Autonomy is a natural inclination. When we have real control over various aspects of our work, we are much more satisfied. We enjoy the thrill of progress when performing tasks.
What we’re after is a state of flow, says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The researcher was fascinated with the ecstatic state of artists and athletes. How did they get lost in the moment? Why were they willing to devote so much time to a pursuits that may not pay off financially?
Mihaly’s interviews discovered common aspects of peak experiences. His subjects described a subconscious energy like “water carrying them along,” so he called the state “flow.” Flow activities were fun because they offered the right amount of challenge. Activities that were too easy produced apathy while those that were too hard triggered anxiety. The most enjoyable activities were well-matched to the person’s ability. These were the Goldilocks tasks.
Tasks that produced flow offered immediate feedback and clear indicators of progress. During these activities, worry about failure and self-consciousness disappeared. Challenge led to growth and, eventually, mastery. Participants found their progress incredibly satisfying.
Empowering individuals to explore data helps them connect to a purpose larger than themselves. Being able to provide great customer service or effecting positive change in the world are examples of purpose-aligned work. Knowing how the organization is tracking toward its purpose is extremely rewarding.
Seeing a premade chart during the last mile of a project doesn’t produce the same emotional engagement. Intrinsic reward comes from using data throughout the process to make educated decisions and measure progress along the way. This approach incrementally liberates suppressed energy, which has a viscerally powerful effect.
And that’s good news for the organization as well. Engagement not only helps make for happier teams but also makes for more productive people and, ultimately, a better bottom line.
We all want to work at a place where we can exercise our creativity and strive to make a difference. With a culture of self-service analytics, organizations can use data to reach higher levels of knowledge, engagement, and imaginative thinking.