September 20, 2004
News & Opinion: Book REview: Good Business
By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
When my kids were little they had a picture book simply called, People by Peter Spier. Near the end there was a picture of what it might be like if everyone looked the same, dressed the same, etc. (I think they all drove olive-green Hummers.) On the last page, there was a wonderful colorful picture filled with people who looked different and dressed different and well, just made up the cacophony that makes the world both challenging and fun.
Good Business is suggesting we do the same transformation in the world of work. It is suggesting that we take this wonderful experience called Flow and apply it to work. It suggests that this will pull us away from the drab green monotony and into the world of color and difference and meaning.
Did you read Flow? This is good stuff. The idea that we can do an activity we love and get lost in the time/space/process of it, is very cool. Weve all done it tons of times in our lives and maybe some of them were even at work.
The thing I liked best about Good Business is that it takes a multi-tiered approach to bringing flow to work. It suggests that employers might be smart to create environments and systems that support flow, and also puts responsibility on each of us to examine ways we can bring flow into our own work world.
There have been a lot of books that have expressed one of these views or the other, but none that I am aware that bring both to light.
On the provide a better environment side: First Break All the Rules (Buckingham and Coffman), Now Discover Your Strengths (Buckingham and Clifton), Hidden Value Pfeffer and OReilly), etc.
On the personal responsibility for Flow side: Now Discover Your Strengths (Buckingham and Clifton), Your Signature Path (Bellman), and tons of books that spring from the do what you love and the money will follow thinking.
Ya, I like this stuff, and I have some concerns about it too.
#1: The idea that there is one true right job for us and if only we find it we will have bliss. (Doesnt it sound absurd when its written out like that? And now ask yourself, how much are you basing your career decisions on just that belief?)
#2: If we only figure out the formula, we can be in Flow much of the time. I find the formula to be elusive, and if you do find it, difficult to maintain. (Why does an activity one week bring flow and the next week just feel awkward?)
Good stuff, yes. Worth considering, yes. Worth seeking, yes. Worth beating ourselves up if we cant find it and/or maintain it, no.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.