This month we explore a powerful way to create successful organizations and happy people: increasing flow. No, not the flow of cash (though that doesn’t hurt!), but the experience of doing what we do best and loving every second of it. New research suggests that when people are in flow in the workplace, they’re more engaged, and their organizations produce better results. To help me understand flow and what it means for leadership, I sat down with Bill Hefferman and chatted over smoked salmon omelets at a restaurant in Northwest Portland (Oregon) called Besaw’s Cafe. Bill works at Intel Corporation, where he is highly sought by managers interested in using a strengths-based approach to elevate team performance.
What is flow and why does it matter in the workplace?
Bill Hefferman (BH): Flow is the state of peak performance, a state of concentration so focused that it amounts to absolute absorption in an activity. People lose track of space and time. It is a time of high productivity, high creativity, and high innovation. Flow occurs when there is a great match between a person’s strengths and the challenge at hand. Strength equals competence combined with passion. There is positive affect, often deep enjoyment that goes with it but not necessarily in the moment flow is happening because flow is an emotion-less state. You’re so engrossed in what you’re doing that you don’t feel emotion in the midst of those flow activities. It’s when you step out that you say, “Wow, this is so great!”
When are you in flow?
BH: I’m in flow when I’m presenting to a large group of people on a topic I know well and care about, when I think the information I am sharing is of use to the audience, and when they are at least neutral to somewhat receptive about the topic. [Read more…] about Flow, Boredom and Anxiety: An Interview with Bill Hefferman of Intel [April 2008]