Humans are social creatures. It’s just more fun to do anything in a group, it keeps the motivation going and it boosts the experience of individual flow. So doing it in a group will help you get into the flow and maintain it.
Flow can be achieved on our own, but it can become more powerful when it happens in a group. It’s the classic notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
A team or a group is more powerful and flows more powerfully than an individual. Spontaneity, cooperation, communication, creativity, productivity and overall performance skyrocket in a group.
Mirror neurons active in any social context help boost the experience of flow. The role of mirror neurons in the creation of a group flow experience is key for both individual and group flow.
A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when we act and when we observe the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other, as though the observer was acting itself. When mirror neurons are activated, we become the mirror of the situation.
If we are in the flow, people will subconsciously like us, copy or emulate our state, so our strength in flow extends to perceived outer reality and also gives us a positive feedback loop, reinforcing our flow experience.
These kinds of experiences carry over to the people observing, as well. The overwhelming emotion that comes from witnessing group flow moments is what gives us chill bumps or makes us respond in an emotional way.
Flow is contagious, humans are wired to seek out what they like, and what everyone likes is positive, happy and fulfilled individuals. The flow in this way gets emulated by others who observe individuals in the flow and are drawn subcounsciously to it. So the more time we spend in flow, the more you feed the group flow, the more it comes back to you.
Requirements for optimal group flow
Now we will examine the triggers that a group might use in order to get into the zone as a group or group flow. These requirements can be utilized by any size of a group on any level of society. It defines how people interact, cooperate and feel mutual inclusivity and active participation in order to maximize the group flow.
When groups of individuals flow together, magic happens, trust replaces fear and collective potential naturally emerges.
Flow trigger #1 - Directed playfulness
Being in a playful mode and applying an open mindset, can foster creativity and innovation as it emphasizes self-consciousness & responsibility. The non-judgmental environment of play is more likely to foster surprising and innovative ideas. Emotionally safe setting provided by the playful approach is an important component of group flow.
Flow trigger #2 - Focused group attention
We need to be aware of our teammates, opponents or conversation partners. If we lose focus and start thinking about what is for dinner or other things, we’ll quickly be overrun and the group will fall out of flow. It also helps to ensure that everyone has their maximum attention to the here and now, blocking off all other distractions.
Flow trigger #3 - Shared group goals
Groups need to be clear about what their collective goal is in order for the flow state to be achieved. Group flow is a progressive balancing act. Creating a goal that provides enough focus and is open enough for creativity to flourish demands a fine balance.
Flow trigger #4 - Shared culture or familiarity
Everyone needs to be familiar with each other. Everyone needs to share a common language, a shared knowledge base and communication style based on unspoken understandings. There must be unity, in thoughts and in actions. Everyone must be on the same page and when novel insights arise, momentum is not lost due to the need for lengthy explanation.
Flow trigger #5 - Group communication
Group flow needs constant communication. Conversation must flow forward. Listen closely on what is being said, accept it, and build upon it. Nothing blocks flow more than ignoring or negating a group member. When we are listening closely to the present conversation, our responses will flow and conversation will progress naturally.
Innovation shouldn’t be blocked in a group flow. This means that interactions should be addictive and positive more than argumentative. It is about being open to new things, even if they sound like a bad idea. The goal is the momentum, togetherness and innovation that comes from intensifying each other’s ideas and actions.
Flow trigger #6 - Equal participation
When we have a team with equal roles in terms of contribution to the project, flow is most likely to happen. Teamwork is the key and everyone must be involved. Preferably all members should have similar skill levels.
Flow trigger #7 - Balanced group challenge
It applies to groups in the same way that it applies to individuals. When there is an element of challenge, people are more motivated to work hard and make things happen. Without challenges, the tasks appear boring. There’s also no creativity without failure and there’s no group flow without the risk of failure.