Most video games offer something called unlockable content. Through various achievements or codes, players can access everything from a single weapon to a secret character to enhanced graphics to a tidal wave of sorcery and swords. For those who play regularly, unlocking content absolutely transforms the gaming experience. The genuine exploration is enjoyable, the discovery process is rewarding, and every time something new gets introduced, it feels like you have a new reason to play. Interestingly, this feature of video games is something no other mass consumer art form offers to its audience. Books, movies, television shows, musical albums, none of these have unlockable content.
UNLOCKING — Creating an environment that forces people access new talents and skills
There is one place where this gaming concept is actually quite transferrable. Our careers. The process of unlocking is something that each of us can embrace in our work. But instead of acquiring a grenade launcher, we gain access to a new talent or skill. In order for the unlocking to occur, a few factors must be in play. First is the culture, which is the organizational piece. There must be a propensity for growth built into the organization itself. The company actually has to value, encourage and facilitate personal development. Otherwise team members will just keep playing with the same old weapons over and over again. Next is the leadership, which is the interpersonal part. Executives and managers must empower their employees to take risks and initiate projects and run tests every single day. Work that forces them to not only use, but also expand their arsenal of skills. Otherwise team members will be afraid to fail. The final component of the unlocking process is intrapersonal. Because all that organizational structure and leadership aside, the onus is still on the individual. People have to give themselves permission to find something new. To integrate the raw material of their lives and access new talents and skills, it’s choice they have to make. If they want the freedom to use the talents they might never exercise anywhere else, most of that comes from within.
Zappos is famous for their core value of pursuing growth and learning. The constitution says it beautifully. We believe that inside every employee is more potential than even they realize. And our goal is to help employees unlock that potential. But it has to be a joint effort. You have to want to challenge and stretch yourself in order for it to happen. As one employee commented in their handbook, it’s like a game to see what part of ourselves we can bring to work every day.
All of that unlockable content could be available to you. Several factors will have to come into play, both inside and outside of your control. And it certainly doesn’t happen at every organization. But when it does, wow. Will you take the chance to be loved for the hard work only you can do?
Grow people’s potential to contribute creatively
Build a culture of curiosity and innovation and intrinsically oriented work force
Help team members use talents they might not exercise anywhere else
Give employees the chance to be loved for the work that only they can do