Flow; the best drug in town
I deal in corporate drugs. No, not the kind from the pharmacy, off the black market, or through a friend-of-a-friend connection. I’m speaking of the intrinsic motivators of the mind.
I also use these same drugs on myself. Again, not the illegal, unsafe variety, but rather the chemical concoctions that bring about pleasure and further reward seeking. I believe in first doing what I ask others to do, because I want to ensure the highest safety & quality for my clients.
As a certified Agile and professional performance Coach, I often administer “drugs” to my clients. I repeat, not the…okay, you get it. Let’s have a look at what I do sell:
Dopamine | Primary reward chemical in the brain | Desire for knowledge, meaning, sex | CORPORATE TRIGGERS: Powerful meetings where inquiry > advocacy, lunch and learns, hackathons & innovation sprints
Oxytocin | Secondary reward chemical in the brain | Trust, love, friendship, empathy, cooperation | CORP TRIGGERS: Designing alliances, daily standups, team challenges
Serotonin | Brain to body neurotransmitter | Mood shifts, peace, sense of contentment, job well done, great meal | CORP TRIGGERS: Sprint demo’s / reviews, retrospectives, team celebrations, healthy food/diet challenges
Endorphin | Neurotransmitter; binds to opioid receptors | Pain-killing bliss | CORP TRIGGERS: Team bonding exercises (especially physical activities), mindful meditations, Happy Hours
Anandamide | Neurotransmitter; binds to cannabinoid receptors | Stress relief, happiness, a runner’s high | CORP TRIGGERS: Employee walk-n-talks, Gemba walks, relaxing lunches, exercise
Norepinephrine | Similar to Dopamine | Adrenalin, hyper-activity, hyper-vigilance | CORP TRIGGERS: Priority incidents, steering committee meetings, presentations
When the above neurochemical agents are released in the brain, we often get to experience a slight uptick in our motivation. When used in combinations, the effects can be stronger and longer lasting. The collective impact to a team or organization can be game-changing!
Dopamine + Oxytocin: This combo can naturally come about from positive social interactions such as paired activities & team bonding. They create feelings of happiness, delight, and playfulness.
Dopamine + Norepinephrine: This combo can naturally occur from having a passion towards one’s craft as well as a passion for a love. They create feelings of deep listening and curiosity.
All 6 neurochemicals: Reportedly better than any known street drug, this powerful combo has been known to be present when a person is in a state of flow.
Flow, for those uninitiated, is described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, as
“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“.
Back in 1992 and after winning his second of six NBA championships, Michael Jordan had similarly described this multi-neuralchemical cocktail as being ’in the zone’, or “on a roll, where everything you are doing is just working”.
Flow is not just for the uber-talented. A typical employee can experience flow, and when they do, they elevate to superhuman capabilities. Flow happens when we are connected to a goal or drive, when work feels like play, then time slows down, and there’s a reprieve from the negative chatter in our mind. In a supportive corporate environment, employees will often spend up to 90 minutes a day in flow, which doesn’t appear to be much, but this comes with a 500% increase in performance AND the medium-term intangible of increasingly loyal employees living more fully into their autonomy, purpose and mastery.
Companies benefit considerably when employees are in flow, and even far more so when teams and entire value chains are aligned and in flow! (albeit more difficult to achieve) That’s why I often suggest new clients conduct a Flow Audit [link to my Mural board on facilitating Org Flow] and document the findings in an organizational impediment backlog as a first step towards high performance.
A note to my READERS:
I got to experience flow while writing this blog. I hope you get to experience it and the other positive neuralchemicals in your work and life, too. If the answer is anything other than a resounding “Yes, I absolutely do”, for either you OR your teams, feel free to hit me up. I’ve got some stuff we can try together. ☺️