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Recently we watched this webinar by Corporate E-Sports Association on the connection between playing video games and leadership.
It really brought to our attention that video games can be so much more than just a past-time but can be used in a corporate setting to develop certain leadership skills and build deeper relationships in teams.
Using games is not a new thing in the corporate world. Many companies encourage participation in corporate sports teams or organise sports tournaments as a way to encourage team bonding and develop leadership. However, these initiatives can be viewed as overly traditional and may not have a universal appeal to more diverse teams, or teams who want to think more out of the box. This can lead to alienation and lack of participation from certain team members.
The great thing about gaming is that it is accessible to everyone, especially in a post-pandemic world. Bringing gaming into your company culture can help your organisation move away from a traditional paternalistic power-based leadership culture to a more participative agile one. Anyone who wants to join in just has to show up (or dial in) and play.
But the notion of gaming in a corporate professional environment is still pretty disruptive. As HRD, if you want to include it in your corporate learning strategy you need to be a responsible disruptor!
Gaming and the effects it can have on developing leadership skills
Organising a gaming community within your company and leading teams for games can help develop real leadership skills. Gaming is fun and entertaining but it still showcases, fosters and develops key leadership skills of fairness, integrity and consistency, whether you are captaining a team, playing on a team or helping organise a team. Within gaming you have to make sure everyone gets to contribute to the game and with that comes responsibility.
It can challenge you as a manager as it exposes how you step up for others. Players, peers and HRD alike can see your true leadership style develop during gaming depending on your mindset, the way you run games and the way you treat other players.
What can you learn about teams during gaming?
Playing in a competitive video games environment can show how important a team dynamic is as players strive towards a common goal and try to get everyone to play better together rather than just playing as individuals.
In particular, gaming allows us to see how leaders and team members deal with having to make decisions when under psychological stress.
Under pressure, other personality traits emerge and this is the same when players are under pressure in video games. Gaming can help show who they are as an individual, who they are in a group situation and who they are when they are under stress.
Gaming gives a powerful insight into identifying performance and deciding what is valuable. It allows you to see who is visible and who has high impact. Teams needs a variety of skillsets to perform, and gaming can give a vocabulary to these different skillsets – some people will take care of the team within a game, some will set up the play and facilitate the rest of the team and some will achieve the big scores.
This brings a focus to the different ways team members participate and can create a talent management structure for all members of the team specific to them.
Every video game session provides an opportunity to collect data on team and individual performance, if preferred. This can be used to help improve players and teams in the next game and to transfer learning into the business world. The data can also let you see how they work as a team in a video game, how they communicate in real time and how they flex around different situations. Analysing this data and extrapolating it to their real-life challenges can help the team perform better as a whole.
As with anything, in order to get better at gaming, you need to practice – and consistency and discipline are valuable skills to teach team members. But you can also question team members as to whether they can help other people play better and so improve collaboration and coaching skills.
The power to connect
Strong relationships can be formed through gaming and cross-functional connections can be made. It offers a strong levelling effect as it cuts across generational boundaries and demographics and can bring in or on-board staff from minorities, subsidiaries or other organisational units and it also gives less-extrovert people more of a voice.
If you are managing a socially distanced team, gaming can offer a great way of developing a sense of community within teams who are dispersed geographically.
Gaming can also feel more casual in a work environment so people feel more comfortable talking and asking questions, networking and connecting with different people within a larger team or organisation.
What games to choose?
The variety of games you offer team members is important as certain games require high levels of skill and strategy which might initially exclude first-time gamers. But there is definitely a group game out there for everyone.
How you choose a game will depend on who is playing – whether it be newcomers, established gamers or a mix of the two. It is worth encouraging experts to provide insider access such as workshops, social nights or bootcamps to help encourage less experienced gamers.
You also need to consider which games are accessible across different platforms and regions.
Ask your teams what games they would like to play. Popular favourites to consider include:
- Super Bomberman
- Overcooked 2
- Among Us
- League of Legends
- Rocket League
- World of Warcraft
- Smash Bros Ultimate
- Mario Kart
Whatever game you choose, hopefully the passion many people have for gaming can be leveraged as a real opportunity for networking and competence development in your organisation. And it is unlikely you will have too much trouble convincing anyone to get involved and start playing.