As I continue on my trek to challenge conventional wisdom and current thinking – mostly because it obviously isn’t leading to success in most businesses – I am going to focus this blog on parenting … or, as I believe, leading future employees before they hit the work scene.
Once again, I am questioning my sanity and my perspective as a human resources guru in my role as a parent. I just left a get-together where the entire dialogue was between 40-year-old parents who were bemoaning the fact that their kids wanted to game all day instead of read books or play tag outside. They even went on to conclude that this constant gaming was going to be the demise of society as we know it. They characterized gaming as impersonal, leading to violence, keeping their kids from developing interpersonal skills and even stunting their learning and growth intellectually – thereby further diminishing their chances of any great future in the business world.
What disturbed me most was that this perspective was shared by all as the truth – obvious conventional wisdom that calls on all of us to severely limit the time we allow our children to game. When, in fact, I believe that’s the absolutely worst thing we could do! I was shocked at how different my perspective is as the HR professional desperately seeking employees who have mastered the exact same competencies being developed and rewarded through gaming. I had no idea that other parents don’t value gaming the same as I do: that it’s the perfect preparation ground for high-performing, low-maintenance, top-results-producing employees of the future.
Here is my take on why gaming is not only beneficial, but will completely revolutionize our current life in HR and leadership:
If you look at playing a game outside, such as tag, what happens? Someone is "it" and that person’s left holding the bag while the rest play defense, resisting to join up on the caught team, all while dragging the game on for hours.
And reading. It’s great as it builds theoretical knowledge but with limited application. It can be gathered incessantly by one person who doesn’t ever need to share it with anyone except on tests and book reports to further prove their superior station in life as a great comprehender of written material.
Now let’s move into the workplace. These tag-playing, book-reading types of people are not at all what we are looking for, but definitely the type of employee that we have a ton of. They are smart people who are rarely willing to freely share that knowledge with others except for great reward. They are those who can’t readily apply knowledge in spite of changing circumstances, those who need structured training for further learning, and those who use that knowledge to resist and play defense while a single leader is running their butt off trying to "catch" everyone so they can WIN.
Now, let’s look at gaming. It’s a group of incredibly diverse people of all ages from all over the world who quickly come together, easily adapting to a variety of changing technologies, granting each other instant trust, gaining clarity on a specific deliverable or mission, working in concert toward the goal, readily sharing new techniques for the betterment of the team, self-regulating, and readily accepting new and harder challenges with excitement while owning their own results or scores as reality . . . and thinking about how they can improve next time. Sounds like a dream team to me! Remind me again how reading and tag playing or even playing team sports are better preparation than that for successful business outcomes?
Think about it – the benefits of gaming as preparation for the real world are amazing!
• Diversity isn’t an issue or even a program – it’s a given. Discrimination or favoritism is not about differences in humans but about differences in capabilities and the ability to get results in a team environment.
• Teamwork happens without huge teambuilding retreats, ropes courses or group hugs. Teams are quickly formed without external support and without trust issues, storming periods or even introductions. Someone is randomly assigned or sought out due to their past great performance and if they do well, they’re rewarded by the team.
• The team is self-monitoring. Issues are taken care of within the team. There is no need for an elaborate performance management system. If a team member doesn’t do their share, the team tries to coach them and help them improve. If they act out or insult the team, the team self-regulates and quits playing with them. All that without a leader, manager or HR consultant present!
• Players develop a global perspective where they get a ton of practice at problem-solving at ever more difficult levels. Process improvements or "cheats" are readily sought out and implemented with great pleasure. There is no need for large training departments as any knowledge gained is quickly disseminated via the Internet and school playground for immediate implementation in the very next gaming session.
• The learning agility shown by players is amazing. A new game is brought home, unwrapped and played within minutes with very little preparation, no manual and definitely no costly training departments and programs or orientation sessions. Games are mastered by risk-taking, by attempting and failing over and over again. Remember that old business adage about the business that eventually wins is the one that can fail the fastest?
• Knowledge transfer between experts and beginners is a non-issue. Players eagerly text the latest tips and newest learning to their friends in real time, usually multi-tasking communication with parallel play.
• And lastly, there are clear winners and losers. Players don’t personalize the very real feedback of their score the way employees personalize almost any feedback given to them in today’s workplace. They accept it as their reality and plan on how to improve. There’s no need for a huge employee relations department to mediate that feedback. It’s just taken as a data point and players begin again, striving for improvement.
You know what I love about gaming with my kids after a hard day’s work as a leader? I never hear my kids freaking out because something changes in a game. I don’t hear them frustrated by personality issues and differences while gaming. They are online with others from around the world for a common mission, focused on what value they can add, collaborating, sharing information freely, and can just as quickly disengage without any commitment to play again in the future together. They don’t ask for any guarantees for the future. They actually like being scored. They own their own results rather than blaming the circumstances. They take risks and recover easily to jump back in the game by using what they just learned from failures.
Honestly, this is an HR person’s dream come true. Game on my young friends, we can’t wait to get you in the workplace!
Remember, you rock and Cy rocks!
Lead on my friend!