Work always felt to me like a game. It’s a game full of achievements and challenges. It’s about unlocking new levels after mastering a previous level.
It’s also often as frustrating as playing a well-designed game, like when you're being stuck on a tricky level.
Even when the game is not unfolding like I want it to - which is actually the default when you're building a company - I never seem to get bored by playing the game. I think my partner Astrid feels the same about it. Whatever the reasons, I do feel it’s a mindset we have deliberately chosen for. And once we “tricked” our brain to look at work from this game-frame, we discovered that it changed the way we relate to it. There’s now much more playfulness in how we approach things than the way we approached things in the early days.
The Three Levels in the Great Game of Designing an Epic Company
In the Great Game of Designing an Epic Company called SUE, we have now reached Level 3. The first level of our game was to figure out how to create a viable company around Behavioural Design. This first level of a game is definitely one of the most difficult ones. Because if you want to win this level of the game, you need to be stubborn. You need to do something different than everyone in the market, while at the same time convincing the market that you’re offering something valuable today. I love this phase of the game. Every signup for the Behavioural Design Academy, every client who put their confidence in us to collaborate on a Behavioural Design Sprint is a dopamine rush, comparable with game achievements like saving the bridge, shooting the bad guy or filling a Tetris-line.
The second level was the most exhausting one. Every company discovers once in a while that they need to pivot to stay on track. That's really a shitty level built in this entrepreneurial game. It requires that you need to be able to make a right analysis of where you made bad decisions, and it requires at a certain point to make a big gamble with all your game credits to place the bet that will keep you alive in the game. And once you made this gamble, you need grit and tenacity to keep going, even if reality doesn't reward you right away. We had our Level 2-challenge a couple of years ago. Looking back at it, I hated it when we were in the middle of it, but I now I feel I have never learned more about building a company then I did back then.
To play well in the third level of the game, you need to acquire a whole set of new skills to win. Actually, you learn to discover that the skills you had to earn to win in your start-up phase, stand in the way of getting good at level three. You need to replace your startup-skills with “growth”-skills. It really took us a while before we began to realise this. But the beauty of looking at work (or entrepreneurship) as a game, is that you get constant feedback that you’re stuck on a certain level.