8 Powerful Lessons From World Of Warcraft

Oct 16, 2015 1 Min Read

Photo credit (above): Sadie Hernandez | Flickr


In the multi-faceted world of gaming, there’s no room for complacency or deadwood

Gamers have been revelling in an iconic game for more than two decades and are still going strong, with 5.6 million subscribers worldwide – quite an impressive feat. I’m, of course, referring to World of Warcraft (WoW).

WoW is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG). MMORPGs are games where you usually start out mostly broke, with very little sense of where you are in a gigantic world, and most living things are out to get you. Sounds like real life, right?

I was immediately sucked into this virtual world of WoW, where I live as a warlock. Like most newbies, I started out feeling lost but as I levelled up, I felt this sense of accomplishment as I learned a new set of skills. I travelled far exploring new territory, and I began trading and auctioning in order to earn a living.

As I look back, here are some things I believe businesses can learn from WoW.

1. Gain experience

In WoW, your fundamental goal is to accumulate experience points. This is the basic performance measurement, as players are required to perform a variety of tasks that become more challenging as the game progresses.

As the levels get higher, the complexity of challenges and the experience points needed to advance also increase. At this point, experienced players become adept at leveraging the resources available around the world to quickly learn and advance, even if the challenge becomes more difficult.

Compare this to the business environment, where we often encounter diminishing returns in learning; players in WoW appear to have increasing returns to learning.

This might be irrelevant to core business arenas, but WoW has succeeded in creating a powerful platform for learning without the need to constantly motivate or train the players. Business executives could use many of the approaches used by WoW to improve performance more rapidly in their own organisations.

The key lesson here for executives is to reduce barriers to entry and to early advancement.

The valuable simplicity of WoW lies in the fact that anyone can join and quickly gain a sense of accomplishment. Any newbie can follow through with the task given in the beginning, which sees them evolving rapidly in order to improvise to tackle challenges they encounter as they climb the ladder.

2. Improve performance

WoW has dashboard that provides clear and rich metrics to assess performance. These are all real time data about players and their teammates. The best thing WoW offers is the ability to create your own custom dashboards to monitor performance on certain tasks.

Big corporations have begun to implement dashboards to monitor and measure key aspects of corporate performance. Wouldn’t it be amazing if these dashboards could be customised for each individual employee? An employee would be able to monitor their own feedback on individual performance, as well as the performance of the broader group in real time.

This kind of feedback might be sensitive to share publicly in the corporation, but WoW has proved that real-time performance feedback helps players to focus their innovation in game play on the areas with the greatest impact. Isn’t it time we leveraged each and everyone’s strengths to achieve greater heights?

3. Face challenges

Developers and designers of WoW have struck an amazing balance in constructing an environment that continually challenges players to develop new skills, while keeping the challenges calibrated to the existing capabilities of players to avoid frustration.

Complacency and boredom are rarely encountered. There’s always an achievement lineup next in sight to motivate the players to invest the time and effort necessary to achieve the next level of performance.

Companies that seek to pursue high growth strategies could use the same concept in providing a continuing set of new challenges to drive innovation in the organisation.

4. Encourage motivation

WoW has built a great system to encourage motivation within oneself. In the context of business incentives, it always boils down to cash.

The designers of WoW focused on intrinsic motivations instead. As soon as you master a new skill or successfully complete a new challenge, the player gets a widespread recognition. This achievement is then displayed on your profile for future references.

These players then learn to collaborate in “guilds”. Think of guilds as companies. Players will have to work together to innovate in their game play and achieve the next level of performance.

A character in WoW named Garrosh Hellscream said it best:

“I will burn away any remnants of weakness within us. When death arrives, will you stand and face it or kneel in defeat?”

Guilds promote relationships and trust; the desire to not let the team down in return motivates the players to innovate to succeed.

5. Increase knowledge

WoW provides opportunities to develop tacit knowledge and build platforms for broader knowledge exchange. The game play creates an environment, where close-knit guild members are required to generate deeper knowledge – the kind of knowledge that cannot be easily developed through shared practice.

The rich ecology of online forums generated by players who share their experiences enables players to address new challenges and learn from each other.

Forums provide a “pull” platform, where players encountering unanticipated needs can quickly reach out and assemble helpful resources.

The corporate environment could benefit greatly from this practice by identifying participations of individuals in these forums. In fact, these forums have become a primary vehicle to recruit high-performing players into guilds.

6. Create opportunities

Guild participation is a must. Players who move into more advanced levels will soon realise they cannot accomplish the tasks without collaborating with others with complementary skills.

Organisations value good teams, but how many of these teams are self-organised? Companies can significantly increase the accountability and motivation of teams by giving them autonomy to recruit new hires and expel participants who are not carrying their weight.

7. Provide feedback

Detailed performance metrics specific to the individual, role and guild, provide a foundation for regular after-action reviews.

This provides a platform on how players can do better to narrow the performance gap in order for the team to progress.

Three-hundred-and-sixty degree performance reviews based on objective, quantified performance metrics ensure that everyone from the guild leader down to the newest member receives feedback.

Players who want to avoid being sidelined in future initiatives will have a strong incentive to address performance gaps. Corporate settings could certainly learn a thing or two from this model of constant feedback.

8. Grant rewards

WoW has a compelling environment that attracts participants to foster new dispositions that enhance and reward their dedication over time. Players are encouraged to seek out new challenges as an opportunity to innovate. Gamers learn to welcome unexpected events to tinker and experiment in the process.

This promotes collaboration by focusing on a set of individual strengths while being exposed to the diverse perspectives and experience of those with complementary strengths. This disposition creates an amplifying effect through the game.

Better players naturally gravitate towards each other, and they end up performing better.

By modelling this method, there’s no doubt that organisations would be in a better position to recruit employees who can help them to grow, accelerate and thrive in a world of increasing uncertainty.

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James was born to dance and is adventurous by nature. He is a true blue Leaderonomer who is also a treehugger by accident, an artist by blood and a photographer by profession.

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