Using Agility to Conquer Monsters and Other Workplace Hurdles

What do Agility, Leadership, and Collaboration have to do with World of Warcraft…? Surprisingly a lot.

Videogames, and their affect on those who love to play, have taken a lot of heat over the last few decades. Many people claim that they remove people from reality, hinder social development and even impair values. But one new study finds a positive connection between playing videogames and performance in the workplace, in particular, how World of Warcraft can enhance leadership, teamwork, and a company’s ability to be agile.

Researchers Nathan Weidner and Elizabeth Short from the Missouri University of Science and Technology found that people who successfully work as a team while playing World of Warcraft share similar qualities to people who excel in leading and collaborating in a business function. It turns out, practicing these skills in a virtual realm may be a good way to boost performance in the mortal world.

World of Warcraft is the world’s most-subscribed-to multi-player online role-playing game, (now there’s a tongue twister) and has over 10 million subscribers. Users create a character and then they’re off to explore a new world full of mischief and mayhem. Players battle monsters and complete quests all while interacting and working with other gamers.

Weidner and Short studied 288 World of Warcraft gamers, analyzing players’ demographic information as well as data about their work motivations, communication skills, personality, and their preference for teamwork. The researchers then examined the raid- and dungeon-based achievement points earned while playing the game to determine whether certain skills used in the workplace were associated with in-game success. According to the Inverse article, “The data revealed consistent support for a preference for teamwork and technology readiness. They also showed a link between gamer identity strength and work performance, suggesting that those who display higher passion and engagement within the game might demonstrate those qualities at work as well.”

Leaders and Teams Innovate to Stay in the Game

World of Warcraft provides a constantly changing reality, where no one is ever safe from the threat of new obstacles like invading raids and terrifying monsters. Players must learn to be agile and innovative to survive. Sounds a little like real life, right?

Agility has become a predominant factor for success in the corporate world today. Personal and organizational agility is the capacity to recognize, create and exploit opportunities in a changing environment. Agile companies foster innovation and evolve more successfully than their competitors by capitalizing on opportunities emerging around them. With the need for constant innovation and change accelerating, agility has become a highly sought-after skill. Leaders need to promote agile thinking amongst their teams in order to outsmart their opponents. But many leaders get stuck in a rut of following patterns and procedures. For a company to be triumphant and accelerate growth, the ability to escape the status quo, and promote new ways of thinking is crucial.

Thrive In The Game of Life With Help From Other Players

What many organizations fail to recognize is that the greatest innovations are spurred from team-thinking and collaboration and are not just a single person’s victory. Think of the creation of the lightbulb, the franchising of McDonalds, or the invention of the airplane. While we often attribute these accomplishments to one person, most innovative creations could not be possible without a team to energize, design and apply. This is the basis of TRACOM’s Agility Model – “The IDEA Model”. While we all may have been taught that Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb, many of us also know that to be false. While he helped improve and generate awareness of the lightbulb, it took a team of innovators to create the lightbulb that Edison became famous for.

Skills learned through videogames such as World of Warcraft, equip players with the skills to do exactly that. In order to be a thriving individual player in the game, you must utilize your resources – including the players around you. This could mean that they aren’t physically next to you, but they are on your team and you need to utilize their resources from afar. One person cannot accomplish greatness alone.

Now more than ever, we must work in teams that are working collectively through some technological platform. It is now the norm for us to be collaborating with a colleague on the other side of the globe on a project, presentation, sales pitch or research.

As featured in a Wall Street Journal article, Françoise LeGoues, the former vice president of innovation at International Business Machines Corp., said “gamers can thrive at firms like IBM, where employees must collaborate with colleagues anywhere in the world, often without having met in person.”

“This capability to engage in strategy-building, team-building, knowledge-sharing and problem-solving remotely is really important,” said, Ms. LeGoues, currently vice president of transformation at the YAI Network of nonprofits.

The trick is learning to implement all of the different aspects of the IDEA Model to create a team that can help you accomplish the objective. It’s only natural that people fall into different roles among any project or idea.

We need people to

  1. Investigate and generate ideas
  2. We need others to research and design
  3. We need others energize others around our ideas
  4. And we need people to be able to apply the desired outcome.

Similarly to organizing a 30 person raid in World of Warcraft, collaborating with your team and utilize their unique skills to achieve a desired outcome is a skill that is learned over time. Learn more about the IDEA odel here.  

Google X’s Stephen Gillet has also found value in the game, learning different ways to implement leadership and innovation in real life.

According to research leaders, “There are cognitive components to playing — you have to outthink your opponent, strategize, and work as a team,” says Weidner. “I think there’s a lot of connections to be made, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to measure it.”

Agility training has been found to improve many of the same positive learning lessons found in the study, plus many other skills regarding innovation, energizing, project management, and out-of-the-box thinking.

To learn more about the agility gap click here.