A while back, while reading an article about game design, I stumbled across the concept of “flow.” Flow is an optimal state of motivation. We’ve all experienced it before: that page-turner that you couldn’t put down or the project you worked on for hours straight, forgetting about basic needs like eating and drinking.
The most addicting video games keep the player in a constant state of flow. Designers accomplish this by trying to keep a game’s difficulty perfectly suited to the player at all times. An ideal game presents the player with tasks that are ever-increasing in difficulty, between the extremes of “too easy” and “impossible.” The easy side of the spectrum induces boredom, while impossible tasks generate frustration.
The more I teach, the more I realize that flow is critical for a successful lesson or seminar. If your presentation is too simple, your audience will zone out and feel that they are wasting time. If it’s too difficult, they’ll throw up their hands in defeat. If you can keep them in the sweet spot, the “flow channel,” however, they should remain engaged and motivated throughout your presentation and eager to learn more after it’s over.
Next week, I’ll share some specific techniques for maintaining flow in your classes and seminars. In the meantime, you can read more about the concept of flow here.