Editors Column: How Does HR Get in the Flow?

The flow state allows for massively accelerated learning, creativity and motivation.


According to Stephen Kotler, author of The Rise of Superman, researchers have found seventeen flow triggers: three environmental, three psychological, ten social and one creative.


Adventure sports athletes who survive climbing big mountains, riding big waves and paddling wild rivers do so because they are in the flow state at the time of the activity.


Which all sounds great…question is how can you do that from your desk?


Let’s look at these triggers further and consider them in the context of the HR profession:


Intensely focused attention, clear goals, immediate feedback, and a real challenge are the psychological triggers for the flow state. How focused are your daily efforts? Do you work with a specific plan for the day’s activities or do you just show up? Do have an HR and career game plan? If not, what are you waiting for?


Environmental triggers include high consequences (danger), a rich environment (novelty, unpredictability and complexity) and deep embodiment. Challenge here is that most HR executives I coached are uncomfortable with novelty, preferring structure and rules. You can have both. Read Gordon MacKenzie’s Orbiting the Giant Hairball and you‘ll understand how to manage the tension between these two extremes. (Hint: it has to do with staying in alignment with vision, values, mission, etc.)


Social triggers include concentration, shared goals, good communication, familiarity, equal participation, and risk. How tight are you with the management team? Are you even a part of the team? How would you rate your level of communication with them? Have you made yourself an invaluable partner by helping them to address their greatest needs?


The final trigger is creativity which involves pattern recognition and risk-taking. Again, the challenge with taking risk is a mistake may be made and harm and/or judgment may come your way. So instead you sit in comfortable silence hoping to somehow protect yourself.


What can stop HR from getting into flow? Only HR can. Flow is a choice. I am sure you’ve da times where you were on top of your game and everything seemed to just “flow” right. The goal is to make that the norm, not the exception.


Last note: you can’t be super HR all the time. Being in flow uses up much energy and rest is needed afterwards. Make sure to schedule some “you time” so you can regenerate and be at the top of your game when the bell rings.

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