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Design For Flow


Flow is a technical term – equivalent to the concept of being “in the zone” in sports.  It is the state of optimal human functioning, which is essential to the creation of an adaptive organization.  To be continuously adaptive, people in the organization must function at their highest levels consistently, and in a sustainable way.  The good news is, the state of Flow produces the highest levels of individual and team functioning, and at the same time creates a work environment that is extremely motivating, and healthful.  High levels of Flow are associated with high levels of thriving, which make it possible for people to stay healthy even in the face of extremely stressful challenges.


 Studies of this phenomenon have identified five characteristics to those situation in which we experience flow.  They are, essentially, “game” conditions, which include:


  • We are playing a game we like

  • We can win or lose

  • Our level of skill matches the level of challenge we face

  • We get real time feedback. 

  • We are able to concentrate.


All of this is possible only if we can concentrate.Creating organizations where people can concentrate is a tall order which we consider the proliferation of distractions in the workplace.Perhaps the most powerful model for understanding the foundation that is required for concentration and Flow is .








Organizations where self-actualizers predominate are spontaneously adaptive.  They naturally seek to improve themselves, the organization and to benefit those they serve.  This requires that the lower needs be met so people can concentrate and get into Flow.  Maslow’s hierarchy can guide us in analyzing the organization to determine if key unmet needs are distracting people from concentrating.  It is not reasonable to expect high quality work on a sustainable basis from people who are distracted by fears over safety and security, or who have to work their way around workplace cliques, or who feel disrespected by their supervisors or co-workers.

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