At a recent family gathering, my nephews introduced me to Angry Birds. I was late to the pig-smashing party, but made up for it with a 90 minute marathon.
My nephews, like me when I was their age, can spend far more than 90 minutes playing these games. And they’re not alone. As a planet, we spend an astonishing 3 Billion hours a week playing video games.
That’s voluntary time – an incredible amount of voluntary time.
Clearly we can learn a lot about motivation from video games. Here are 5 ways Angry Birds and video games can make you a better leader:
Feedback is Vital
Video games are filled with ongoing feedback for the player. Angry Birds does it with cute graphics, yellow stars, and points. They let you know when you’ve done well and when you’ve missed the mark.
Whether it’s a score, sound effects, or animations, players receive ongoing feedback about their performance.
I’ve never seen a video game that ignores you when you do something correctly, but punishes when you screw up. Unfortunately, that’s an all-to-common profile for many managers.
Effective managerial leaders ensure their teams have ongoing feedback relative to their performance and the team’s results.
Failure Isn’t Fatal
Video games reward risk-taking and experimentation. If one approach to defeating a “boss” or solving a puzzle doesn’t work – no problem. Try it, learn from it, and try again.
There are a few games where failing means the player loses all their enhancements and must start over with nothing. There are not many of these games and they are not popular with a wide audience.
Not coincidentally, managers who punish failed experiments or do not allow their teams to take healthy risks typically have unmotivated teams.
Effective managerial leaders value experimentation, treat mistakes as learning experiences, and encourage healthy risk-taking.
The most addictive games tap into our human desire to grow. In these games there is always a new skill to be learned, a new level to explore, or a new puzzle to solve.
With a little work, creativity, or newly acquired skill, players get the satisfaction of increasing their ability. Angry Birds introduces new birds with new abilities that require the player to master their use.
Effective managerial leaders understand that people like to grow. They create avenues for their team members to acquire new skills, to expand their capacity, and to take on new responsibilities.
Growth doesn’t always mean role promotions – but it does mean a pronounced sense of progress.
Goals are Challenging, but Not Too Much
Video games exist somewhere in the middle of a continuum between bored and frustrated.
They provide ongoing challenges that require the player to stretch – but not too much. A player confronted with challenges that are impossible to solve will grow frustrated and stop playing. Likewise, if the challenges are too easy, the player grows bored and stops playing.
Angry Birds has multiple levels of challenge. Defeating one group of pigs may be easy, but getting three stars on that level might be significantly more challenging.
Effective managerial leaders provide the same level of challenge – goals that are within their team’s ability, but require some effort and learning. For particularly challenging tasks, the leader may help with the video game equivalent of “hints”, but still allow the team to make the decision and solve the problem.
Games are Fun
We play for many reasons, but on some level, play is simply fun.
A sense of teamwork, accomplishment, camaraderie, mutual support, and enjoyment are possible for every team. Even in the most serious work, it is possible to find enjoyment in working together and producing more than any one person could do individually.
Enjoy life – have fun!
There is little as rewarding as working on a team that is able to accomplish awesome results and have a good time along the way.
David M. Dye
- The Secrets of Effective Delegating
- Motivation: When Common Sense is Wrong
- You Dont’ Have to Be a Genius to Motivate Others
- 6 Ways to Not Walk Naked Down the Street
(Photo by Nick Chill Photography)
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David shares twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoys helping others discover and realize their own potential.