Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
I grew up playing video games. As I got older, I organized video game tournaments with my friends, sometimes paying twenty dollars with the winner or winners getting the pooled money. I can’t tell you the number of times I died in a game, my virtual race car crashed, or I didn’t win. But my friends and I still loved it. We craved the feeling of progressively getting better and working with fellow teammates to win.
Video games taught me how to practice at something until I was great at it. They also taught me that I had skills that I could develop. Those foundational years playing by myself and with others shaped my approach to leadership. I’m obsessed with the idea that everyone can compete and win based on their unique skills. The thrill of achievement that we all experience when we overcome a challenge and level up our abilities makes competition so rewarding. That feeling easily applies to the business world.
When leading a company, it’s important to know how different people are motivated so that you can engage in the best way to fuel future growth. Here are three things from playing video games that I’ve learned about how you can make progress and motivate others in the business world.
1. It’s about the wins
In years of business and video games, I have come to understand that the emotional power of wins — big or small — motivates us and propels us forward. Losing with the right mentality is important, too, as it teaches resilience and offers learnings on what not to do. If taken the right way, it can underscore my insatiable desire to try again until I reach the next level.
But, more importantly, focusing on the win, not success, fame or money, really matters with each mission. It’s the meaning behind the mission and why winning matters. In the business realm, competition pushes us to discover how far we can go in pursuit of that win, and the energy many people derive from competition sparks innovation and propels them toward excellence in every aspect of life.
2. Optimism to level up
No one became a master of a given skill by giving up. Video games are built to retain our gameplay by creating loops of initial learning, trying, often failing and creating new optimism. When we play, we are open to new ideas, fearless and guided by the notion that we can – and will – win. That victory is not only certain eventually, but it is inevitable. While this is not true in the real world, building that belief is critical to attempting to win.
Harnessing that spirit beyond gameplay is key. In business, learning and improving as we go is important to maintaining optimism against the challenges we face. When you experience a significant defeat, focus on what you learned rather than those feelings of dread or doom. Thriving on learning is not just core to the entrepreneurial spirit but a vital ingredient for any company looking to win at the speed of business in today’s world order.
At my company, everyone adopts a weekly sprint approach that enables them to focus their attention on progressing through business-critical projects. A 12-week or quarterly plan enables everyone to show steady incremental progress towards goals and measure results in real-time against our targets. Each week we track if we achieved what we set out to do while highlighting mid-week any blockers along the way. Most importantly, we make important changes to our plans as we continuously learn and move forward – something that wouldn’t be possible if we waited to mark a project as complete and measure once done. This is how we constantly level up as a team.
3. “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.”
Whether it’s a video game challenge or competing in a given industry, a skilled, determined team who works tirelessly to win is hard to beat. I strongly believe that we’re only as strong as our team in the business. My most successful achievements have occurred when I’ve been part of a powerful team, working towards a common goal.
In online multiplayer gaming, each player is critical to the strength of the team and teams are best when those strengths are varied and ideally complimentary. We use a few different kinds of skill sets and personality testing to understand this and ensure each team has the right balance. As in the business world, a great team does not simply fall into place. It requires strategy and commitment to seek out the right people and the right personalities for each role. Before a strong team can be built, entrepreneurs need to establish their businesses “why” and ensure every teammate hired is as dedicated to that purpose as they are.
To win against competitors, entrepreneurs need their teams to work together. In video games, this means everyone contributes their individual skills and abilities to overcome the game mechanic odds that would otherwise cause the team to lose. Collaboration plays an essential role in every prosperous business, too, and it is important to create an environment where it is encouraged and rewarded. When teammates are encouraged to solve hard problems using their special skills, they can collectively deliver the best possible outcomes. The more your team’s superpowers combine and they lean into each other’s strengths, the more likely you will win.
Nothing I accomplish would be possible without a team that pulls together; the competitive edge forged with the power of collaboration and individual strengths drives us to win. The virtual world of competition has been a masterclass in motivating myself, improving my processes and working with teammates. If we treat businesses and life goals more like a video game, we can set ourselves up for an epic win – or at least focus on the mastery required to beat that final stage boss.