May 2016

All Work and All Play

I want to introduce you to two scenarios:

The first takes place on a Monday morning. 9:00 AM. Your employees are tired, listless, slugging away at coffee. Someone yawns. Another passively reads an email. Productivity is low.

The second takes place on a Friday evening. It’s 6:00 PM. Your employees are at the pub. They’re watching the football match. They yell. They cheer. They’re excited. They follow each pass of the ball with focused concentration. They hold their breath with each shot. A goal is scored. They celebrate. They shake hands.

Now think about the energy of both situations. Which energy would you prefer in your office? Of course you’ll say the latter: you want passion and animation instead of boredom and listlessness. But you can’t very well turn your office into a pub! How can you elicit the same passion from your employees and channel it toward high-productivity?

The answer is simple: turn work into a game!

Games generate enthusiasm and joy. They encourage participation and camaraderie. As CEO, you can make small changes around the office to foster a game situation. I spoke with a student of mine, Richard, who is the CEO of an IT services firm. He was looking for ways to energize his lethargic staff and I shared with him insights about creating a game condition in the workplace. As I was preparing to write this post, I checked in with him to learn what he did and what results he had discovered.

“It’s been extraordinary,” Richard replied in his e­-mail. “The difference has been night and day.”

Richard explained that he adopted the five elements needed for a “game condition” to exist. These elements are:

● Freedom:Employees need the freedom to play the game.

● Barriers:Employees need to know the rules of the game.

● Purpose:Employees need a common goal.

● Choice: Employees need the choice of whether or not they’d like to participate.

● Scoreboards:There needs to be a way to measure success and failure in the game

These can be very broad and adaptable to your particular situation. For Richard, being in the IT services, he turned fixing bugs in network systems into a game. His employees were divided into teams and given the freedom, rules, and goals of the “game.” Employees were also given the choice of whether they’d like to participate. Richard also set the “scoreboard” ­­ whichever team fixed the most bugs by the end of the fiscal year would receive a prize.

“You can’t imagine what the office looked like on Monday morning,” Richard continued. “It was crazy. My employees arrived energized and started working immediately. When a bug was fixed, they rang a bell and cheered. Their productivity nearly tripled in the first quarter alone.”

By introducing a game, the energy in Richard’s office on a Monday morning looked more like the energy of a football match on a Friday night. Think about the issues facing you and your own employees. What can you do to introduce a game into your environment?

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