The word ecstasy, derived ancient Greek, describes the emotional experience of breaking out of the routine into the world of creativity and renewed creation – the moment of escape from the chokehold of stagnation, a free flow into the expanses of the unknown.
According to psychologist and philosopher Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, ecstasy is the essence of creativity. Similar to moments of “self-fulfillment,” which are at the top of the pyramid of needs and motivations described by Maslow, Czikszentmihalyi views this human flow as liberation of the source of the experience of growth and joy (in contrast to pleasure, which is merely momentary enjoyment). It is the height of human aspiration, the space in which human beings have the opportunity to express their unique talents and receive recognition for the value they have created from their surroundings.
Thus, according to Czikszentmihalyi, the experience of flow is the very basis of human creativity. It is at this point that the creative person meets with a customer at the point of value creation and intentional creativity for the satisfaction of human need. This is the meeting point between the writer and the reader; the musician and the audience; the doctor and the patient; the tailor and the man who buys a suit; the builder and the occupants of the building; the service provider and any customer who purchases a product that will improve his life. This moment of joy does not belong solely to the recipient of the value; the creator of the value also feels a sense of satisfaction that he has been able to express his or her talents and abilities in a creative process.
Anyone who watched Alberto Moreno, Liverpool’s young left back, as he glided across the field in his second game to make a goal against Tottenham can truly understand the meaning of personal flow when coping with challenge to create joy for the fans. (Moreno: “He’ll never walk alone….”)
Flow, excellence and breaking out of current boundaries into the creative and the unknown – that is innovation, the lifebreath of the creative individual and the commercial organization.
In his introduction to the book by Michael Ballé’s and Freddy Ballé’s Lead With Respect, John Shook examines the phenomenon of flow and value creation: the quality of the value stream in a Lean enterprise is measured by the direction and strength of the flow. The design of the structure and organizational process is in the hands of the process engineer, but the generation of the work culture and creativity in the organization – the definition of purpose, vision, and the basic values that are inculcated and nurtured in the workers (the value producers) – all these are in the hands of the architects.
The role of the manager as organizational architect entails three main stages: clear definition of goals, provision of significant and consistent feedback; and maintaining challenges. This builds a graduated increase in the level of difficulty and complexity in the tasks that make up innovation and value-creation.
This requires a new kind of manager: manager-educators, dedicated to creating value flow. These manager-educators enable value-producing workers to express their personal and social talents and abilities in an expanse of excellence – ecstasy.