Managers can learn a lot from the structure of video games.
“Video games like ‘Angry Birds’ provide a striking example of how any activity can be engaging if you build the right conditions around it,” explains Ron Friedman, a psychologist and author of “The Best Place To Work.”
“When we’re playing a game we love, we get sucked into a whole host of behaviours we would normally avoid. We sort cards, rotate falling blocks, and anguish over defeating cartoon villains and collecting imaginary coins,” he says.
What makes these games so engaging and addictive is that they feed our basic, human psychological needs; they provide the same features we desperately seek in our work: immediate feedback, recognition when we succeed, and progressive difficulty.
Here’s the breakdown:
“Video games like Angry Birds, Tetris, Words With Friends, and Bejeweled provide instant feedback, allowing us to learn from our experience and improve our performance,” says Friedman. “In contrast, at many jobs, feedback is delivered at six month or 12 month intervals in the form of annual review. That’s not a recipe for engagement.”
Managers need to deliver more frequent feedback and remember that it doesn’t always need to be positive. “The key is to provide people with information so they can use to improve their performance,” he explains.
Strong performance is rewarded in video games. “Players feel acknowledged for the effort they put it. That’s just not the case at many organisations,” he says. “Recognition helps us feel valued and feeds our psychological need for competence.”
Managers need to create a culture of recognition. “Recognition doesn’t have to be limited to praise,” Friedman explains. “The best leaders make it habit to recognise hard work, which inspires others on the team to recognise their colleagues.”
Video games get harder the longer you play them. “Games like Angry Birds help grow our competence and enable us to master new skills,” says Friedman. “Most jobs have the opposite trajectory. They get easier to do over time and that leads us to feel bored and eventually disengaged.”
Managers should make a point to challenge their teams to tackle new challenges. “We’re at our most engaged when we’re growing on the job,” he says. “If you want to create a passionate workforce, you have to provide your employees with opportunities to grow their skill set on a consistent basis.”
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