Mihaly’s Flow & the Science of Consulting

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is considered the world’s leading researcher on Positive Psychology and is widely respected for his theory that people are happiest when they are in a State of Flow (or in the Zone).

What is that State of Flow? Have you ever been so engrossed at work that you have missed an important meeting, forgotten the conference call, realised late that the rest of the office has left for the day or that it is dinner time and you still haven’t had your lunch! You then were in a state of flow.

Is that the most productive period? Most likely, yes. And that’s because when you are in a State of Flow there is a perfect balance between what you are capable of doing (your skill set) and the level of difficulty (the challenge of the activity at hand). You will keep pushing your skills to accomplish the task at hand and that will keep you absorbed/engaged in the task for long hours. You will stay motivated as long as your goal is not met when you are in the zone.

If you are a consultant or are required to hire one, you may want to read further.

How does ‘Flow’ help a Consultant? A consultant is hired by a company with a clear and limited mandate. There is a specific problem that a consultant needs to solve and in a limited time frame. The right consultant (for the job) is one who will be at his optimal best right from the word go and succeed at work with no cost/time over runs.

Let’s say you are a consultant. You must choose a project/task that truly demands the kind of Skills that you possess and where the Challenge Level is high and rising. You must get a feeling that while the project will test your abilities, you will be excited to match up to the challenge and stay motivated to successfully ‘crack the case’.

Now, what happens when there is a mismatch? You wouldn’t want to find a project that’s not challenging to you. Would you? If you do find one, here are some of the outcomes that you should dread:

Apathy: When the work is neither challenging nor demanding any skill.

Boredom: When the work in not challenging and the consultant is over skillful.

Worry: When the work is challenging but the consultant is not good enough skill-wise.

Anxiety: When the work is hugely challenging and the consultant is way below par.

Nervousness: When the work is hugely challenging and the consultant is limited by skill.

Disinterest: When the consultant is very good but the work is not challenging enough.

Dislike: When the consultant is of high merit but the work is not challenging at all.

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