What World of Warcraft’s Garrisons Teach Us About Priorities

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World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, Warlords of Draenor, introduced an entirely new game-within-a-game called Garrisons. Ostensibly a response to players’ requests for housing for their characters in-game, garrisons changes the Warcraft experience considerably. Now, your character can act as a commander or general to non-player characters called followers, as well as build an entire town. It’s a bit like adding SimTown to Warcraft.

Here’s what the task management screen (called missions) looks like:

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In this screen, you assign your followers to different missions that they can go out and do for extended periods of time, while you play, work, or have a life outside of the game.

Here’s what I find interesting about garrisons. They’re a fun mini-game inside the game, but they’re also a significant distraction from playing the actual game you signed up to play. World of Warcraft was principally an MMORPG. You created a character that was a hero and adventured all over a virtual world. You beat up Internet dragons, made friends, fought for your faction, and collected loot.

Now, it’s almost like your hero is semi-retired. Yes, you can still go out and adventure and kill Internet dragons, but you can also play Warcraft’s version of Pokemon, known as pet battles. If you travel to Southshore, you can play an in-game version of Plants vs. Zombies. Miss playing Atari’s Joust? You can do that too. Want to just try on new outfits and dress up a character? The Barber Shop and transmogrification allow you to do just that. Garrisons adds yet another diversion inside the game. Is that a bad thing? No, because it’s entertainment. If you’re more entertained by Pokemon than by killing Internet dragons, then Warcraft is still a place for you, and everyone pays the same $15 a month no matter how many or few features they use.

However, garrisons present an interesting lesson for us as marketers. You can get so caught up in the administration of your garrison – growing followers, assigning personnel, managing missions, building structures, harvesting crops, extracting resources – that you never get around to the adventuring part of the game in the time you have to play each day. You never get around to what is ostensibly the big mission, killing the bad guys and saving the world, because you’re diverted into managing your town.

It should be no surprise that life in your business is the same. You can lose all of the hours of your day doing administrative stuff. You can manage people, tasks, assignments, etc. and find that the entire day has vanished on you, and your business hasn’t moved forward in its mission to change the world for the better.

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So how do you fix that? In Warcraft, you install add-ons that accelerate the process of managing garrisons. You can streamline mission management, letting software make most of the analysis for you and leaving only the final decisions for you to make. You can reduce your focus on your followers. You also have to be rigorous with your time management, going so far as to set limits on yourself about how long you’ll spend in your garrison before you hop on a gryphon to go out adventuring. For me, I will spend a maximum of 15 minutes in a garrison (which adds up across multiple characters), then hit the road so I can advance my characters’ progress in the world.

In marketing… it’s about the same, really. Use software like marketing automation and CRM technologies to automate what you can, streamline what you can. Use packages and practices like GTD and Inbox Zero to tame the inbox. Most of all, set hard limits using your calendar about what you’ll do when during the day so that you can reclaim time in the day to accomplish your mission.

Both Warcraft and life offer multiple entertaining diversions that can take you off-mission. If the mission you’ve chosen is valuable, be rigorous in your personal discipline to stay on task and keep moving forward. The world needs you to succeed!


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The value of professional certifications

Once upon a time, I looked down on industry certifications. I thought they were crutches, tools that people used to hide a lack of a track record, and for a certain small percentage of the population, that’s probably still true. But for the most part, I’ve changed my perspective on certifications and now view them as valuable.

Why? As people get busier and busier, as the world grows more and more complex, people are willing to devote less time to getting certifications or continuing education. Certifications’ value have increased not because they’re harder to get, but because people are unwilling to make sacrifices to obtain them. In many cases, our workdays are so busy, so frenetic that we don’t have a moment of spare time to devote to personal advancement. Employers don’t go out of their way to give employees dedicated chunks of time to go get certified in anything. Thus, certifications have to be pursued outside of work, and in some cases even at our own personal expense.

Because of this, someone who has a certification from a legitimate authority is demonstrating by proxy that they’ve invested in themselves. They’ve spent time and possibly money to grow themselves, and that’s a powerful personality trait that you want in an employee.

What makes this even more powerful is that a legitimate certification can help to overcome bias. When you think of Brian May from the band Queen or NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal, do you think of intellectual rigor?

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Perhaps not, but May is Ph.D. in astrophysics, and O’Neal is a Ph.D. in Human Resources. We have biases about these individuals based on their fame that obscures our ability to see their intellectual feats.

Now extrapolate that down to the non-famous. If you have two resumes in front of you that look virtually identical – as many entry level candidates do, thanks to grade inflation – there’s a good chance subtle biases will come into play, consciously or unconsciously. Having a legitimate certification, such as a Google Analytics certification, suddenly puts more objective data on the table that can reduce the influence of bias, particularly subconscious bias.

Where should you go for certifications? As much as possible, go to the originating source. If you’re interested in Google technologies, get certified through Google. Want to be recognized as authoritative by Facebook? Facebook has Preferred Marketing Developer and Preferred Marketing Partner certification. When certification from the originating source isn’t possible, then you’ll have to shop around, but beware that there’s much more snake oil than legitimate, rigorous certification in the third party market.

The bottom line for me is that certification demonstrates investment. If you’re not willing to invest in yourself, why should other people invest in you? Conversely, if you’re willing to improve yourself, chances are you’re willing to improve any organization you’re part of.


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Who to support on #GivingTuesday

Chances are, you’re going to receive an endless deluge of pitches from non-profits you’ve been in contact with, all today. Your inbox survived Black Friday, it probably survived Cyber Monday (which I swear is an acronym, Can You Blast Email Repeatedly), and now you have to weather #GivingTuesday.

Some people have their personal causes, their personal crusades that matter a great deal to them. Those folks don’t need any motivation to give today or any day.

For the rest of us, here are a few thoughts.

First, find a cause that affects you personally, if you want to donate to something. If you don’t have anything like that off the top of your head, go look at Charity Navigator for four-star charities in a 5 mile radius around you (or larger, if you live in a rural area):

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Second, look for charities that are less wealthy. A $10 donation is more impactful to a charity scraping by than a charity with millions of dollars in the bank. Obviously, if they’re less wealthy because of mismanagement, that’s something to take into account, but sites like Guidestar and Charity Navigator can help you determine who’s running their shops well.

Third, as you plan your gift, think about taking the amount and making it a monthly gift if you can. If you planned to donate $20, consider a monthly donation of $1.67 instead. If you planned to donate $50, consider a monthly donation of $4.16. Why? Non-profits are like any other business – they need cash flow all year round. Having a predictable cash flow makes the business easier to run, rather than boom-bust cycles that make for tougher forecasting and planning.

Go forth and support something worthwhile!


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