How “Group Flow” Maximizes Team Performance

Group Flow? What is that?

Well have you ever wondered why some teams perform better than others? Or how they are able to synchronize so well with one another?

Did you know there is a term called “Group Flow“, and that this “Group Flow” makes all the difference between a top performing success story and an unsuccessful disaster?

To learn more on how you can turn your team into the next greatest success story, we will explain what “Group Flow” is, and how you can implement it into your team.

Let’s take the step into the next generation of high performers that will provide enhanced performance, driving revenue, and optimized efficiency for your organization.

What's In This Article?


What Is Group Flow?

“Group Flow” driven from a state of “flow” meaning a mental state of operation in which an individual is able to perform an activity immersed in a feeling of full enjoyment, energized focus, and complete involvement.

Group Flow is the ability for a group to simultaneously experience a state of flow together. The group will appear to be of one mind and one goal, where each member continually builds off the other.

In group flow, a team is completely focused “in the now” on the task at hand without distraction. Some would say it appears the group enters and altered state of mind as one together.

With Group flow, a team will be able to perform at their peak levels pushing innovation and productivity to the highest extremes. 

Background On the Study of "Flow"

Originally studied by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on the subject of flow, Mihaly’s investigations of “optimal experience” uncovered what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called he called “flow“.

When in a state of flow, individuals experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and feel a total involvement in life. 

Similarly compared to the passion hypothesis, as people get lost in a task or subject they love, individuals in flow experience complete focus and peak levels of enjoyment while performing. 


Where Has Group Flow Been Used?

Group flow has been studied and implemented by some of the most elite organizations today and continues to be a topic of conversation. A few excellent examples of group flow in action range from navy seals, to improv stage performers, and from Fortune 100 business’, to small startup’s, and so much more.  

When you look for Group Flow in action, it can be seen all over where these teams are the highest performers becoming the best at what they do.


How Do You Create Group Flow?

In order to create Group Flow and turn your team into peak performers, a team must experience the following 10 criteria. Achieving this will sync a team into a Group Flow state maximizing overall performance and pushing innovation and creation to new levels.

10 Components of Group Flow

Share A Clear Goal

When a group comes together, aligning on a clear overarching goal is critical for Group Flow. Known as “The Group’s Goal” a team is able to focus together in order to reach positive results.

The goal itself does not need to be known in advance. For example as a company will make many pivots along its path in order to succeed; a team will push innovations and creativity in order to achieve.  

Deep Listening

A successful team should be completely engaged with one another. That would imply they are actively listening to one another and building form there. The concept of “Deep Listening” involves active engagement where members do not plan ahead on what they will do or say creating unplanned but productive responses.

A great example of this would be to look at some of the best improv performances. Here one member of the improv performers makes a statement, and the others build off that statement. It is all completely ad lib yet it yields remarkably innovative results.

If one or more of the participants has a pre-planned response or preconceived idea to be suggested, all innovation will be lost. This is referred to as “writing the script in your head” and is frowned upon.

Complete Focus

As Mihaly has explained, “Flow” is achieved when there is complete focus/concentration on the task at hand. This is considered “living in the now” and could also be referred to as mindfulness.

For complete concentration to work, it is essential for the group to be focused on the task at hand with absolutely no distractions. This would require either a physical or mental barrier to be placed between the group’s activity and anything else.

In order to focus a team’s concentration, they should have a unique location or mental practice that will allow the flow state to occur. 

With complete focus, natural progress of the group’s innovation will develop as the team synchronizes together.

Any time constraints, deadlines, or other limitations will only cause distraction resulting in harm to the group’s focus. 

Autonomy & Control Balance

It has been studied that flow is heightened when individuals feel autonomy, competence, and relatedness. But in group flow, members must act as one confirming to one another.

In order to maximize group flow, members must both be able to feel autonomy while also being flexible to confirm with the group. 

Open Mindset

A stated with autonomy and control balance, group flow requires team members to be open minded to each others input. This allows one another to build off each individual’s contribution. 

There is no room for high ego’s and divided thoughts as that will only harm the flow state.

Equal Participation

All members of the group should be of equal experience and equally participate in all roles a functions needed for the creation and delivery of the goal. This does not imply each member must be exactly the same, as that will not benefit the group, but instead have equal skill levels for the role they are filling. 

If a member’s skill level is below another’s it will diminish returns for the team.

An example here is why professionals do not integrate with amateurs, or why CEO’s only want to deal with other CEO’s. The individuals of a group must all be of similar level with another even if the role is not the same.

Clear Communication & Transparency

Clear communication and transparency among the group is essential for flow. Here it is more than just weekly meetings but more so constant chatter and alignment throughout the day.

Team Familiarity

Each member of the group should have familiarity with each other’s key attributes, skills, and weaknesses. Team members will have a full understanding of one another’s performance abilities allowing one another to synchronize as needed.

Using Navy Seals as an example: Team members are trained to understand one another’s habits, strengths, and weaknesses. With this level of familiarity, team members are able to support each other sustaining group flow.

Forward Movement

A group must always push for progressive continuation. Each member building off one another continually moving the collective forward as one. 

A team in flow can not take any steps backward to rest or reset as that will interrupt the state and slow momentum.

As each other member adds to the group’s forward progress, flow is created.

High Risk / High Danger

When a team is in a relaxed non-pressure state, errors and mishaps are inevitable. This can be seen when watching performers in practice compared to the full production. 

The key difference here is pressure and the risk of failure or danger that exist.

When a team is under pressure to perform at their peak, all focus and senses are “in the now” state limiting out any distractions.

This can be seen all over from olympic athletes to Navy Seals on a rescue mission, and from professional stages to extreme sports enthusiasts. 

Overall, without a high risk of failure or elicit danger that persists, a group will not be able to enter the flow state.


Additional Resources

If you enjoy learning about Group Flow and would like to read more about the use of “Flow”, here are some great resources and books for you to check out.

The Rise of Superman Book Cover
by Steven Kotler

A New York Times – Best Selling Author – Steven Kotler uncovers what creates super human performance through a state of “Flow”.

Exploring the world of action and adventure sports, Steven Kotler unlocks the key for finding our optimal state of consciousness in which we perform and feel our best.

This book was a great “adventure” while providing signifiant insight to how we can find “flow” in our lives.

Steeling Fire Book Cover
By Steven Kotler, Jamie Wheal

A great book by any means! The authors go into altered states of consciousness and how they can ignite passion, fuel creativity, and accelerate problem solving.

This book will help you understand that you too can find “flow” as well as learn how elite organizations – Navy Seals, Googlers, Fortune 100 CEOs are all using alternate states to accelerate performance, improve their skills.

This is an excellent book that will walk open your mind to new methods that will enhance your ability.

by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The original book of its day, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi famously investigates “the optimal experience” through a state of flow.

During flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life.

If you are new to learning about flow, this quick read will certainly open a new path in your life.