Book Review: Flow

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I originally wrote a lengthy review for Flow from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. But then I realized everything could be said in just a few paragraphs.

Psychology has traditionally been considered a soft science, but that has since changed since the first dot-com boom. Flow is a shining example of this new-found scientific legitimacy.

A few weeks ago I heard an entrepreneur say that the best innovation we can do in the next decade is to make everything we’ve made in the previous decade more usable for more people. We don’t need new technology; we need current technology to be better designed.

Csikszentmihalyi’s book is the blue print for that idea. It can be summed up with this illustration.

If you give people too much of a challenge for their skills, they will have anxiety. If you give them not enough, they will be bored. It’s only with the proportion is just right for the task at hand that they will accomplish the task and feel good doing so.

The technology we’ve made so far has suffered from being outside of the flow channel. Csikszentmihalyi’s findings give us insight, as designers and developers, on how to make our products more useful. His recommendations will lead to higher adoption and retention rates.

Psychology has real, growing practicality for technologists. I recommend everyone who works with software to give it a quick read through.