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I’ve learned one
thing on my first project with Flux: the way the Flux Foundation works is remarkable. Large scale and complex projects, art that’s bigger than houses, are built on the passion of volunteers. Moreover, the projects are seemingly chaotic with many moving parts, roles, and a rotating cast of characters. When I first started volunteering with Flux I did not have much faith in this process – I did not see
how anything could get done if people were not going to be given rigorous structure to adhere to. I was wrong. Coming from a fairly structured and corporate environment in my 9-5 life I simply did not understand how decisions would get made, resources allocated effectively,
met. Moreover, if no one actually ‘owns’ anything and there is no financial or institutional recourse for a lack of performance, then how can we be sure anything will get done?!
But, there is order in the apparent chaos of a Flux crew – or rather, the lack of order enables people to step in wherever they like. People create their own structure. This space in Flux’s projects allows people to develop a passion for the project by creating their own relationship with it and define their own role within it. While there are obvious extrinsic motivations at play like becoming part of a creative community, I think the intrinsic motivation that comes from choosing your own destiny on a project is far more powerful. A leading positive psychologist, Csikszentmihalyi, describes this as “flow state”:
“This is a feeling everyone has at times, characterized by a feeling of great absorption, engagement, fulfillment, and skill—and during which temporal concerns (time, food, ego-self, etc.) are typically ignored.”
The psychological benefits of being in flow state include “…being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one.”
Whether it is in a collaborative design meeting, tinkering with misting systems, or flapping a piece of metal to a shimmering perfection, Flux projects offer a variety of ways to achieve flow state.
As these big projects become increasingly demanding, and the tasks do become somewhat repetitive towards the end, I’ve found it challenging to maintain my intrinsic motivation. But the trick is to find a balance between the level of the challenge and the level of the skill required for the task. So if
volunteers start to feel disengaged from one aspect of a project, they can simply jump in elsewhere to find new challenges and thus a new source of “flow”.
With that, I’m off to find my flow, probably in a flap disc on a grinding wheel.