Kathy Sierra writes about Flow in her latest post. It reminded me of Tom Wujec's Vizblog of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's (which Mihaly says is pronounced Chicks-send-me-high) TED presentation. This sketch is Tom's capture of his explanation of flow:
Csiksentmihalyi says :
"When a person's skill is just right to cope with the demands of a situation - and when compared to the entirety of everyday life the demands are above average - the quality of experience improves noticeably .... Even a frustrating job may suddenly become exciting if one hits on the right balance. "
Creativity, points out Csiksentmihalyi , depends on a proper balance between a person's skill level and the degree to which there are challenged by the task. When a person's skills are outweighed by the activity the result is often a stste of anxiety. Conversely activities that are not challengeing enough to match the level of skills that one possesses tend to produce a feeling of boredom.
I first became aware of the power of flow in the early nineties when I was leading a team of multi-talented CADesigners. I had the privilege of working with the same core team for fifteen years and I observed many of us stopped late. We were in a big corporation and most people seemed to come in at around 9.00am and left by 18.00, so we had the building to ourselves. We had some flexitime allowance so once I realised why we stopped late it became almost routine to get in 2-3 hours late in the morning. The reason that we stayed late was (if we had a name for it) 'flow'. We found that during the day we were constantly distracted and did not achieve any really creative progress. As Frederick Franck, said in 'The Zen of Seeing'