Today's Reading

CHAPTER ONE
Motivation and Employee Engagement

Have you ever been so committed to reaching a goal that you gave up sleep or sacrificed your free time? So invested and engaged that you persisted over months to complete a massive project that seemed like it would never end? So passionate about an undertaking that you spent ten years working on it, with most of that time spent working in secret? Well, a gamer known as Katia Sae did.

Though technically speaking, it wasn't Sae's job that they were committed to for all those years. According to an interview given to the gaming website Polygon, in 2009, Sae began the task of visiting and photographing every star system in the massively multiplayer online game Eve Online. They finished the task in 2019, resulting in an online photo gallery containing over fifty thousand screenshots. The massive screenshot collection includes 5,201 systems in Known Space that can be reached simply by visiting stargates, but it also includes an additional 2,604 systems in Wormhole Space that were difficult for Sae to find and dangerous to visit. These hidden systems are connected to Known Space at random points via wormholes that disappear every twenty-four hours and reappear at some other random spot. So Sae had to repeatedly find a wormhole, jump through it, and hope that they ended up in a system that they hadn't yet photographed.

A natural response to this daunting task might be to enlist help, but Eve Online is well known for being full of cutthroat players. Bands of such villains will often place spies in other players' groups just to identify easy marks. If they had discovered Sae's peaceful endeavor, many of them would have sabotaged it for their own entertainment or infamy. Don't ask me why, but this is part of the game's appeal for some people. Faced with this additional challenge, Sae had to do much of their exploring in secret and under false pretenses. When they did enlist the aid of in-game colleagues, Sae had to be flexible and creative. Sae found ways to get people to help and co-opted data from search-and-rescue missions to uncover the hidden pathways to missing star systems in Wormhole Space. Sae frequently encountered hostile players, but always got away and kept going.

The task was huge, progress was slow, and Sae could have given up or reduced the scope of their project at any point. But they persisted. When the final screenshot was snapped and word got out about Katia Sae's monumental accomplishment, the developers of Eve Online teleported Sae to their own private in-game star system so that final photographs could be taken of a region that was normally completely inaccessible to players. There were cheers from the developers, there were fireworks, and I like to believe that someone brought in a cookie cake or a box of donuts to put in the break room.

Just imagine if you could do for your employees what the designers of Eve Online did for Katia Sae and tens of thousands of other players. You can use the same levers as video games to move employees into action and drive engagement.

Researchers have found that highly engaged employees exhibit the following characteristics:

1. Vigor, which connotes high levels of energy, effort, resilience to setbacks, and persistence in the face of obstacles. Similarly, an employee who pushes through long hours or persists in trying to satisfy demanding customers is displaying her own vigor and energy.

2. Dedication, which is marked by taking a task or job personally, acting with enthusiasm even when cynicism seems reasonable, and taking pride in one's work. Employees demonstrate dedication when they stand fast in the face of setbacks and refuse to back down from commitments because of a sense of personal responsibility.

3. Absorption, which is perhaps the concept that most easily comes to mind when we think of someone engaged in work. (Or video games. Especially video games.) Absorption refers to becoming so immersed in our task that we stop thinking about the technology and tools that we're using. We feel like we're in 'the zone' and lose track of time as the day speeds by. We've all probably become so absorbed in work or play at one time or another that we were surprised when we looked up to see that quitting time (or even bedtime) was hours ago.

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