The New Competitive Edge
We’re currently experiencing an unprecedented focus on pushing the boundaries of human performance and productivity.
This has come about, partly as a response to economic challenges and the increase in communication and information channels, but it’s also driven by the human desire to progress.
These are exciting times where the previously perceived limitations on what we are capable of are frequently smashed. Barely a day goes by without research emerging from the fields of Neuroscience, Performance Psychology, Technology or Bio-hacking (to name a few) educating and empowering us with new techniques, tools, apps or supplements that can significantly increase our performance, productivity and resilience. Some of them are extremely effective and are proven to enable us to increase our performance at work by 500% or more. Others are just like the latest new diet. Shiny and exciting for a bit but long term they consistently fail.
The most promising developments and discoveries (and sometimes re-discoveries) include brain entrainment, mental conditioning processes previously only used by Special Forces operators and world class athletes, technologies that rapidly facilitate recovery and enhance focus, mindfulness and meditation, next generation Smart Drugs (Nootropics), seemingly endless productivity apps and much more. These advances are only the tip of the superhuman iceberg.
While individuals have for millennia been interested in personal development in its various forms, for the first time, we’re experiencing a deep and growing interest by organizations in the latest research in human performance. This growing focus is entirely consistent with the pursuit of profit and success. Happy, healthy, high performing individuals are able to work longer hours, be more effective and creative, have less sickness and manage stress.
Zen and Productivity
Increasing our performance and productivity can, however, no longer be about doing more, faster. Our increasingly fast, always connected world undermines focus and effectiveness , primarily through an endless stream of notifications and interruptions. As a consequence we become more stressed and unable to think with clarity and creativity. We need some peace. So while the search for new ways to do more faster continues, companies and individuals seek out ways of slowing things, looking to both old (e.g. Yoga, Mindfulness) and new solutions (e.g. Brain entrainment and HRV) to slow things down and reduce stress.
Thousand year old practices such as meditation, yoga and mindfulness are now widely accepted as powerful tools for increasing resilience, productivity, creativity and clarity of thought. According to research, approximately one quarter of all major American employers now deliver some form of stress management training and support. These companies include Apple, Nike, Google, McKinsey and Yahoo. Special Forces operators and athletes have long used various relaxation techniques to improve performance and resilience.
Flow and the 5x Factor
By way of example, let’s focus for one moment, on one of the most exciting performance advantages – flow. First coined by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, flow is the state of complete immersion in an activity. Individuals in flow experience intense focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
A person experiencing a state of flow is able to achieve far more than they could when out of flow; sometimes more than believed humanely possible. Flow it is the ultimate state of peak performance. The significance of flow is such that business leaders and scientific researchers are taking serious note of the state and it’s profound implications.
A McKinsey study that found that top executives in “flow” are five times more productive, than out of it. Achieved by a combination of old practices and new technologies, flow is quite possibly the ‘ultimate state of peak performance .
The ‘Limitless’ Executive and Entrepreneur
It remains to be seen how far our quest for advancing human performance will take us. What is clear, however, is that for those seeking to get ahead, the time management strategies of yesteryear are no longer sufficient or relevant. We need to increase and manage our focus and energy. So if you’re aiming for success at the highest levels, give careful consideration to purchasing a yoga mat instead, getting into a state of flow and using brain entrainment technology, instead of a game of squash or round of golf.
Image credit: CC by Martin Soorjoo