Bringing FLOW into your organisation

According to Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, being in flow is the key to real human happiness.

The pre-requisites for personal flow are:

  • Inner clarity of mission and vision
  • Clear goals
  • Balance between challenge and skill
  • Feedback about your performance
  • Fully in-sync with work
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Enjoyment and contribution

If we consider the Yerkes-Dodson performance law, being optimally stimulated (in flow) will yield the best performance, innovation and motivation.

So: If you want to create happiness and high performance/motivation and innovation in your people, you need to get them in flow!

The following is a list of ideas on how to get and keep people in flow at work, generated by PhD students during a leadership training session today:

  • Make sure that people understand goals correctly
  • Create a nice working environment, ergonomic, green …
  • Be sure that people are aligned to the company environment, culture and attitude
  • Give people space to work quietly on high-concentration work
  • Give people the relevant technical and administrative support in order that they can concentrate on their core tasks
  • Give people time and space to be creative and take initiatives
  • Ensure communication is good and clear
  • Have team building moments
  • Give regular feedback to people
  • Coach people
  • Give people the opportunity to express themselves, for example: A questionnaire
  • Sports facilities, power-nap, coffee, massage and zen-rooms
  • Regularly check people’s workload
  • Divide tasks to ensure that people are not over-stressed
  • Get people together, so that they can get feedback from their colleagues
  • Don’t leave “crisis situations” too long – ensure there is balance between challenge and skill level
  • Get to know your people better, work on really understanding their needs and motivation
  • Flexible working hours and home-working possibilities
  • Give more training and development initiatives
  • Job-rotation
  • Give people responsibilities so that they can grow
  • Relevant reward systems

For more ideas on flow at work, look at this short film:

Hope this was interesting! See you on or follow me on twitter

(Feel free to comment…)

Goal-setting: This time its PERSONAL

Everybody knows you need to be SMART and I am 🙂 … but I still get stuck achieving goals from time-to-time. I set myself the target of running another marathon last year, but then never got off the ground with training… I keep saying I’ll stop drinking Coca-Cola, but after a few weeks, I’m back on it. What’s going wrong?

My PERSONAL acronym outlines some of the better goal-setting habits I’ve come across and attempts to identify the missing elements that will turn your SMART goals into something a little more likely to get done.



Goals set from a negative frame of mind simply don’t work… ..or if they do, they require a huge amount of effort. Consider the following goals:

  • “Stop drinking Coca-Cola”
  • “Lose weight”

In order to even understand these goals my brain has first to compute the positive concept of drinking Coca-Cola or having weight, which is precisely what I want to stop doing by saying “stop” or start losing by saying “lose”. These are examples of negative goals.

If I wanted to be really positive, I might say something like:

  • “Drink only water”
  • “Weight 72kg”

To make positive goals, you need to:

  • Ensure to use only positive grammar (no negations)
  • Ensure that each individual word has positive active power (no “stop” words like in the Coca-Cola example)
  • Avoid sub-assertive language in your goals (e.g. “try” and “maybe”)
  • Be optimistic!



When I set goals, my wife (who is a kinesiology therapist) always asks me “And how do you feel about that?” Feelings should not be overlooked when setting goals. If you want to succeed in getting positive action off the ground and actually succeed in your goals, you have to:

  • Include feelings in the goal-setting process
  • Be sure that you feel good about the goal when actually setting it

To include feelings in the goal-setting process, ask yourself how you will feel when the goal is accomplished… …and don’t forget to make these feelings positive, e.g.

  • Not “I will stop feeling bad about sugar abuse” but “I will feel good about my eating and drinking habits”

..and if you don’t feel good about the goal when you actually set it, that is usually a sign that you need first to work on something else before starting that particular goal (in my case, feeling energetic without the use of sugary drinks).

Tip: One good way to include feelings is to use “I” statements in your goal-setting process



Ah, the SMART classic R!

Relevance is all about making your goals worthy. In the business environment, we imagine that a goal must make sense to the employee, the manager and the company. In PERSONAL goal-setting, relevance is accounted for on 4 levels:

  • Relevant to me = completion of the goal has to have some positive impact for me
  • Relevant to relevant others = completion of the goal has to have some positive impact for others
  • Relevant to my environment = completion of the goals will make my world a better place
  • Relevant to life = completion of the goal will support the universe and everything in it

Now, how do I make sense of my Coca-Cola example? When I can truly understand the relevance of the goal, it will become much easier to achieve!



Another SMART word! You have to make goals specific!

For example, I have set a goal about running the 20km Brussels race this year. I started by saying:

  • “Run the 20km of Brussels this year”

Although I found it realistic and achievable, it was not specific enough to actually enthuse me (more on that later). Running the 20k is too easy. I needed a challenge! To create this personal challenge and make me actually move my arse, I have added a specific measurable element: Time

  • “Run the 20km of Brussels this year in 1h51m or under”

The inclusion of this specific element ensures that I have something really measurable and (more importantly) something I can plan for better.

Tip: To really make your goals specific, I propose to make a kind of work breakdown structure to help understand in-depth what is meant by each part of the goal.



The objective part of a goal might have included the measurable element of SMART but is actually about 2 other important parts of objectivity:

  • When measuring success, the level of objectiveness must be proportional to the goal being set
  • Even if my goal is not about numbers, I must include some observable measurements

An example of objectiveness being proportional: If you weighed 120kgs and wanted to lose weight, you might set the goal of “weighing 100kgs”. When it comes to making a measure, jumping on the bathroom scales might be acceptable. But imagine you were running a race and had made a bet with a friend to complete it in less than 4 hours: Would he accept your word on how long it took or would you get an objective 3rd party to time things?

…and when my goals are not numbers based, I still need to have something to measure objectively afterwards. For example: “I will feel better when running” or “I will be perceived as more smiley” or “My colleagues will consider me to be more polite and empathetic”.



One the problems I have when setting goals is that I just don’t get started! This is usually for one of 3 reasons:

  • Procrastination
  • Completion of the goal is too far ahead in time to feel relevant to me
  • I can’t do anything now

By setting goals that make sense in the “now” you can avoid all sorts of worry and inaction. The simplest way to bring “now” into your goals is to ensure that something can be done immediately today, however small. This “now” action will get you started and give energy to your goal.

As an example, last year my wife and I sat down to complete an exercise from Tim Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Work Week” about our dreams. Both she and I said we wanted to buy our dream house. Although we had no idea what the house would look like and how to go about trading our actual home for something better, we were very careful to identify immediate actions that could be taken (thanks for the advice Tim!). We agreed that she would simply give a call to some estate-agents to get an estimation of the value of our house. This one simple action was completed within the first week and gave birth to the second action: The next week, we found an example of a nice house we liked and noted down the price so that I could have a decent conversation with my bank manager about budgets… …before you now it, we bought our farm and lived happily ever after J

Whatever goals you set, make sure you do something now. For as Goethe says, there is providence in action!



The last of the SMART elements that must nonetheless be retained here: Make sure goals are achievable.

Yes, I can run a marathon. Yes, I can do it in just over 4 hours. I can probably even do it in less than 4 hours. But I will never be a marathon world-record holder! …and if I try, I will only spend a whole lot of energy disappointing myself.

To ensure goals are achievable, ask yourself:

  • What resources do I need to achieve this? Who or what can help me?
  • What am I missing? What don’t I know that might have a negative impact?
  • Do I have enough time to achieve my goal?
  • How am I underestimating the goal or overestimating my own ability?



I had to work hard to find a way to make this last idea fit into “L” and if you have any better suggestions for the words, let me know. …. But the point if simple: My goal has to breathe life into me if I am going to get anywhere! If I am not feeling the El-Magico inside, it’s not worth doing.

Tim Ferriss suggests in “The 4-Hour Work Week” that goals that excite you are far more achievable than goals that don’t excite you. I believe that we all have the natural resources we need to achieve the things we really believe in. If you set a goal and you don’t believe in it (or yourself) you can forget about it. But if you do…… Wow !!!



Good luck with your own goal-setting. If you need more inspiration, check out these links:


Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment…

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Infinite Learning © …a short intro

The Infinite Learning © vision is a proposition concerning how learning can take place in organisations.

It states that learning can happen:

  • In all directions
  • At all moments
  • Using all methods
  • For all people

…as such, learning should not be limited to classical classroom training.


The Infinite Learning © vision is based on 5 truths:

  1. Learning does not imply training
  2. Training does not imply learning
  3. Humans want to learn
  4. Humans can learn
  5. We live in a culture of sharing


To get some more information about Infinite Learning © follow one of these links:


…watch this space for an upcoming report on Infinite Learning in Belgian organisations….

See for more L+D resources or follow me on twitter

Learning does not imply training

In 2001, a young African boy called William Kamkwamba built a windmill. His story has become known worldwide as an example of triumph over adversity and the ability of man to innovate in his own circumstances. It is also a story that highlights the first assumption of Infinite Learning © = You don’t need formal training to learn.


William came from a family of farmers in Malawi. When drought struck in 2001, they had neither food nor money. William’s family could no longer afford to send him to school. Hungry for learning and dissatisfied with his lot, William went to the library to continue learning by himself. It was there that he found books on science and, later, a book about windmills. Realising that these wonderful machines could delivery electricity and pump water, William aged 14 decided he had to build one.


Where do you start building windmills? In Belgium, I would go to Brico and ask the expert for a plan, all necessary materials and a nice IKEA-style guide to building my machine. William had to rely on 3 of the most natural resources: motivation, initiative and time. While he set to looking for useful materials in local dumping grounds, his friends and family thought he was crazy, wasting his time. When he adding the finishing touches to his windmill, the villagers stood and watched, ready to mock him for his folly. When the windmill turned and the light-bulb in his hut came to life, they ran away …to get their mobile phones chargers!


William’s approach to learning, growing and innovating is a flagship story for learning and development people in modern organisations. It reminds us of the first truth of Infinite Learning: You don’t need formal training to learn. Whilst the Googles and 3Ms of the world know that motivation, initiative and time are enough to bring about such learning, change and innovation, many other organisations have the attitude of William’s family, friends and village neighbours: If you try to learn and change without formal training you are crazy and wasting your time.



Watch William’s talk at TED here

If you would like more information about Infinite Learning © contact me