As we move into a world of more complexity and ambiguity, we need to develop our ability to manage change and adapt both as individuals and in teams. Organisations need to equip their people for how they can embrace this mental agility and rapid reskilling. A high performing team who operates with clarity and cohesiveness, often tap into a collective intelligence to achieve this. In these structures the whole is greater than the sum of the parts (or individual talents and skills), and turbulent challenging obstacles can be navigated while still learning, growing, and achieving results.
A phenomena which has recently been studied is that of group flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihaly the originator of the concept of flow, has expanded his studies to understanding flow on a collective level. Csikszentmihaly partnered with the largest citizen science project, The Flow Genome Projectheaded by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal, which observed practical examples of teams in a state of group flow. The findings over the last few years has highlighted that there are triggers with the environment and in the interpersonal dynamics which can cultivate this state.
Some of these triggers are described below:
- Humility –the team prioritizes group objectives above individual interests and agenda.
- Familiarity – the team understands the different team members and has a sense of what each team member’s strengths, skills, and preferences are.
- Shared and clear goals– the team has a set of joint goals which is understood by every member, and each individual has a good sense of how they, along with their fellow team members, contribute towards achieving this.
- Serious concentration– Focus is required to master and achieve goal(s), this is similar to how individual flow needs skills to match challenge. Often challenging goals will push a team to bring their talents and skills to the table, while they figure out how to work together and effectively collaborate.
- Good communication and feedback-the team receiving regular feedback on how they are performing both individually and as a collective, has a higher chance of accessing group flow.
With this insight we can design group focused activity sustained over a period of time, to cultivate a “hot house” for teams to enter a collective peak performance state. An environment of collective learning with experiential activities could be considered a good starting point, and even more so in the container of game play. Teams are directing their attention to a collaborative and competitive team play, while learning, experimenting, and sharing. In addition to developing competence as a team, the game mechanics, interpersonal dynamics, and focusing on an end goal, can all be leveraged to foster group flow. After a team has this collective experience of peak performance, a new standard has been set for future engagements and collaborations.
Below we have mapped out how elements of game-based learning lend themselves to teams tapping into their flow states:
Next time you want your team to achieve a big audacious goal, don’t be shy to engage in some gameplay in the form of game-based learning or experiential activities to trigger and cultivate their group state of flow, empowering them to tackle the task with energy, enthusiasm, and serious concentration!