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Setting out to become the “Peloton of deep work,” new platform Flown helps cut the distraction and isolation of remote working
Something clicked in entrepreneur Alicia Navarro’s mind during the sabbatical she took in 2019.
She had just stepped down as CEO of Skimlinks – the content monetisation business she founded from her Sydney living room in 2007 – and was instead doing some globe-trotting, swimming with sea lions in the Galapagos and climbing Machu Picchu.
“What was fascinating was that when I did these novel and exploratory things, I became really creative, and I entered these ‘deep flow’ states where I just started writing business plans while, you know, hiking in the Sacred Valley in Peru. It was so weird,” Navarro recalls.
Curious as to what was making her brain tick over and why, Navarro began researching and discovered the writings of Cal Newport, the author and professor who’s behind the term “deep work” – the ability to concentrate on cognitively complex tasks without getting distracted. She also came across psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s findings on the concept of "flow", a highly focused mental state that opens up productivity.
“When you study deep work, it's fascinating because not only is it that state that lets you do your most impactful creative work, it’s also a source of human happiness,” Navarro reflects. “But at the same time, it’s being eroded by this onslaught of online and offline distraction.”
“That really moved me and I thought, this is what I want to spend the next decade of my life doing: helping make deep work a scalable thing which we can deliver to everyone so that – as a society, and as individuals – we can reach our potential.”
That is the vision behind Navarro’s newest venture, Flown, a platform for remote workers to find community, motivation, focus and productivity. While conceiving the business idea, she initially considered establishing a series of properties to host deep-work retreats. However, when the platform launched in London in March 2020 – and the pandemic began – she quickly pivoted to offering virtual facilitated live co-working sessions called Flocks.
Navarro’s timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous; employees the world over were making the shift to remote and hybrid working, and experiencing the very problems that Flown was set up to solve.
The project management platform Asana notes in its recent Anatomy of Work study that cutting-out commutes and working from home has given employees more hours in their day, but the increased reliance on tech needed to make remote work run smoothly is making us more distracted and overwhelmed. The study also notes that a seemingly endless barrage of emails and notification pings, as well as an onslaught of video calls, are two of the most significant barriers to productivity. As a result, big companies are losing 63 per cent of their time each week, and 70 per cent of employees experienced burnout in 2020 as a result.
This is why Navarro not only believes that there’s a demand for scaling a deep work offering, but that she’s at the forefront of the next big thing in business – that deep work will be for the next decade what mindfulness has been for the one before. Investors share her vision too, if the £1.2 million in pre-seed funding she raised during the first UK lockdown is anything to go by.
“When I saw what Covid was going to do to the way that we worked, how open companies were going to be as to how their employees work, and the impact it was going to have on loneliness and that sense of feeling connected, I thought, ‘I'm going to do it’,” Navarro quips. “What else would I do for the rest of my life?”
Taking part in Flocks sessions not only helps Flown users focus, but creates a sense of accountability. “When your mind starts to wander, you look up, and there's 30 people that are working, and you think, if they can do it, then I guess I can too,” explained Navarro. The success of the sessions is also no-doubt down to Flown’s charismatic facilitators, who have seen the majority of members – now said to be in the thousands – upgrade their free memberships to the platform’s paid offering.
In the same way that exercise company Peloton has created a cult-like vibe around its array of influencer-level instructors, so too does Navarro see building and leveraging the profile of Flown’s Flocks facilitators as key to the platform’s growth.
Flown, Navarro adds, appeals not just to the sole traders, freelancers and students that crave the company and togetherness group working provides, but to a growing base of corporate users unable to replicate the magic of the professional facilitator. Whether it’s mindful breathing or a high intensity HIIT workout break, the facilitators each bring their unique brand – and the members who’ve become fans – to their Flocks sessions.
“Peloton has the bike, but what really makes them amazing is their live and on-demand content experiences, led by the amazing personalities that deliver results, alongside community,” Navarro explains.
“We're doubling down on building a Peloton for work, a media company for deep work that has live and on-demand content experiences, led by amazing facilitators and on-screen talent, to deliver focus and productivity, alongside a sense of connectedness.”
You can learn more about the concept of deep work and boosting productivity in the office here.
Originally posted on TOG's website.