Researchers have firmly established that flow in the workplace increases productivity, performance, innovation, collaboration, and employee wellbeing. As such, flow is rapidly becoming a competitive necessity in the 21st century, but it is also an ethical route to higher performance that doesn’t come with the cost of employee health, happiness, and wellbeing. More importantly, flow is the foundation and pathway to organizational synergy.
James Slavet of Greylock venture capital has suggested that the amount of time employees spend in flow (an organization’s “flow state percentage”) is “the most important metric for building great innovation teams”. A landmark ten year study by McKinsey & Company found top executives reported being five times more productive in flow. Most however estimated that they and their employees spend less than 10% of the workday in flow. Some simple math suggests that increasing the time you or employees spend in flow by just 20% will almost double productivity.
If you love your work and know how to flow, numbers like a 500% increase in productivity through flow won’t be surprising. If you’re doubtful, it may be helpful to consider that even Wall Street has taken notice. Collaborating with State Street, a firm that manages 11% of the world’s financial assets, the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute published a paper in 2017 entitled Discovering Phi – a “hidden variable of performance that has widespread implications for the future of the investment management industry”. Defining phi as motivation that is distinctly different from a short-term outperformance focus, the paper shared research showing that a one point increase in phi was associated with 28% greater odds of excellent organizational performance and 55% greater odds of excellent client satisfaction.
Measured in terms of cognitive flexibility, creativity, citizenship, connection to a higher purpose, along with a sense of ownership and belonging, phi is an objective measure of organizational synergy. If a small increase in organizational synergy translates into nearly 30% greater odds of excellent performance and 50% greater odds of customer satisfaction, organizational synergy translates into a tremendous competitive advantage. Focusing on synergy however transforms our very notion of competition from a win-lose game to a collaborative win-win-win race towards excellence that benefits everyone. The side effects of organizational synergy are improved employee wellbeing, job satisfaction, organizational responsibility, and global corporate citizenship.