Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests that the level of challenge needs to be carefully matched to the level of skill and confidence if the learner is to stay in the ‘flow channel’ that exists between anxiety and panic on the one hand and boredom on the other. Too much challenge and not enough skills and the learner is likely to feel panic and anxiety and may withdraw from the development process. Too many skills and not enough challenge is likely to lead to boredom and also increase the probability of withdrawal. Get the balance right between the level of challenge and thelevel of skills and confidence and you have every chance that they well get ‘into the zone’.
As enterprise coaches (especially those of us working in communities with low levels of educational attainment) it is my belief that we often float the challenge of self employment and entrepreneurship much too early in the development process for some of our clients. The mismatch between the challenge (you could run your own business) and the perceived level of skill and experience is so high that we induce anxiety, fear and panic and are likely to experience high drop-out levels.
This problem is especially acute when policy drivers lead to ‘fast enterprise’ projects designed to accelerate the client towards entrepreneurship. This often manifests itself in a range of workshops designed to put people on the ‘fast track to entrepreneurship’. In practice such workshops often struggle to recruit participants from the target market and experience high drop out rates.
Recognise that self employment and entrepreneurship may lie way outside the comfort zone for many people in the communities we serve. We have to use an ‘intermediate technology’ to help them to make progress from where they are at, in terms of both their technical skills and their psychological state (confidence, motivation, self esteem and self-belief).
Start to engage in more ‘person centred’ ways about what progress might look like to them at the moment. Help them to set goals for progress that are challenging but realistic and provide them with the support and guidance that they need to achieve. This WILL lead to personal development and to them learning to use enterprise skills to make progress. Help them to recognise the progress that they have made and the skills and abilities that they have used along the way. Ask them again to think about what progress they want to make now and repeat the cycle.
If we can help enough people to steer a course of personal development that delivers real progress on the problems and opportunities that face them we may find that before we know it we have a number of people who are ready to start working with us on their plans for entrepreneurship.