Sunday, December 14, 2008


'Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.' - Wikipedia

Generating and maintaining his fellow coworkers in the flow should be the goal of every manager - a deep state of concentration and involvement that generates a rewarding feeling in those who attain it. The thoughts of a person in the flow are similar to a stream of ideas focused on a single subject. He or she disconnects from the outer world and becomes one with the activity thus resulting in a boost of productivity and enjoyment. That is why jobs like programming benefit enormously if the practitioner attains this special state.

Flow is not necessary related to work. Basically everything that is intellectually intensive can trigger such a mental state. One of the targets of every game designers is to create a smooth and immersive environment that, eventually, will capture players' attention and will trigger the flow. All successful games are able to generate such deep involvement that, in turn, creates addictiveness and satisfaction.

  • A long period of silence and a surrounding atmosphere of involvement, lack of unnecessary distractions
  • Intellectual challenge
  • Streamlined tools or accessible interfaces (basically whole accessibility dogma is built upon the idea that a person shouldn't be distracted from his / her main activity and loose focus)
  • Prior knowledge of the subject or some other mean by which the person feels comfortable with the activity he or she is involved in (like a smooth learning curve)
  • A friendly but competitive environment
The main problem with the flow is that it installs quite hard and is lost quite easily. Repeated returns from the flow can be very unsatisfying and can cause frustration, boredom or a sense of general lack of enthusiasm. A programmer, for instance, needs about 20 minutes to attain flow and can loose it in roughly a minute or two of interruption. Therefore, it is imperative for a software company to maintain a low level of noise in the production department and for everybody to respect each others work and concentration. The simplest rules that can be followed that can have the effect of boosting productivity are:
  • Maintain a low noise level (less talk in the production area)
  • Don't interrupt your colleague for something that you can figure out yourself
  • All discussions or meetings that need only a part of the team should be held in a separate conference room
  • Maintain all activities not related to production to a minimum. When a colleague is doing something not part of his job, he may distract others
  • Maintain short compilation and start-up times for the application to debug (in programming)
  • Maintain the list of activities that one needs to perform frequently as short as possible; automate as much as possible. A single click or a shortcut should do most of the time
  • Streamline all processes and reduce the overhead to the minimum
  • Allow every employee to have enough personal space. Distribute desks such that everyone can have a feeling of intimacy and safety
Having said that, I wish you all to enter the flow as often as possible and to sustain it as long as possible. It's really fulfilling!

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