What’s the flow?

The American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was working on that topic in the 70s. For this he talked to high level performers like musicians, top athletes or chess players to find out what those persons have in common to be successful. He found out that the only thing these persons had in common was the flow state, that they reached.

Csikszentmihalyi found out, that the human’s brain is just able to take 110 Bits per second. It sounds like a lot, but to follow a conversation takes already 60 Bits per second. This numbers show, how important it is to be focused on your task without taking care of other thinks around you. If someone’s in the flow, he or she doesn’t notice anything else that is going on around them. Even natural body-mechanisms like hunger or exhaustion are not notice by the person.

The following graphic shows how Csikszentmihalyi explains the circumstances that prevent us from being productive, like boredom, relaxation or anxiety, get prevented by increase the challenge level and increase the needed skill level of each task.

Circumstances that prevent us from getting into the flow
Circumstances that prevent us from getting into the flow

How I get to the flow in daily life?

There are countless ways to reach the flow state, and the question for the method that guarantees the flow state still engages scientists. But there are still different approaches that make it easier to get into the flow:

Learn from the children!

When children are playing, they reach the perfect flow state, and the interesting thing about it, is that it works for adults as well. Additionally to that, adults are able to stay in the flow after playing and using this state to be more creative for example in a brainstorming session.

The only goal of playing is having fun. It prevents stress, increases creativity and you need to be active and attentive. Additionally to that, scientists found out, that we can learn the most and most efficient while playing.

So what does that mean when it comes to meetings? Gamification may be one successful concept to help meeting attendees to enter the flow state.Of course this will not work on regular status meetings. It’ll probably work for typical brainstorming sessions.

Another thing might be to switch the scene completely for your next meeting. Not only because of – getting into the flow. Why are people having “offsite” meetings? Prevent any type of distraction. But also see different things, and thus being more creative. When your eyes see a  new environment you may leave the “normal thinking”. You see the world with different eyes. Thus it helps to be more creative.

So in the end two concepts can be helpful for your (important / brainstorming / creative / challenging) meetings. Gameification and changing the place where you meet. Going offsite can be expensive and time consuming, though. But I came across a service (Spacebase.com) which offers special designed meeting rooms for rent. I think this is a clever idea. Didn’t tried it for our company yet, but it might be that we’ll have a try.

Be more efficient at your meetings – The Flow / Change the scene