THE POWER OF GROUP FLOW

There are exceptional people in all walks of life, these people’s ability, drive and ambition baffles most of us, achieving things that seem impossible. As a result these individuals become people that we look up to, admire and even emanate. 

We all know that dedication and practice is obviously a major factor in becoming awesome (we’ve all heard the 10,000 hours rule) but there must also be a magic ingredient that makes these people different. The truth is, there is and best of all it is available to anyone who wants it. The crux is more around your choice of application. 

What do I mean? In order to be an expert you need to dedicate yourself, and dedication comes from one of two places, extreme will power and determination (the hard way) or extreme passion (the easy way). If you enjoy something enough, you will get better and better because you are choosing to expose yourself to the challenge as much as humanly possible within the limitation imposed on you, ie is this a hobby and therefore performed in your spare time, or is this your profession where you are constantly exposed?

Consider this, if you are a level two player, level one will bore you; yes you’re winning at this level but there is little reward, level three on the other hand will challenge and stretch you, it might even elude you until you develop the specific skills needed to elevate you to achieve this ambition. It’s this desire that creates the determination and focus required that gives you the ability to push through self-doubt and fear. When you are at the edge of your ability, stretched, but focused on achieving the desired goal with doubt silenced the brain releases various biochemicals that help you perform and reach that next level. A potent torrent that takes you on a ride and in that moment you are in the zone (or the correct scientific term you are in flow). Flow is a state where productivity is increased four-fold.

In two hours in flow, I can accomplish tremendous things! When you do reach flow, you get an extra two hours of great work done in a day and the other twelve are really, really productive.
— Sir Richard Branson

The flow state builds confidence and positively rewards the individual, assuming an individual is sufficiently motivated to achieve, but flow states are also contagious which means that individuals can become inspired and motivated by watching and interacting with someone in flow. In fact an individual experiencing solitary flow will find it nowhere near as enjoyable as group flow, a shared experience which as a result builds bonds, develops trust, confidence, momentum and innovation, amplifying each other’s ideas and actions.

If people come together with a serious focus, clear shared goals, the ability for good communication, ie plenty of feedback (something not often experienced in solitary enterprise) equal participation (people with similar skills and ambition) and familiarity, ie the group has a common language, a communication style that with unspoken understanding, meaning everyone is on the same page. It is in the state of group flow that when novel innovation arrives, momentum is not lost through lengthy explanation and great things can happen. 

Consider the Team GB cycling team, for the four years between Olympics this group of individuals work together to find that extra 1% that separates them from their competitors and it is probably not just down to the hours that they put in that makes this difference. It’s the biochemistry of the entire group of individuals that drives the group and finds achieve that 1% that otherwise eludes the rest.

The quest to find these perfect partnerships is one constantly sort after for obvious reasons, but because people often live miles apart or only occasionally dabble in an areas of interest makes finding equal participation much harder. The key is population density, ie if you can get 1,000 people interested in a particular subject in a room together, the chances of perfect partnerships and groups emerging significantly increases due to chance interactions. But the problem here is one of logistics even if you get the individuals together there then requires a huge commitment, possibly even lifestyle change for them to work together in flow. In the case of a successful and desirable company like Google, the opportunity to work for them and become part of that group is probably strong enough to make those life choices but if it is a small project group with a shared vision for the future that have work responsibilities and family ties that are more important the opportunity is lost when they walk out of the room.

However, the advent of PDNs (Professional Digital Networks) has meant that these interactions and perfect partnership opportunities are not lost in the professional setting. PDNs are capable of fulfilling the group flow requirement because they bring people together with a serious focus, clear shared goals, offer the ability for good communicationequal participation and familiarity through a common language in a convenient and conducive way to everyday life, overcoming logistical and geographical boundaries by embracing the digital advances.

Large corporations, the military and the world of sport are heavily investing in harnessing the power of group flow, but the impact can be felt on a much more local level by identifying the right group of people, identifying a clear common goal and providing them with a convenient platform so they can inspire each other, work together, collaborate together and achieve amazing things together.

Chris Knight