Crafting a Winning Saga: Play the Game of Professional Growth

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I don’t mean to brag but measuring performance and success in my career is incredibly easy for me. I can tell you that as of right now I’ve achieved level 311. I’m specialised in one of the main schools of learning, all my skills and abilities are mapped out on a development tree, and I have a range of tools available to me that enhance my work in specific areas.

More importantly, I know exactly what I need to do to reach the next level: which books I need to read to increase my knowledge and the tasks I need to complete to build my experience.

This process of writing my own saga is addictive, highly enjoyable, and I can only fail if I give up before achieving my goals. The only problem is the career I’m describing doesn’t pay anything and involves killing large numbers of Saxons in 9th Century Britain. Yes, you guessed it, this is the career of my Viking character in a popular video game[1].

“By Odin’s beard, raiding ain’t no game,” my character might have said. “It’s our way of life, and we take it seriously. So, measuring my performance level is important to ensure I am contributing to the clan and earning my seat in Valhalla.”

How is this relevant to the career of a bids and proposals professional in the 21st Century, when stealing silver, razing villages and exceeding the word count are generally frowned upon? Well, gaming is no mere pastime. It’s an industry valued in excess of $300 billion[2], more than the markets for music and film combined. Part of this success is the deliberate design of problem solving, goal achievement, and patterns of rewards to keep players’ attention and induce positive feelings. Gamers undertake quests, develop their character, and level up in much the same way we might work on a bid, pursue personal development goals, and earn promotions. So, why doesn’t our professional performance management feel engaging and rewarding in the same way?

“Thor’s Hammer, Darrell. It’s simple. My Jarl gives me arm rings as a reward for making them rich and skalds sing of my victories in battle. Doesn’t your clan show the respect due to a fellow warrior and celebrate your glory?”

Ummm…no. It’s often unclear how employees will be rewarded by organisations for performance improvement. Performance reviews are often explicitly uncoupled from pay rises and promotions. Not very motivating! Part of the problem is the old linear corporate ladder no longer exists because organisations need to adapt to the marketplace more quickly, making it hard to predict which skills and resources they’ll need in future. This leaves many employees with no idea what they need to do to progress because their employers aren’t sure either.

Increasingly, workers are taking more control of their career progression and that means they’re able to explore a wider scope of skills and knowledge to augment their domain expertise. The challenge is how to keep control of it all. Now, where have I seen a fully integrated performance tracking, management and rewards system?

“Freyja’s blessings. A Norse warrior knows how to earn silver and reputation. I complete quests, master my skills, acquire knowledge, learn to use new tools, and gain experience just like in any other trade.”

In gaming, character development is a crucial element. Players start as novices and gradually progress through the game, gaining new skills, abilities, and experience leading to fresh storylines. The main way players develop their character is by completing quests. Quests are simply a series of objectives players must complete to progress through the game. Completing quests provides players with rewards, such as experience points, in-game currency, and items. What’s so addictive about character development in gaming is that the financial and status rewards are not the end goal. Instead, they open up the next tier of achievements to attain. As players progress through the game, they accumulate experience points to level up and gain access to new abilities, skills and quests.

The same principle applies to the workplace. Employee development is essential to any successful organisation. As we learn new skills, our performance improves and we become more valuable to our organisation. At the same time, we are more engaged with our own development and accomplishments, encouraging us to seek new opportunities to level up our workplace character.

Gamifying performance management means setting and completing quests, side quests, and jobs. Quests move the main storyline forward so should be aligned with the organisation’s goals and objectives. Side quests follow optional storylines to expand our experience and help us build the skills to complete main quests. Jobs are short, repeatable tasks for gaining small rewards. But what quests, side quests and jobs are available to bidding adventurers? Your character development is specific to your chosen story arc and your adventure must be challenging but achievable: earning certifications, gaining experience, sharing knowledge, exploring new ideas, testing innovations, helping others, improving processes, etc.

Perhaps my character can share some final wisdom?

“A mighty warrior needs a challenge worthy of a true Viking spirit. A challenge not too simple nor too daunting, where every warrior has an equal chance to prove their mettle. The writing of my saga does not harm the reputations of my siblings but only serves to increase the power of our clan. And while I may fail in many attempts, the gods restart the quest until determination and perseverance bring victory within my grasp. Embrace the adventure, channel your inner Viking strength, and embark on an epic journey of discovery!”


[1] If you know, you know.

[2] Gaming: The next super platform – Accenture, 2021

This article was written by Darrell Woodward.

Darrell Woodward is an award-winning consultant helping organisations unleash the full power of proposal automation to win more business faster. As a Bid Geek and coffee lover, he enjoys using coffee analogies to explain how technology enhances experiences and delivers efficiency. He believes bid professionals don’t find bidding easy, we just love how hard it is but we need to stop the relentless drive for more human productivity and encourage more humane productivity.

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