations around the globe. When he started racing at the elite level of triathlons, he discovered similarities between the approach to performance in his athletic and professional career. Paul now works with clients to help them understand the fundamental performance values, attitudes, and skills people, teams, and organizations need in our modern-day work world.

This post originally appeared on the Actus Performance Inc. blog. Reprinted with permission.

Filed under: flow state, paul boston, performance, workplace Tagged: flow state, paul boston, performance, workplace
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