Usually the posts at this website are about web development tools. This time however, I’ll walk you through a completely different path! The subject of this post is about working environments and an alternative way of thinking at work. It doesn’t matter if you are a Junior or a Manager. It doesn’t matter if you work for a big bank or at a startup company; the theory stands for everyone.
The theory is simple. Treat your work like a game! Seriously… that’s the theory! I told you that it is simple 🙂
Ok! And now what?
If you haven’t completely understood what I meant with the word “game”, don’t worry! You are not alone. Most people usually misunderstand the meaning of a game at business! People have in mind that a game is something not real and that in a game you can either “win or lose”. Tell me if I am wrong! When you first read the line “treat your work like a game” you thought something like “Seriously… how can I even imagine the work that I am doing with all the strict deadlines and the fear of losing my job as a game? I am not interested in doing that and apparently this will never happen.”
This is a common reaction as at most working environments people are too worried that they will be fired if they do a mistake. Even worse, for some people everyday at work is a big threat. And that’s why the game of “Winning or Losing” is scaring them as they have in mind “Win = business as usual (a quiet day is a good day)” and “Lose = the risk of losing their jobs”. So, most people think of this game will eventually come to the end and one day they will just lose their job if they see it as a game.
Also considering that people don’t like changes, it is difficult for them to be convinced to change even their thoughts about their work. Despite these two facts, let me tell you a story, which is actually my story, and perhaps it might give you a glimpse of inspiration about my theory.
So my story begins with me being a Junior Developer and working hard in order for the business to get their wish-list done. Really hard work for many people (not only me) simply means no time for improvements of the process.
We knew that something was wrong but we really didn’t have a choice (or at least this is what were told!). One day my manager sent an email about a task that we had never heard about and which was now top priority and we needed to have it ready by the end of next day. Of course we had a million other priorities, so we just needed to add one more priority at the top of our enormous task list. At that moment, the only ways I could think of in order to deliver this task on time was to add even more hours to our schedule (e.g. to work overtime) or to remove other priorities. Usually I would just change the priorities as we now had to deal with a strict deadline put by my manager, who was also the person who was (indirectly) paying my bills. However, I thought about it really well and concluded that I didn’t really agree with this priority. This task was something totally new, something that we had never heard about and definitely if it was that important we should at least have heard of it before.
So I just thought, is that task really that urgent? And at that very moment the theory came up to my mind. Let’s pretend that this situation that I am experiencing right now is a video game. If it was an actual video game, I would prepare myself well to win this! I had tried dealing with similar situations in the past by asking no questions, raising no objections and working as hard as I could, but now I had to find an alternative… I can say that it took me a long time to think about it and then I said to my mind “This person doesn’t know what he is talking about!”. I am aware of the fact that this is very risky thought and most importantly it is even scarier doing something about it. But I was working for too long on this project and I was sure that my theory was right. I just wanted to confirm it. So what I did was to send back an email just asking for specific information about the urgent task with specific questions. The answer came up as expected! My manager didn’t know what he was talking about!! To make the long story short, we eventually started working on this task 3 months later which was sufficient proof that this task was never too urgent! At that moment, I realised that by sending this email I had saved myself and my team from at least an additional 8 hours of overtime for these 2 days. Just like that! And most importantly, I could spend that time doing something else. Even to relaxing in front of the television at home would be more productive and interesting in comparison to work for the wrong reasons.
And I did thought “I can do that all the time” :). Of course it is not so easy. In fact it is not easy at all. And at that period, I was just lucky that my theory was right. What if my theory was wrong? I could get fired just because I haven’t treat the problem as urgent. However, this didn’t stop me. I thought about it and I did came up with the Business game – I don’t know if someone else invented that earlier (I couldn’t find any related articles) so… at least for this article this is now MY theory 😀 .
So let’s treat from today our work as a game. Of course we first need to create the rules of the game. I don’t like the “Winner or Loser” game. Wouldn’t it be better if we had a game that the rules are like this?
“Win = Live for the day” and “Lose = You’ve learned something new”.
Great! Let’s begin and play that game!
Notice: I know you are still frustrated as the above theory… because it is something that you feel that it will just never happen. For you and for everybody there is still the fear of losing their jobs. Maybe you are even mad at me that I am trying to convince you the way that you think about your work. You may think that I don’t have the right experience to talk or I haven’t work enough to get these conclusions. However this is not true. The theory was born after working many hours per day and sometimes over the weekend in order to get everything till the deadline. To simplify the things in your mind, your managers are already playing those games!
The Business Game is about a modern 21st century game. Have in mind that games, tools and … people have been improved from time to time. However the most of the businesses didn’t change the culture and all because of the money! However the good news is that the culture of the work is not coming only from the managers but it is coming mainly from the people that are working in these companies. You have the power to change things. Usually it is taking a lot of effort and that’s why people don’t even try.
So treat your business like a modern game where you have infinite lives and hence when you lose, you really just learned something that can help you for later.
How to play the game?
Now that you are more interested about the Business Game, I did create some rules that you need to follow in order to play the game right. I did try to list all the rules in order to know the limitations of the game:
- First of all, keep calm 🙂
- Be honest. Be honest with yourself and be honest with your colleagues. It may sound simple but it is not! In order to solve a problem you have to communicate with honesty and then the problem will be easier.
- Stay positive. Try to not take things personally. If the game of your manager is to shout to everyone (although unprofessional) you are better than that as you can see the big picture.
- Prefer to communicate than start something that you are not sure about.
- Always get prepared. This is one of the biggest advices of the game. Prepare what you are going to say and how. Get prepared to answer the hard questions. Be prepared for the worst scenarios. Assume that everything is going wrong. Are you ready for that?
- Trust your colleagues. If you have more trust about people, you will see that things will get easier and they will back you up at the difficulties (although don’t count on that).
- Don’t lie! Every “tool” that you are using has to be real. Lying is like cheating at a game with an extra code. Remember it requires just a wrong cheat code and it can ruin your whole game forever. Present thing with a better way but do NOT lie. The problem with lying is that in case somebody realise that you are lying then your whole reputation will go to the hell! When you are playing the game, always think the scenario that “you got caught” and don’t have illusions that it is not going to happen. The most of the times you are getting caught and you don’t even know it (e.g. nobody will say a thing).
- Be confident. Confidence sometimes can rescue you from a difficult situation just because the other side feel that what you are saying is right.
- Remember sometimes is not always to win. Sometimes you have to be prepared to lose. As far as you have a plan after that everything is just fine. It is like a poker game. Sometimes is better to fold rather than raise and lose even more money.
- Do not underestimate stupidity. Seriously! When you see a percentage of people that acts with a stupid way (e.g. with a way that nobody will benefit not even them). Concentrate more as this might cause you more problems at the future. Be proactive to prevent the worst scenarios.
- Keep calm and have some fun 🙂
– Remember! Nobody really knows how you really feel… and at the most of the cases they don’t really care! This is the main reason that the Business Game was invented. You deserve to feel happy and no-one can take the happiness from you.
Enjoy the Business Game
So from now on you can treat your work as a game. A game that you never lose, you just learn. From that you can actually always WIN the following:
- You are not really stressed for the small problems that other people are pressuring you with (remember nobody know/care of how you feel)
- You have the time to THINK alternatives
- You are actually living your life NOW and no “after work”. Psss, let me tell you a secret! When you are working you are spending some time of YOUR life so it worth having fun of it
- You are learning
- You are ready for literally ANY challenge at work.
- You are actually much more productive at work.
The main goal of this article is to change the way that you think at work. This article is for you to think and experiment the change. I didn’t want to go through too much details to this article. If you want to learn more about working environments and gamification below I have a list of interesting articles/books to continue reading:
- It’s urgent! (Really?)
- Gamification at work
- Want to be More Productive at Work? Treat your Job like a Game.
- Organize for complexity
Also a very interesting product that I’ve found while searching for similar articles (and I am now using):
Don’t forget to add comments with your thoughts or your experience. This article is not written in stone and I may extend it at the future. Feel free to write your experience below.
I’ve tried Habitica in the past, but I find really hard to stick to it as I work for and by myself, I am the gamer but also the game “developer”.
Also as I catch myself procrastinate or forgetting logging into the app, I managed to kill myself 😛 and didn’t have the patience building my hero all the way from the start
I think that it’s more easy to stick to gamification if you work with a team and each one supports the others.
Also you have to find a reward system that motivates you, again I find it difficult to create such rewards.
I used Habitica and now I don’t as you said if you don’t log your work it doesn’t help you having it 🙂
The gamification is hard and as you said you need a reward. If I was to give an advice about the best award (for your team or for you as a person) is “take your time to celebrate”. I think this is the most important reward for me. Do not celebrate only after 1 year when the website is live! This is an obvious thing. Celebrate NOW about your small daily tasks. You did spend 6h to realise that the production bug was just a semicolor issue. GREAT. Celebrate that you did:
a. Solve the problem
b. You did learn a LOT of useful things for your future debugging.
A Celebration can be a simple gift for yourself or your team, A coffee, a beer maybe? A note to congratulate? A dance (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otCpCn0l4Wo) 🙂 ? It can be anything but it is very very important to keep you going forward and to not forget it!
What great information!