As a teenager I played a fair amount of Starcraft. I was rarely ever the best player—I didn’t click fast enough, I didn’t play with enough aggression, and I relied too often on the same strategies when I should have been evolving them—which meant that I didn’t put myself in a winning position very often.
While I wasn’t always the best off playing 1v1, I was a reasonably valuable team player. I could help distract opponents, draw them out, or initiate an offensive knowing that I had the support of other players. I usually played in teams with my friends and we would be on headsets or just next door to each other. The better I knew my friends, the easier the trust came, as well as a willingness to do things I wouldn’t have done solo. For example, I played with a much more attuned level of proactiveness when it came to playing multiplayer than when I played solo.
I never really understood workplace collaboration, until author Annie Duke planted the seed in my brain that writing could be a team sport. Until then, I’d believed that writing was a craft of solitude; I realized that writing was a way to connect. Everything was a way to connect, and I started seeing this more and more in my life.
When I was interviewing at Figma, I came the value entitled, “Build community,” with the description:
We’re multiplayer people who love the weird, wonderful magic that happens when people connect. We build bridges — with both our Figmates and our users.
(I really appreciate the bridge analogy too. Note: My former co-worker Kimberly Sauceda wrote a book with this metaphor, entitled, Meet Me on the Bridge!)
From this multiplayer perspective, there are some adjustments that are worth making:
- Some companies believe that meeting time is wasted. I don’t think it’s as black and white as, “Meetings = bad,” “Deep work = good.” I agree with Elizabeth Ayer, who writes, Meetings are the work. Making time to sync, getting to know each other, learning to collaborate and communicate critically, gently, and with candor.
- An individual empowered by the team can be much more effective than an individual playing solo with other individuals. A person who might be traditionally described as “independent” can thrive, if they’re on the right team with a leader who can appreciate their independent streak.
- Making connections outside the company is just as important as making connections inside the company. Work with user researchers and advocates, and also build direct relationships with your community of customers, partners, and other people in the ecosystem.
In Starcraft, you will earn a victory as long as you’re not eliminated (so you have a building somewhere on the map) and your team wins. Sometimes, you need to make decisions that may seem at odds with your personal interests or feelings, in order for your team to achieve its goal.