Learning from Gamers

As I was preparing to write this blog, I came across a surprising (at least to me) source of inspiration.  It was a speech by Jane McGonigal, who directs game R&D at the Institute for the Future and developed Superstruct (an online game).  Now I know nothing about gaming – in my mind (if I gave it any thought!), it is something that would be relegated to teens and young men staring intently at TV and computer screens, playing a bunch of war/fighting macho games and winning points.

But, if I step back a bit, and think about it from a business perspective, and consider the industry of gaming, I could certainly broaden my imagery and begin to include all of the other evidence of this vibrant industry.  My vision would expand to include the retail game stores, aisles of games in video and other stores, online games, the big excitement when companies like Play Station, Nintendo and Wii are coming out with new models…and of course, the games themselves.

So, back to my inspiration for this blog.  Ms. McGonigal, whose presentation you can watch on Ted.com (a great web site!), talked about the four skills that all good gamers develop:  urgent optimism, social fabric, blissful productivity and epic meaning.  According to Ms. McGonigal, gamers are always going for the Epic Win.  As I listened to her presentation, I was struck by how as small business owner ‘gamers’, these skills also apply to us.


Gamers are virtuosos at…

  1. Urgent Optimism – Extreme self motivation.  The desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that they have a reasonable hope of success.  Gamers always believe that an epic win is possible, and that it’s always worth trying now to achieve it.
  2. Weaving a Tight Social Fabric – Research shows that gamers like people better after they play a game with them.  Even if they’ve beaten them!  The reason is it takes a lot of trust to play games…they spend time together, play by the same rules, value the same goals, stay with the game until it’s over.  This builds up bonds of trust and cooperation and builds stronger social relationships.
  3. Blissful Productivity – Gamers spend an average of 22 hours a week playing games!  When they are playing, they are happier, willing to work hard and feel optimized as human beings.
  4. Epic Meaning – Gamers love to be attached to awe-inspiring missions.  Most games have big, big goals that they are trying to accomplish (think…save the world!).  For gamers, the epic win has epic meaning because of the impact of what they’ve accomplished.

Keeping small businesses viable and vibrant is an ongoing mix of strategic planning, optimism, hard work and luck.  In today’s economy, with shrinking budgets and increased competition, we are continuously searching for ways to add value for our clients, attract new clients and stay motivated.  We need all the edge we can get…so, why not take a page from gamers and make sure that you have:

  • Urgent Optimism:  Set big goals can that move your business to the next level of success…and take action now!
  • Tight Social Fabric:  Form collaborative partnerships and strategic alliances to expand capacity and achieve goals.
  • Blissful Productivity:  Do work that you love doing – work that makes you happy.
  • Epic Meaning:  Do work that has meaning and purpose for you.

Go for the Epic Win!  In game language — An outcome that is so extraordinarily positive that you had no idea it was even possible until you achieved it.

Freida Curry is Procurement Technical Assistance Center Director at the WBDC

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