Entrepreneurs face challenges every day, and they're constantly searching for "outside the box" solutions and ideas to overcome those challenges.
Perhaps the most "outside the box" solutions reside within a Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation or Nintendo Wii.
At least that's the thinking of leadership and personal development coach Jon Harrison, an organizational development practitioner, sought-after speaker, author of the book Mastering the Game and blogger at his leadership and business behavior website ClassicallyTrained.
Harrison's thesis is that video games are problem-solving simulators that rely on hard work and persistence -- very similar to an entrepreneurial endeavor.
"Just beneath the digital surface of video games lie countless lessons and success principles for entrepreneurs that are often overlooked because critics dismiss video games based on the notion that such games are a waste of time, childish and a source of excessive violence," Harrison says.
Despite those negative assertions against video games, a recent study found that we are in fact a nation of gamers.
- Sixty seven percent of households in America consist of families who play video games.
- Seventy five percent of all U.S. gamers are between the ages of 18 to 50.
- Forty percent of all gamers are women, surpassing the number of male gamers under the age of 18.
The research suggests the high number of female gamers and older individuals is driven by the ubiquity of gaming apps on smartphones. It seems that the $13 billion in annual revenue from the video game industry in the U.S. alone clearly demonstrates that gaming has gone far beyond a hobby or niche and that it's only gaining in influence.
Savvy entrepreneurs need to pay attention.
"The same skills that make someone successful in video games are the same traits that contribute to success in business," Harrison says. "Gaming skills that directly transfer to leadership ability and success include strategic planning, change management, knowledge sharing, innovation, problem-solving, adaptability, teamwork, collaboration -- just to name a few."
So what are some of the gaming principles you can apply today as an entrepreneur? Here are three that Harrison suggests for all business owners.
1. Establish a quick-win culture
Video game players experience short-term wins. According to Harrison, most good games are designed with short-term wins to ensure ongoing engagement and help instill a "habit of success" over the long haul.
For businesses, it's up to leaders and owners to establish and celebrate a quick-win culture in an effort to sustain the long-term success of the enterprise. That requires establishing actionable, achievable near-term goals as well as clarity as to how those goals ladder up toward the broader organizational objectives.
"Short-term wins provide a great source of feedback in terms of progress," Harrison says. "Think about all the video games that break the experience up into stages, checkpoints, levels and worlds. If we didn’t have a way to measure progress in video games, gaming could become tedious, exhausting or cause us to lose interest."
2. Understand the iterative nature of success
The video game industry has become quite effective at the concept of iteration. Whether you're talking about Madden NFL, Super Mario Bros., HALO, Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed -- the later editions of each of these successful game franchises are improvements upon the earlier versions.
The developers didn't wait until everything was perfect before they released the first editions. In fact, they often rely on broad utilization by customers to help identify flaws and areas of improvement -- continually.
"When it comes to video games, success is an ongoing process, not a static goal," Harrison says.
3. Remember to save
As video games have become more complex, saving progression through the game is critical to successful completion because it allows the player to pick up where they left off.
Gamers -- like entrepreneurs -- spend hours working, collecting, progressing and advancing.
Nobody wants to start over from the beginning repeatedly. The obvious concept for business owners is to build backups and redundancies for the most important systems of the enterprise, but Harrison suggests it's a good idea to practice "personal backup protocols" as well.
"There are times when each of us makes the same mistake over and over again," he says. "Even to the point where we consciously tell ourselves, 'I’ve learned my lesson this time,' only to fall into the same situation again. Consider how to capture the lessons learned and ideas in a written or digital journal. Successful world leaders, executives and professionals from all industries routinely realize significant benefits from keeping a work journal."
While work is not always fun and games, the potential of video games for low-risk experimentation and high-reward learning opportunities seems obvious, and savvy entrepreneurs will most certainly put those lessons to work and play.