Intuition and Flow Equals Productivity


The ups and downs of an employment market and the surges and retreats of technology operate under a paradigm that problems are solved and decisions are made based on rational, data-based intellectual prowess.  On the other side of the scale, we’ve grown our emotional intelligence.  But, we still put a disproportionate value on how intellectually smart we are.


We say we hire for culture, but education and experience are often the most important factors when considering a new-hire. When boardroom decisions are made data and facts are the main tools we use.  When the going gets tough, the database mind is called in to save the day. But do we really want more of what got stalked in the first place?


I think the undiscovered country of productivity is intuition and flow.


Our intellectual brains are extremely useful, but to a point. They narrow our view and cut us from intuition and other gut feelings.  Our intellectual brain can’t see patterns. It doesn’t listen to hunches.  It avoids feelings. It is stubborn to remain in control.


Neuroscience tells us everyone is more effective and engaged when they experience what some, like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, call “Flow”. Athletes call this intuitive, creative experience, being “in the zone.” Jazz musicians refer to this special focus as “being in the pocket.”


And in business PriceWaterhouseCooper’s, in a study of 1100 executives, said teams who tap into “group flow” are at the top quartile of revenue. McKinsey and Company did a 10 year global study of senior knowledge workers and found employees who spent the most time in “flow” were up to five times more effective (productive) as their counter parts.


We need to bring the word intuition out from the shadows and into the boardroom. We need leaders to know when they need to use their intellectual brain and when they should rely on their intuitive gut feelings. We need to allow for teams to make decisions not just on facts and data but on the gut feelings of the members of the team.  We need to understand what creates flow-states for individuals and teams.


No one would claim that they are not trying to be productive. But trying harder, doing the same thing, just more of it, is a huge barrier. In an effort to be more productive we’re becoming less productive.


If we allow and encourage intuition and flow in our decision-making process, and in the way we work, productivity will dramatically increase and the quality of what we produce will improve.


At least that’s what my gut says.