Who first created games and what games teach us about leadership. Part 2 of the review of Jane McGonigal's bookReality Is Broken: How Games Makes Us Better And Why They Can Change The World  

2 Fascinating Aspects of the Book:
#1 - History of Games
The Lydians (an Anatolian people living in Lydia) were the first to create games. They used games to create engagement in order to distract them from hunger pains caused by a famine. In this way they passed 18 years and along the way invented the dice, knuckle-bones, the ball and many other common games. Just like today, games were used as purposeful escapes back then. Games made an entire civilization more resilient.
Jane elegantly puts it this way: “Today, many of us are suffering from a vast and primal hunger. But it is not a hunger for food—it is a hunger for more and better engagement from the world around us.”
#2 - Game Principles Applied to Leadership
The book is filled with leadership principles in the disguise of game design. Jane points out that all games share four defining traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation. Would you agree this is also the nuts and bolts of leadership?
  • A Goal: Leaders need to cast vision for their teams. Games create a compelling story that makes achieving goals more enticing.
  • Rules: Leaders must set and manage appropriate expectations. They must clearly and consistently communicate the guidelines that make for a successful team. Games have extremely clear cut rules that enable the users to act and have an immediate impact.
  • Feedback System: Leaders need to constantly encourage their team and provide the appropriate nudge needed to stay on mission. Games offer immediate feedback thru scores, sounds and visual stimuli which makes it easy and effortless for gamers to try, fail, learn and then succeed.
  • Voluntary Participation: Leaders shouldn't have to micro-manage…if they can cast a compelling vision (a goal), set guidelines of success (rules), and provide encouragement (feedback system) the team will voluntary participate (wholeheartedly buy-in to the team's mission) out of the human desire to accomplish and have an impact. Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles. I'd say that is the breeding ground for innovation and growth.

Look to game design to help you construct your leadership strategies when leading the next generation.
Question: What other leadership principles parallel gaming that you've noticed? 

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Ryan Jenkins



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