There are insights and then there are blinding insights and IDEO’s Diego Rodriquez has a truly brilliant insight in his column on the relationship between happiness and innovation.
Diego builds on the concept of “flow,” that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi put forth. Flow is the state of happiness you enter when, as Diego says, “the complexity of the thing you’re doing just outstrips your ability to get it done.” Too much complexity and you are overwhelmed. Too little and you are bored. If organizations get it right, you can optimize innovation by offering people work that balances clear, achievable goals that challenges them and “ignites the fires of creativity that lie within us all,” as Diego puts it. Call it serious play. Check out Diego’s kind of play—Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Google, Honda, 3M and other companies are using serious play to innovate. Indeed, in sports, getting into the “zone” is critical to competition and winning. The flow, the zone, even the “force” of Star Wars. I like viewing innovation that way.
But can button-down corporate execs used to Six Sigma regimentation learn to play? Can they learn to harness the flow? Will the force be with them? That’s the competitive question of the decade, isn’t it?
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