What video games can teach companies

In the past months, I have had ample time to sample some of the many forms of video games.

Most games feature some form of simulation of real life, from racing to squad combat. AND for some of us, we spend way too much time in these environments.

The real reason, which we may not realise at first, is the sense of accomplishment it provides. That extra level up, that unique weapon or that opponent defeated; video games offer a sense of gratification for effort expended.

So great is this feeling that we look forward to the end of our work days so we can get back to gaming.

Video games have a lot to teach us in the corporate world, in terms of how we look at work, our ways of recognising and rewarding effort and even the structures of our corporate environment.

Video games always contain inherent traits, much of which can be applied to the real world:

  1. Measurable and surmountable challenges

All quest-type video games present players with tasks.  An example would be to collect a certain amount of items.  What if the game told players to collect items, but did not specify the quantity?  Sounds unlikely?  All too likely in the real world!

Create an environment where objectives are clear, have tangible rewards and are measurable. Staff know when the goals you have set are attainable and they will strive for them.
Remember that only things that get measured, get done.
If one gives unclear, ambiguous or unattainable goals, everyone knows that you do not reward or promote on any other basis than your own opinion.  This is simply based on the fact that there is no way to tell if an objective has been completed.

That, my friend, is a dictatorship or worse, idiocy.

2. Tangible and effective rewards (be it a substantial improvement in gaming performance or even just aesthetics)

When quests do get completed, gamers are rewarded with a new item or a power-up.  This can be extremely incentivizing as it not only marks achievement, but enables players to achieve higher goals.

If you are thinking that the reward system in games are instantaneous and thus inapplicable, you’d be wrong.  Players are known to perform repetitive tasks or ‘grind’ for days to accomplish a goal.  All because they know that there is a point to it.

Too often, that is not the case in many working environments.  Not because there is a shortage of repetitive tasks, but that there is a sore lack of purpose.


Reward staff in a substantial way.  The key here is to maintain a sustainable reward system that keeps people going for the goal.

Some industries have achieved this by creating a multi-layered hierarchy of senior, assistant, deputy and vice positions. While this does create a sense of achievement, it can hamper the operations of your organization because you have just created a tall reporting structure -which is not dynamic and is ill-suited to responding to change.

An alternative would be to use lateral forms of rewards such as time-off, incentive trips or even nominal pay raises.


Reward staff in a way that motivates them to do better.  A good way is to provide special developmental programs or even higher level duties.  There is nothing that says ‘trust’ more than the opportunity to do important work.

It is important that you don’t use this as a way to get subordinates to do YOUR work.  People can smell a lazy-ass boss who is passing off work that he doesn’t want to do.  Don’t be that guy.

3. Fair treatment

The controlled environment of a game world lets regular players know when someone is cheating.  Tell-tale signs like an impossible amount of level ups is a sure sign of cheating and for the most part, the gaming community and administrators lay the smack down pretty efficiently.

Unfortunately, this does not apply to real life and it is common to see the unscrupulous gain the upper hand in a corporate environment.

Fair treatment is important as it motivates your best guys to continue giving their best as they know there is a point to it all.

If too many of the clowns get rewarded, the rest will know that the game is rigged and will stop trying or worse.  This creates a toxic environment of back-biting, politics and misery.  Don’t do that!

4. In Closing…

Promote and reward only the exemplars in your organization.  Remember that people are watching who you promote and will emulate their behavior.

Paying attention to these factors can make the difference between a team of highly motivated professionals and a set of feet-draggers that would like nothing better than to see the organization fail.

Isn’t it time we apply these principles to how we work?




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