Thursday, April 30, 2009

Once a leader not always a leader

Last week Stabs at Death Knight Spree published a series of articles where he launched a model of how to regard the WoW players from a sociological perspective. He suggested that we all could be sorted into one of two categories. Either you’re a producer or you’re a consumer. To get the full picture of his ideas you should read the original articles:

The short version:

“Producers make player-enhanced content happen. They start groups, form guilds, lead raids, invite other to battleground pre-mades. Consumers join these activities once they have been initiated by someone else.”

Typical producers according to Stabs are guild officers, raid leaders, tanks and healers. Typical consumers are dps. Producers like to craft things. Consumers like to shop at AH and love vanity items. Consumers expect to be summoned to instance runs and won’t tell people when they go AFK. All according to Stabs.

Spinksville did a post that connected to this topic, but preferred to call the categories “Active” and “passive” players. She also gave some suggestions about how to encourage the active players – or at least refrain from discouraging them.

Not following the pattern
After pondering upon this for a few days (it really gave me some food for thought, so thanks for sharing your ideas Stabs!) I’ve come to the conclusion that I disagree to some extent. Or at least I don’t quite recognize myself.

For instance I took Stabs questionnaire, and ended up with a more or less even result, with a slight overweight to producer – in spite of Stabs suggestion that most players are leaning heavily towards either side or that dps are consumers per definition.

I’m not a raid leader, that’s true. I don’t think I have the deep knowledge about the encounters and the mechanisms of each class to do a good job doing it (unless it’s a very easy encounter that everyone in the raid knows by heart). That makes me a consumer. On the other hand I always make my way to the instance without expecting to be summoned and I’ve never ever failed to tell the raid when I go AFK. That’s not about being a producer. That’s about showing common sense and it’s something that is expected from everyone in a raiding guild, officer or plain member, tank or dps, “producer” or “consumer”.

The lack of flexibility
However, even if I disregard of those details, I see a problem when you categorize people this way, pointing out some ones to be leaders and others to be followers. The problem I see is the lack of flexibility. It’s so easy to let those ideas become “truth”. It’s so easy that people get trapped into roles that suited at one point in their lives, but that they currently don’t enjoy.

Have you ever heard of officers and guild leaders being burned out? No wonder. This is the effect when you – and others – look upon yourself as a “producer” by default. Once a leader – always a leader. This assumption isn’t only wrong; it also creates a lot of unhappiness – in Azeroth as well as in real life.

This is the reason why so many people who have proved not to be suitable for leading others still are found in managing positions. They don’t dare to switch and take the role of a “follower” or a “consumer” for a while, even though they’d be better off in it. Because one way or the other they make a judgement, where the “producer” role is supposed to be more prestigious, so they fear to let go of it, no matter of what it will cost them.

A different approach
What I am suggesting is a different approach to being a consumer/producer, follower/leader, passive/active or whatever you prefer to call it. I think that we have the capability of both roles within ourselves and that we should see WoW as a great opportunity to try it out. In real life I’ve lead people, in WoW I don’t, and I’m quite happy to be one of the foot soldiers. It gives me plenty of opportunities to study the leadership of others from the side and to see and learn from what they’re doing.

I understand quite well though that leading other people, being the organizer and the initiator, is stressful in a way that many players who’ve never tried it probably don’t realize. The little I’ve done of this, as when I more or less accidentally ended up leading a pug in Karazhan, gave me a completely new view of what raid leading is like. And because of this I think that we should be much more open to take turns in both roles.

Just because you’re leading the 25 man raids you don’t necessarily have to take upon yourself to lead the 5 man instances. Let someone else be the initiator, let someone else “make the content happen”, as Stabs puts it. Just relax and let go for once!

And just because you’re not a raid leader or officer in your guild, it doesn’t disqualify you from initiating an instance run. Of course you’ll feel a bit insecure and uncomfortable in the role to begin with, but if you’re honest about it I bet people will understand and give you any support you need, at least if you’re playing with guldies. (Puggers may be more unforgiving).

Look at flock of birds on the move. See how they take turns in being the one leading. They share the loads. Sometimes they’re in the front. Sometimes they’re not. And there’s no big deal about it.

Am I a producer? Am I a consumer? Yes and yes. It’s all depending on my mood of the day, what shape I’m in. Sometimes I’m a producer, not hesitating to swim against the current if that is what is needed. I’m full of energy and I’ll happily try to form a group for an instance, an achievement or whatever my current goal is. Other days I want to relax after a long and intense day at work and I can’t assemble enough motivation to initiate anything. I’ll come along if something comes up, or else I’ll just consume and enjoy whatever solo content the game has to offer.

Azeroth may be digital in one sense, but humans aren’t. We’re not one way or the other. We’re all full of shades and possibilities – if we're only openminded and humble enough to be willing to explore it.


Klepsacovic said...

I'm lacking explaining ability tonight, so I'll just leave it at this: Your post helped me to better understand my own behavior, especially regarding what makes me switch roles.

Gevlon said...

"showing common sense and it’s something that is expected from everyone"

That's an expectation that fails more time than it doesn't. The simple fact that you have common sense puts you to the top 15% of the mankind, and to the top 30% of the WoW playerbase (as illiterates, homeless and such do not play WoW)

Kedge said...

I am in a medium sized guild however we only have three people who raid lead, taking in turns or sharing duties. I am one of those three. Some nights after a long day at work the last thing I want to do is organise 10 / 25 other people to raid.

Yet the expectation is on us to formulate such raids. We've led raids before so we will always lead raids. Rather than wanting to be a "producer" it is kind of enforced up me, because I've shown aptitude for it before.

Don't get me wrong I do enjoy the leadership side of raiding, but it's something I want to choose to do not be expected to do, or pigeon holed into doing.

Creating categories to put people in, "producer" or "consumer", allows / encourages people to remain in their own bracket.

"Consumers" expecting "producers" to lead them. With "Producers" expected to lead.

I agree, that is one of the main reasons for burning out raid leaders. Even a RL needs a night off too :)

Leah said...

I very much agree :) the biggest problem I see with trying to categorize people into so few options is that people are far too different to fit only those few molds. we're not either square pegs or round pegs, we're more like pieces of a puzzle. some peoples look similar to each other and can even confuse you when you are putting a puzzle together, but not a single one is exactly the same.

so like a puzzle when you're trying to match up the pieces, you look for edges that fit, colors and patterns that go together :) such narrow classifications only give bare bones framework at best.

in my opinion anyway

P.S. I took a test and I ended up with an almost even split (there are 9 questions and I had 5 P and 4 C) :)

Stabs said...

Thanks very much for the mention and for your thoughtful analysis.

I've blogged extensively about CPP this morning over at my site but two things I particularly wanted to mention here.

1) CPP is win-win. It is not producers = great players, consumers = slackers.

2) Sociology is not an exact science. I can make generalisations about mobile phones, eighty-year olds and twenty-year olds that are not invalid simply because your grandfather has one and your daughter doesn't. Sociology almost invariably fails to fit individual cases.

Carra said...

Creating a guild, starting an arena team, starting and leading a pug, raidleading,... It all comes down to taking responsibility over other people. And that's a scary thought because when things goes wrong, you're the one to blame.

Being at the instance in time doesn't fit in that list. It's just showing disrespect.

Copernicus said...

If you're into personality styles, you can look into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). It splits people into 16 different personality styles and is a very handy tool for understanding people on a basic level.

Dw-redux said...

I didn't read stabs post the same way you did. Not that im disagreeing with your post, it definitely underlines the importance in the fact that you arent always either, and sometimes you are both!
I just don't read his post as *not* saying that either. Regardless, great post, and id never have fouind his blog if it wasnt for you :)

@Gevlon: im sorry, that is the worst drivel you have ever written. I say this with love, because i have a lot of respect and appriciation with everything you write. But common sense isnt an objective thing. And saying that 85% of the worlds population doesnt have common sense is just a very weird statement.. at best.
On the other hand, saying that 15% of the population has common sense from "my" PoV is another thing entirely.

Dw-redux said...

Looking at my above comment, it may have been worded a bit harsly. Hope it will be recieved in the spirit it was given: I see your point, but disagree on the semantics.
I guess i fell for my own complaint; that you should never judge people by your own sense of common sense, And to me, that statement Gevlon made, wasnt common sense :)

Fitz said...

What's unfortunate is that it seems like tanks cannot pass the leader duties off even if they want to. It's just assumed they will mark the mobs and dictate the strategy. This is a function of game mechanics, but there's nothing stopping a healer or a DPS from leading.

The best insight in all of this is that (1) people do need nights off from leading, and (2) everyone can learn from leading at some point even if it's not their thing. It's exactly like teaching...if you truly know something, try to teach it to someone else and you'll find out how much you really know. Try to lead a raid and you'll find out exactly how much you know about team composition and strategies for healing, tanking, AND DPS on a fight.

Bristal said...

I agree with the basics of the producer/consumer or leader/follower analogy, but a person's "tendencies" are not the only factor. There are also levels of social interaction that come into play in how a group organizes itself.

A consumer in group A may be a producer in group B due to the make up of each group. If I join a guild that has been raiding for years, what's the chance I'm going to be able to fill a producer role unless I am VERY motivated? That group will likely be comfortable with it's current social structure, and uncomfortable with a "stranger" attempting to lead or change them. Thus guild DRAMA.

Sharing leadership skills and encouraging others to lead can be an even more time consuming/stressful task than actually leading. An aspect of that process that many people have a hard time with is allowing yourself to BE led. If you find yourself "burned out" as a leader, take a look at your "following" skills.

Syrana said...

Very good post and, as always, I enjoy your insight. I think it is indeed very difficult to break people down into "this or that" categories. The reality is people can be both at the same time, as you stated. The other issue with labeling is people being stuck with that. It certainly doesn't help (especially when feeling burnout) if a guild member insists one of the officers has to lead something because "you are an officer and a producer" when they aren't feeling up to it.

Crucifer said...

After reading Stabs post, I was more interested in the "unlocking content" part of his theory behind Consumers and Producers. Filling out his questionnaire, I find I am more Producer than Consumer but not exclusively either.

I am/was a guild leader, I travel to meeting stones first, I always afk when required, etc. At the same time, I don't know anything at all about raid leading and I still use my mouse to mark mobs.

Imagine if tomorrow all the raid leaders in all regions went on strike; what would the "consumers" in your guilds do? Would they try and pug? Would they organise? Or would they simply sit down and wait for the raid leaders to come off their strike?

Larísa said...

: thank you! I'll give the credit to Stabs though, he's done a great job in his series!

Well, I didn't say it was expected by everyone... I said it was expected in raiding guilds. And then I'm talking about Real Raiding Guilds, not Guilds Who Would Like To Raid But Will Hit The Wall After The First Boss In Ulduar.

@Kedge: I can understand that you feel pressure, but I seriously think that you and and should do something to change it. It's time that you take some apprentances, that you start looking for talents that could be taught and finally trusted to lead some raids. You can break this pattern if you want to, but it will take some work to come over the first obstacles. People are probably comfortable the way it is...

@Leah: I like those kind of tests, it's a way to get to know yourself a bit better. but just offering two categories was probably too narrow, as you say, there are way more shapes of the puzzle pieces than that.

@Stabs: I read your follow-up posts and they were great! I think the problem with your test and definitions of consumer and producer is that you HAVE attributed some behaviour that IS considered "slacking", such as not getting your butt to the instance by yourself, to consumers. Maybe you should revise it a bit. Otherwise I suspect more than I will end up a bit fifty-fifty-like.

@Carra: yeah, leading is scary. I definitely takes self confidence. Some people combine it with great knowledge. Others don't... But you have to trust yourself, at least a bit. You can rely on others and take help, but there must be a core of self confidence.

: actually I AM familiar with those tests and I think they're a valuable help to understand yourself and your behaviour in a group better.

@Dw-redux: I'm glad I helped you to find it! I've been following this series and I've been surprised and bothered that it hasn't been given much notice in the Blogosphere. I thought it was about time that someone highlighted it.

@Fitz: I think the problem is on both sides: tanks feel that they're "expected" to lead, but sometimes they also feel "entitled" to it. I really think that breaking this pattern would be a good thing - for the tanks as well as for the others. We all should try out our capability for producing and consuming content.

@Bristal: you're spot on! Being a good leader or a good group member is so much about situational awareness that we love to talk so much about in raid encounters. Some players excel in situational awareness facing a boss, but haven't got a clue about it when it comes to what's happening in the guild!

@Syrana: yeah, and the common expectation that tanks should lead groups certainly doesn'nt help out. I think we all should strive for much more flexibility and understand that we're capable of different roles.

: actually I think that if you went on strike, more "consumers" would dare to step up and start to arrange things on their own. They're just not motivated enough now that the producers do this thing always anyway. They would be given more space and opportunity if this happened. I don't say all of them would - some would be happy to play solo things and just consume the things that the game offer for everyone, no matter of player initiatives. But some consumers would defnitely start to do producer things if they had to.

Copernicus said...

RE: when consumers have to step up to be produces

I see everything as a spectrum, and the differences between people are a matter of thresholds.

Anyone that does something more than our upper threshold is an overachiever, rude, reckless, pompous. And anyone below our minimum threshold is lazy, inconsiderate, thoughtless, irresponsible.

For instance, driving. Everyone has their own ideas on the right way to drive. Similarly, everyone has their own ideas of how to "produce".

Some feel that setting up and running instance after instance is the right way. Some feel that making themselves available for any instances is the right way. Some feel that keeping chatter going in guild chat (no matter what it's about) is the right way. Some feel that bettering themselves is the right way.

Producers come in all shapes and sizes, as do consumers, and who is performing which role at what time may be more subtle than simply who is the most vocal or who is always setting up raids.

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