Designing experiences to achieve flow

yvonne lightning talk.jpg

I'm Yvonne, the Creative Producer and co-founder of Wildwon Projects.

Here's a small taste of our approach to designing experiences, and a shallow dive into the essence of what makes a great experience - from a lightning talk given at the recent 'Cowork in the Park' event put together by Hub Sydney.


So I spend a lot of my time thinking about how and why people have great experiences, and especially in groups, and with my background in user experience design, managing events, and managing digital teams and projects I am highly tuned to when people are in the zone, or enjoying themselves or not.. basically if people are in flow.

Flow - What is it?

Psychologist Mihayli Czikszentmihayli talks about flow as being the path to happiness and optimal experience.

It's when we experience "a unified flowing from one moment to the next, in which we feel in control of our actions, and in which there is little distinction between self and environment ; between stimulus and response; or between past, present, and future."

Sounds amazing right?

When you are in flow, you feel a sense of competence and control, you lose self-consciousness and you get so absorbed in your task you lose track of time. Basically all things that underlie the saying that "time flies when you're having fun".

In the same way, group flow increases when people feel autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

This also taps into the work of Daniel Pink who shows us that it is in fact autonomy, mastery and purpose that truly motivates us as individuals.

Flow and groups

This absolutely also applies to groups, when a group is in sync you can draw from a huge pool of creativity because in essence you make, lots, together.

It's not surprising that great creativity springs from collaboration, conversation and social networks (physical and digital), and amazing feats are accomplished.

Decades of scientific research have revealed that great creativity almost always springs from collaboration, conversation, and social networks—challenging our mythical image of the isolated genius.

Its not surprising that some of the most common experiences of flow are when you are in a super engaging and stimulating conversation with someone.

If you're interested in this you should check out Keith Sawyer, is a scientist that studies creativity - whose research covers Jazz ensembles, improv groups, comedy groups, theatre troupes, musiciens, dance groups.

Case study: Passata Day

One event that everyone (myself included) experienced flow was last year's passata day put on by the Youth Food Movement.

A day to preserve tomatoes and preserve the Italian cultural tradition of cutting, boiling, pressing, bottling and vacuum sealing tomatoes at the end of summer.

Zero waste, recycled bottles, natural sterilisers, organic local tomatoes, hand made and hand capped, passata preserves food and encourages eating in tune with the seasons.

The idea sits at the intersection of the shift to local food, hand made, traditional craft, reviving cultural tradition, entrepreneurship, community cohesion, sustainability and amazing fun.

I'll take you through how this experience met the 4 conditions of flow:

1. “First, and most important, they’re doing something where your skills (or ability to skill-up) match the challenge of the task. If the challenge is too great for their skills, they become frustrated; but if the task isn’t challenging enough, they simply grow bored.”

On the day, people discover natural flows to working together and they iterate and innovate the production process. At the start of the day, they have no idea about the best way to squish tomatoes through the passata machine, by the end of the day they are masters of it and have created a sense of harmony and flow through this hands-on experience of honest hard work.

2. “Second, flow occurs when the goal is clear.”

Turn 300 kg of tomatoes into Passata sauce - easy (this year the goal is 600kg).

3. “…third, when there’s constant and immediate feedback about how close you are to achieving that goal.”

It's hard not to instantly know the difference between watery tomatoey sludge, and thick rich and beautiful tomato pulp, and you refine your technique to achieve the latter.

4. “Fourth, flow occurs when you’re free to concentrate fully on the task.”

Beautiful sunny day in a huge backyard, with phones away and nothing around you except for good friends, good tunes, heaps of tomatoes and passata making equipment.

So.. next time you are organising anything with a group - have a think about how you can be in flow to achieve great things with the most fun.

HUB Sydney's 'Co-work in the Park'

There's an wave of awesome about to hit Sydney in the form of our very own Hub Sydney. It's about time the international Hub network - 'Where Change Goes to Work' - had an outpost in our fine city - and a killer team led by Caroline McLaren and Ehon Chan are making it happen.

In the lead up to the opening of the Hub, these guys held a 'Cowork in the Park' event  in the gorgeous Wynyard Park, as an introduction to the concept of co-working for the uninitiated and Wildwon were asked to give a lightning talk.

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