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Author Explores How Video Games Develop Office Leaders

By Sarona-Lee Wilde, CPP, PCP

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No matter where you work in the world, leaders have similar challenges: Finding workers who want to work. Understanding how to keep workers engaged. How to blend the newest generations into teams with a number of other generations, successfully. Developing meaningful training programs. And the list goes on.

A reader of my book reviews recommended that I read Gamer to CEO, How Video Games Teach Leadership Skills, by Andrew Hicks, which tells me it really had an impact on her.

After reading it for myself, I can say this book is amazing.

It’s just over 100 pages, but is it ever packed with fabulous information and thought-provoking messages.

Where else can you find a book that has teamwork, references to computer games like Minecraft and FarmVille, leadership, and emotional intelligence all in one publication? The creators of Minecraft, in which gamers use blocks to construct online worlds, recently announced that 33 million copies of the game have been sold worldwide. FarmVille, a farming simulation game, was once the most popular game on Facebook with more than 80 million users around the world. Gaming market research firm Newzoo reports that 2.2 billion people play video and online games and that China, the United States, and Japan account for 84% of the $99.3 billion in global game revenues.

If you are a non-gamer who thinks playing video games is all a waste of time and that there’s no possible way it’s teaching workplace skills, much less leadership skills, you really must read this book.

The author makes a compelling case that playing video games can result in developing six primary qualities common to good leaders: empathy, collaboration, strategic thinking, risk management, ethical behavior, and personal growth. Further in the book he adds to this list emotional intelligence.

This book will cause you to pause, consider what you just read, and ponder it. For instance, “Games exist because of how we learn.” Interesting concept.

Have you noticed that many toys for today’s preschool children are mini versions of video games or computer-based games? Kids love to learn through play. And by the way, it works on adults, too!

Have you ever observed a leader who struggles to really connect with his or her team? Hicks says in Chapter 2 on emotional intelligence, “The same ways in which a player connects with an avatar are the same ways a leader connects with his or her team.” That seems to suggest that gamers may be more easily successful in connecting with their teams.

He says self-control or self-regulation, which some adults struggle with, “broadly refers to: setting initial goals; choosing strategies for attaining those goals; and considering one’s own emotional reactions when attainment becomes difficult.” That sounds like most days in a payroll professional’s work life.

In today’s workplace, we use words like agility, flexibility, and resilience. These traits are even considered essential, especially if the worker is or strives to be a leader.

“Actual evolutionary biologists claim that play provides training for the unexpected nature of life, providing those good at ’playing’ with an adaptive advantage,” the author states.

So perhaps playing video games (or computer games) helps us learn and practice the ability to adapt or be agile, flexible, and resilient.

Hicks talks about how video games are being used in education, training, even in business today. The outcomes have been quite positive. So why not intentionally use them to develop future leaders?

The layout of each chapter is quite unique. At the end of each chapter, the author highlights the point with a case study, a person who grew up playing video or computer games and that person’s “current evidence of success”. He also lists the games so that we can look at them and see what exactly he was pointing to in that chapter.

If we think of video or computer games simply as games, it may be easier to say, “Oh, yes, we know games are useful in the workplace.” There are a number of books on games you can play in a work situation, usually around something like team-building.

Reading this book, though, is really the time to learn how using video or computer games helps build leaders with the skills they need. These are already being used in graduate and business schools. They are called business simulations and model various types of situations to solve. In the solving, the participant is using or developing skills such as collaboration, strategic thinking, risk management, ethical behavior, and maybe even empathy and personal growth along with emotional intelligence.

My bet is that if you read this book, you will be uniquely prepared to help mold the future in developing the leaders of tomorrow. No matter where in the world you live, those future leaders already play and enjoy games. We just need to be open to, or remember, how to learn by playing as well.