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Saving the World and Other Acts of Engagement

Posted by Ken Klaus on May 15, 2008

I spent the better part of last weekend saving the world from mutant zombies, madmen and other assorted villains. (If I still lived in Los Angeles I would probably clarify this statement by telling you I accomplished all this from the comfort of my home office, just to be sure you didn’t think I was moonlighting as the latest action hero at Warner Brothers Studios; though my mild mannered appearance and rugged good looks often lead people to confuse me for Brandon Routh.) Currently I’m playing an amnesiac trapped within the zone of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. My objective (the main quest of the game) is to find out who I am and why I’m in the zone. Along with the usual stats about my character, like rank and level, this particular game also rates my reputation – how other characters feel about me. One’s reputation improves each time you choose to help another character. So the game includes a large number of side quests along with all of the tasks related to the main quest. The more often you agree to help others by completing these smaller quests the better your reputation. Though it is possible to win the game without completing any of the side quests, it is decidedly harder (and less satisfying) to play the game when the other characters are uncooperative or even hostile.

Earlier this week Meg began a conversation with our team on engagement by asking what energizes us about our work. It’s a great question, though it took me a couple days to think through my response. What surprised me was how little the essential tasks of my job, my main quest if you will, affected my level of engagement. Instead I tend to find motivation and energy in the secondary tasks that I elect to do over and above my regular responsibilities, like blogging, mentoring, and building relationships with our customers. These side quests allow me to step outside of my usual role and provide me with opportunities to serve and to lead. They help me to focus on what’s most important, namely the people I interact with each day; which in turn gives me the drive to complete the main tasks of my job that take up most of my time and energy.

Chances are my skills as a mutant zombie hunter will never be utilized in the real world, but I do think my reputation is more often determined by my willingness to serve others than it is by my ability to write functional design specifications. This leads me to believe the way we really win at work and in life is by accepting the side quests that so often seem like an interruption to our day and through which we also find the energy and motivation needed to accomplish our main quest of discovering who we are and why we are here.

P.S. Remember the zombies aren’t an obstacle, they’re an opportunity!

P.S.S. Watch out for the invisible bloodsuckers near the Brain Scorcher. =)

4 Responses to “Saving the World and Other Acts of Engagement”

  1. Amy Wilson said

    Excellent Ken! Thanks so much for the side interruption to my day …

  2. Ken

    Nice post, I could use this in my ‘Why Product development should Blog’ series.


  3. […] Comments (RSS) « Saving the World and Other Acts of Engagement […]

  4. […] so companies are consumed by the hot topics of employee engagement and retention; they strive to tie employee goals and performance to corporate goals; they […]

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