A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.

27 May 2010

It's all a Game

I recently spent a little more time than I really care to admit playing a video game called "Pac-Match Party." I think much of the appeal came from the fact that I got quite good at it very quickly, and as I thought about it, I realized that it offers a lot of interesting parallels with work and life. If (and only if) you have a little discretionary time available, follow the link and try the game for a bit. Then see what you think of these analogies.

The task you perform in this game is to rearrange picture tiles to create rows of at least three the same. In order to do this, you need to look at the board strategically to see the big picture of what tiles are where, what constraints there may be on your ability to rearrange them, and where you may be able to score extra points by choosing a move that lines up four or five tiles instead of just three. You also need to look at the board tactically, because there are other things going on in the game that require you to work as quickly as you can. And each time you succeed in lining up three tiles, those tiles disappear and the entire board shifts as the tiles above them drop and new tiles appear. Meanwhile, there are constant distractions of sound and motion that you must decide to respond to or ignore. Abundant opportunities and distractions, constantly changing, requiring you to look for possibilities that may not be obvious. Does this sound like anything you've ever encountered in your life?

In addition, your "life" in the game is represented by a little Pac-Man eating his way around a single track that frames the board. He is being chased by a red ghost. The actions you take on the board affect the speed your Pac-Man travels. If you make enough good moves quickly enough, your Pac-Man will actually catch up with the ghost, it will turn blue (remember how it happened in the original Pac-Man game?) and you can eat it, for lots of extra points. So your situation may be reactive, where you are working frantically to out-run your opponent, or proactive, where you are working to run your opponent down. The closer the opponent gets to catching you, the more pressure you feel to work quickly and the more likely you are to make a mistake. But if you get far enough ahead to "lap" your opponent, you gain the upper hand and become the threat, rather than the threatened. This in turn may increase your confidence and your effectiveness. Does this sound like anything you've ever encountered in your business?

Other interesting parallels:
  • The thing that ultimately determines your success or failure in the game is on the periphery of the action -- very small and at risk of going unnoticed. What's on the periphery of your vision right now that could determine your success or failure?
  • The game requires constant, smart action, but does not require lightning-fast reflexes or frantic activity. Are you effective and efficient in your work, or just busy?
  • As you progress through various levels, there are more and more "roadblocks" to your actions. How to you respond to the increased challenge as you become more and more successful?
  • It is relatively easy to complete levels quickly, but you will score more points by staying on your current level for as long as possible. In other words, your strategy will be different depending on your goals. Are you clear about your current goals, and is your activity aligned with them?
The best parallel of all in this game is that if you do nothing for a few seconds, the game will point out a move to you. It doesn't do it for you, show you the whole solution, or help you too soon, but if you need a little boost, the game offers you just enough help to keep you moving forward on your chosen path. Sounds to me a lot like what a coach does!

Need some help to clarify your strategy or find your next move? Give me a call.

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