Updated: Jan 30, 2020
The Flow Zone is not a waterpark. It is a Mindset. It's where you perform at your highest level and consistently play your best game.
Over the last 5 seasons (forgive me, but hockey still holds its residual impact on my language), while training hundreds of corporate clients, we have been thrilled by the intense interest around how to implement the 5th Mindset of our Thinking Tendencies Model, the FLOW/ZONE.
We have now trained thousands of CEO’s and many of their companies to increase team and cultural performance through intentional metacognition and the skill of SHIFTING through the 5 mindsets that drive performance in their people.
Remember, Flow is not past thinking or future thinking, flow is in the now, in the moment. As we now live in the most distracting time in human history, being intentional about increasing focus and expanding our Flow/Zone, may well be the key skill to develop in 2020. We believe this to be the cutting edge, where sport and business collide.
Athletes have understood and experienced this state of mind forever, but until now have struggled to give it a name and struggled to find ways to train its expansion.
As many of you know, I participated on the professional stage in the National Hockey League for 17 seasons as a player and coach. At the NHL level we called this state “playing in the zone,” and looking back I think that I recognized when I was out of the flow state more than I did when I was fully in.
During our current travels across the world, Montreal Canadiens fans will sometimes stop me in an airport or during a corporate training session and congratulate me for winning the Stanley Cup in 1986. Some of the fans go on to talk about being in the building, cheering us on, and reminisce about how the noise of the crowd was such a big part of the ‘86 win.
I always hate saying this to fans, but I have to tell the truth: “Sorry, I never heard you; I never saw you; were you in the building?”
That sounds harsh, but at the highest level of sport, where all teams have talent and skill, total concentration and staying in flow becomes the learned winning advantage.
"Concentration is the root of all the higher abilities in man" - Bruce Lee
“I'm sure you've been told: ‘time is your most precious resource.’ It's not, attention is.”
Scotty Bowman, whom many believe to be the all-time greatest coach in hockey, told me the following story while I was interviewing him for my book with friend and co-author Mike Johnston, Simply the Best: Insights and Strategies from Great Hockey Coaches, comprised of interviews with the top 12 coaches in the NHL on how to coach the highest performance in people.
As we finished up the interview, Scotty told me about a time when the Professional Golf Association invited him to be the “scorer” for Tiger Wood’s foursome for the full round.
Scotty went on to share how he loved golf and getting a chance to be so close to the players and the process had been thrilling. Scotty described entering the score tent at the end of the day. Tiger Woods was in the tent checking his card.
Scotty, as the scorer, was tasked with checking the card process and stepped through the door of the tent. Scotty and Tiger knew each other through banquets and speaking engagements. As Scotty walked through the entrance, Tiger turned and exclaimed, “Scotty where did you come from?”
Think about that. Scotty had been 25 feet away from Tiger, inside the rope for a full day and Tiger never saw him. FLOW!
A 10-year McKinsey study' of top business executives found that being in 'Flow' boosted productivity by 500%!
While my wife Jenn and I were sitting in another awesome Air Canada seat, we watched the great movie Racing in the Rain. The race car driver Denny (played by Milo Ventimiglia) says about driving; “Great drivers never dwell on the past and they don’t focus on the future; great drivers focus on staying present.”
Playing in the Zone is that amazing state where the subconscious leads, our thinking shuts down, and our action just flows. Workforces across corporate North America are starting to fixate on how to increase time in the Flow/Zone and protect flow in their office spaces.
Our personal goal is to continually increase our expertise in training leaders on how to develop a deeper awareness of their peoples’ 5 Performance mindsets and how to trigger expanded time in the Flow/Zone. We are writing our 6th book right now on the process that we utilize, entitled Great Shift! Accelerating Performance - Navigating Change - Activating Flow. (Click here to let me know if you want to get on a list to receive our early release.)
"Major companies, including Microsoft, Ericsson, Patagonia and Toyota have realized that being able to control and harness this feeling of Flow is the Holy Grail for any manager."
- Fast Company Magazine
Jenn and I have enjoyed our numerous training sessions with a recent great client, Hyper Hippo Games. This amazing team of very successful game developers, like many companies, is working hard to integrate 3 or 4 of their separate business units resulting from continuous high growth, to increase efficiency and cultural energy.
Guess what we are learning as we train their people? FLOW is their business model! They build games that move players from one flow state into the next flow state. Activating and sustaining player flow is the guts of great game design. This is how great games retain player attention.
In 1975, scientist Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi coined the term flow. This is his definition: "A state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it."
In his article, 5 Steps to Finding your Workflow, Nathan Lozeron reminds us that, “when you experience 'Flow' your inner critic goes quiet (that nagging voice in your head which second-guesses every decision you make). You become completely engaged in what you're doing and lose track of time. Things seem effortless - every action leads seamlessly to the next. Everything just seems to flow.”
Lozeron notes that people have used other words to describe the state of Flow:
Psychologists call it a 'Peak Experience'
Athletes call it being 'In the Zone'
Jazz musicians call it being 'In the Pocket'
Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi says that you can expect the following as you increase your flow experience: focus increases, you develop inner clarity, timelessness, intrinsic motivation, and you generate complete serenity. He also found in his 20 years of research that there are 3 antecedents (now that is a big word for a hockey player) of Flow:
1. Clear Goals
2. Immediate Feedback
3. Skill/Challenge Balance
Watch for more on how to implement these 3 ways to increase flow in all parts of life in our next article… now that’s a hook!
Finding Flow might just be the most important detective work you do in 2020!