The Concept of Flow

Central to the work of BIOSS SA is the concept of ‘flow’.

According to Gillian Stamp, flow is “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 do it for the sheer sake of doing it.”

“Flow is the positive experience created when challenges are congruent with the individual’s skills-levels or capabilities.”

Employees “are in flow”, when individuals are neither underwhelmed nor overwhelmed by workplace challenges. Work is pleasurable, and enjoyable, energising and engaging, enabling individuals to achieve optimal levels of performance.

Striking the correct balance between challenge and capability, ensuring that individuals “are in flow,” results in good performance, good decision-making and employees who are sufficiently challenged.

How do we strike this balance thereby creating the conditions for ‘flow’ and performance?

To answer this question we need to determine an individual’s capability and the level of complexity / challenge they can comfortably manage.

BIOSS SA achieves this by using the Career Path Appreciation (CPA). The CPA is an interview methodology during which individuals have an opportunity to explore and reflect on their careers, their aspirations, the type of work that they find challenging and stimulating, and elements of work that frustrate them. The result is that the practitioner derives an understanding of the type of work that challenges and stimulates the candidate at present, as well as how this is likely to develop and mature over time.

It therefore provides a clear indication, as to the nature of work that will put an individual into ‘flow’ in the present and keep them in ‘flow’ during their careers as they mature.

In the absence of a CPA, individuals with potential may be overlooked resulting in the inability to create the conditions for ‘flow’ and performance.

Real-Life Example

A CPA practitioner was asked to do a CPA on Aggie, the ‘tea lady’. The Managing Director of the bank felt that there might have been hidden capability in her, and wanted her assessed.

At the beginning of the CPA the practitioner clearly heard the makings of a good’ tea lady’ i.e. someone who followed instructions very well. However, when the conversation started steering towards the hypothetical, something shifted….

Aggie related a story about a violent crime in her community, and then explained the impact it had had on the policing system (formal and informal) and the community itself, what the future would hold and what needed doing – all of which clearly demonstrated her connecting and linking capability.

The CPA revealed that Aggie was clearly out of ‘flow’ in her role as a ‘tea lady’. Aggie therefore became a perfect candidate for a role involving the upliftment of the community through educating them on micro-lending practices and possible pitfalls. It was a true match between making the best of her capability, and the company’s vision regarding social responsibility.