“It is what the sailor holding a tight course feels when the wind whips through her hair….It is what a painter feels when the colors on the canvas begin to set up a magnetic tension with each other, and a new thing, a living form, takes shape….”

These words, written by American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Mee-high CHICK-sent-me-high-ee), describe the state of “flow.” It’s a condition of heightened focus, productivity, and happiness that we all intuitively understand and hunger for.

Without flow, there’s no creativity, says Csikszentmihalyi, and in today’s innovation-centric world, creativity is a requirement, not a frill. “To stay competitive, we have to lead the world in per-person creativity,” says Jim Clifton, CEO of the Gallup Organization, which provides management consulting for 300-odd companies. “People with high flow never miss a day. They never get sick. They never wreck their cars. Their lives just work better.” Clifton says flow is one ideal outcome of Gallup’s consulting work. No one is more surprised about the corporate world’s increasing interest in his research than Csikszentmihalyi, 71, the former head of the psychology department at the University of Chicago. Now director of the Quality of Life Research Center at the Drucker School of Management in Claremont, California, he has been studying flow for more than four decades.

For more on creating a workplace environment conducive to flow, click here.

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