Why Build a Constant State of Flow at Your Startup

[Edit Notes: Why are some startups happier than others? Why are some more successful than others? What is flow? Brij Bhasin of the GSF accelerator explores what it means to be in a state of flow.]

I have been part of two previous startups, first and successful one in the US and second, an unsuccessful startup in India.  GSF is like my third one. I have followed the path to success or failure of many startups, some are widely known public companies and some closely as part of our portfolio. While there can be many reasons for success/failure, startups that build large amounts of momentum or are in a constant state of “flow” have a disproportionately higher chance of success.

If there is positivity all around, the struggle will be not only be bearable, it will be the battle cry that everyone rallies around to achieve a common goal and shared cherished vision.

A friend shared a blog post recently by Peter Diamandis where he talks about the concept of “flow”.

Flow is an optimal state of consciousness, a peak state where we feel our best and perform our best. Researchers now believe flow sits at the heart of almost every athletic championship, underpins major scientific breakthroughs and accounts for significant progress in the arts. From a quality of life perspective, psychologists have found that the people who have the most flow in their lives are the happiest people on Earth. Most of us have at least passing familiarity with flow. If you’ve ever lost an afternoon to a great conversation or gotten so involved in a work project that all else is forgotten, you’ve tasted the experience. In flow, we focus so intensely on the task at hand that action and awareness merge. Time flies. Self vanishes. Performance, both mental and physical, goes through the roof.

Most of us have seen this at work. Startups are incredibly high-flow environments. Flow has driven my career – passion and creativity triggered in a project for one business becomes an “inspiration generator” that catalyzes new breakthroughs in another entrepreneurial venture, and so on. Startups that don’t generate large amounts of flow are startups doomed to eventually fail.

So what is this “flow” that startups need to generate? It is the energy that permeates from the founder’s vision, to the team’s execution, to delighting the customers and eventually making money to keep the investors happy.  Everything needs to reverberate in sync and continually build momentum.

Every day or week or month there should be new milestones being scaled: a product feature, a new customer(s) or progress on raising funds and maximizing positive outcomes.  Unless there is constant flow, sooner of later lethargy and self-doubt will start to creep in and the startup will be at risk of going into a downward negative spiral. I’m not saying that teams need to work insane hours to achieve this; startups are a marathon and not a sprint. However, it is imperative that founders keep a close watch on their own and team’s morale, while building continuous progress. Of course there will be bad days or weeks or months, but there could minor victories, right? If there is positivity all around, the struggle will be not only be bearable, it will be the battle cry that everyone rallies around to achieve a common goal and shared cherished vision.

Diamandis concludes, “If flow is the source code to intrinsic motivation, and inspiration and ambition are key drivers of big, bold thinking, then mastering flow could be one of the best development decisions you make for yourself as an entrepreneur.”

If you are interested in learning more about the concept of flow, Steven Kotler has documented this in his new book, The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance.

Diamandis’ review – “This book breaks new ground, giving an incredibly thorough and fun-to-read overview of the science of flow, including a detailed description of the 15 flow triggers that allow anyone anywhere to massively increase the amount of flow in their lives”

[About the Author: Brij Bhasin is an Operating Partner at GSF Accelerator and is based Bangalore. Follow him on Twitter @brijbhasin]

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