Why Leadership can Improve by Gaming

The comparison between games and work is maybe not obvious. Some might even reject that comparison. Work is a serious business, something to wear yourself out. That's why we get paid for it. But must work be that way? Don't we send the wrong message, if we shape work that way?

The boundaries between games, sport and work are fluid. In each case, you have to fulfil tasks, make use of your abilities as best as possible and interact with others to reach your own or common goals. Whenever we cannot decide ourselves, how to approach a problem, whenever our activity becomes monotonous and boring, whenever it does not offer any kind of pleasure, we will not continue games, sport or work enthusiastically.

I won't discuss these six core drives in detail now: autonomy, mastery, novelty, pleasure, purpose and community. Suffice it to understand these are not only essential for a well-designed game, but also for a well-designed work environment.

I demand leaders to design work to offer as many of these drives as possible. The more diverse our teams are, the less likely it is to see everybody react on the same impulses. And even the same employee will change their preferences from time to time. Great leadership is not to have the right mixture for everyone. That's patronizing. Great leadership is to let everyone pick their drive from a broad range.

It's not an achievement to lead by keeping a tight rein. When you loosen the rein and the team still reaches its goals, when there is room for outperformance, then leadership is at its finest.


Originally published February 28th 2018

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