Computer games make teams great. Bold claim I know, so lets look into why this might be the case.

Mission

3 hour loading times for a 5 minute game. Genius

A mission is key to a great computer game. Sometimes the mission is as simple as survive and thrive. Sometimes it’s a much more complicated affair with goals to achieve in small iterations. However every good game provides the player with a goal or mission that the player should be aiming to achieve. How often have we worked in teams where there is no mission or the mission simply isn’t understood. The team is just there to do “work” between the hours of “Z” and “X” with a distinct possibility that they should be there until “Spectrum”. Like great computer games, great teams have a mission or a goal.

Purpose

Keep your squad alive.

Closely tied to mission is purpose. Many games spend a lot of time and effort detailing why the mission or goal might be important to the character you are playing. Providing you with insight , empathy and ultimately purpose in order to motivate you towards the goal. Again if you want a great team help them discover their purpose and let them know why the mission is important. Purpose is an enabler of motivation.

Impact

God moves in mysterious ways

Which leads us nicely onto impact on the world. Many games present the player with decisions that ultimately change the world in which they inhabit or their actions impact that world. However in a team often we’re told what our mission is, we may even understand our purpose but how often do we find out what impact we are having on the world? Once the mission is done do we find out if it’s met it’s assumed objectives? Did something else valuable happen instead. Without this knowledge how are we supposed to feel good about what we’ve achieved and how are we supposed to learn what might be the next most valuable thing to do next. So if you want a powerful team, ensure you provide them with the impact they are having on the world.

Autonomy

Mammoth with the freedom to glitch into the sky(rim)

If you’ve played games like Skyrim then you will have experienced the autonomy which some games grant you in order to achieve the mission at hand. In fact most allow you to also determine which mission and outcome is the most valuable for you. It doesn’t matter if you achieve your goal though a little petty thievery or simply hack & slash your way to success. You have the power to choice how best you can achieve it. Once of Dan Pinks three pillars of motivation “autonomy” is key to your teams success as well. Why pay highly skilled engineers, people who love the job because they love solving problems, and then not only tell them what problem needs fixing but also how to fix it? To make a great team provide them with the problem and support to resolve it.

Mastery

The game is there to be mastered, the more you play the better you become. Many games are the ultimate in fast feedback loops. Allowing the players to try many different approaches in order to master the game. If you try something and it doesn’t work you learn and try again. Imagine if the workplace was so welcoming of failure. So if you want an amazing team allow them to become masters. To do this they need the space to learn and the opportunity to fail safely.

Outcomes

Maybe not the outcome we wanted.

Outcomes over output, there are games out there that are all about the grind. You do an activity enough and you get rewarded for it. These games for me reflect the bums on seats, people are not working enough additional hours to satisfy me, mentality. Just grind away and eventually you will mine a nugget. Or more likely you’ll get bored of the grind and find a more exciting game. Great games are all about the outcome, your reward is based on achieving a goal or mastering a skill not just the amount of hours you’ve plowed into something. Many times the reward is as simple as having mastered that skill or achieved that outcome. So if you want a great team then don’t reward time spent in service, reward great outcomes and maybe you will find that the achievement of the outcome is reward enough for people to want to keep playing the game.

Team play

Mud, mud and more mud

A sense of being part of a team. Verdun for example places you in the hellish trenches of WW1. In a small squad of 4, each with a different and complementary set of skills. Your squad is part of a tribe of other small squads all attempting to achieve a larger goal. Sounds familiar? The side that acts more like a team rather than a bunch of individuals almost always wins. There are no individuals heroes, some individuals are more skilled but one skilled individual will not win the war. Great teams are similar, small groups to keep communication tight, complimentary skills, working towards a common larger goal. Great teams are not made out of highly skilled individuals doing individual work, they’re formed out of people working together and supporting each other to achieve great things.

Fun

Winning with a song about cake.

We can’t leave this topic without talking about fun. Games are meant to be fun. Admittedly some miss that goal by a long shot. The Sims series had you frantically running someone’s life juggling between a job, consumer satisfaction, the need for food and cleanliness. Personally I have enough of these things to do for myself why would I have fun having to do it for someone else as well? Great games are fun while you are playing them and leave you with happy memories when you’ve completed them. Great teams should be the same. You might have a hellishly difficult mission but that doesn’t mean that overcoming it with you team mates can’t be fun.

So next time you dip into anything from Asteroids to GTA know that while doing it you are gaining perspective on great teams. At least that’s my excuse…..

So what have computer games would you recommend to demonstrate these aspects of great teams?

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