Wordle’s 6 Lessons for Leaders
In just a handful of months, Wordle burst into the public consciousness and took a whirlwind tour – engaging users of all backgrounds, making yellow and green boxes ubiquitous on Twitter, asserting the superiority of American English, spawning countless imitators, and being acquired by The New York Times. So…what have we learned?
No doubt software designers, publishers, and marketers have drawn their own conclusions from the game’s popularity. And its mascot Myrtle Turtle (not pictured) has discovered both the ups-and-downs of sudden fame. But Wordle has also provided a number of compelling lessons for CEOs and other leaders, if we take a closer look.
Here are six takeaways to consider for your company:
1. Start with a win
A small win to start the day is a tone-setter for bigger achievements later. Most “Wordlers” – as evidenced by the tendency to play first thing in the morning – understand this intuitively. This lesson can inform the environment you set up for your team. Design one task that’s meant to be completed and “won” quickly to start the day – even before digging into emails.
2. Make it challenging but achievable
In most businesses, there will be many times when the outcome (either in the macro or even with regard to a smaller project) is less-than-assured. However, to keep our employees motivated to work toward bigger, more challenging ambitions, we need to ensure they’re making incremental progress, “feeling” tangible growth, and experiencing the confidence that comes with meaningful wins. With Wordle, the game is not particularly difficult, but is enough of a daily challenge to remain engaging while leading to a win more often than not. The same principles apply to keeping your team engaged with a variety of projects – break things down into a number of components that tap into individuals’ strengths, giving employees a chance to authentically complete a necessary task that showcases their skills.
3. Stick with what’s working and build on it
If you’re familiar with “hard mode” in Wordle, it requires that you keep the letters you guessed correctly rather than tossing everything out and trying a completely new word. Use this rule to guide your company, too. Notice what’s working, acknowledge it, and make it the foundation to build upon. Once you’ve done that, you can even enhance your successes to make something better.
4. Create a community
Wordle enthusiasm grew due to the ease of celebrating together. One click, share your score, bond with the community, whether you succeeded that day or not. This is a powerful principle within an organization. You can win and I can, too. It’s an abundance mindset. When we celebrate our employees’ wins and encourage them to do the same, it makes an impression on the rest of the team. Soon, everyone is sharing their successes and encouraging one another through struggles.
5. Provide a template for adaptation and innovation
The launch of tributes and adaptations – from WARdle to Worldle to Girdle, Quordle, and more (only one of those is made up) – demonstrates the pathway from inspiration to proliferation. Try it with your team: Introduce your staff to a relatively straightforward project and, once they understand the basics, challenge them to develop a new, creative, or flat-out better process. Encourage team members to share their own unique practices and test out the things that work for one another. Do the small things to make work a little more fun and you’ll draw great ideas from your team.
6. Use the right words!
Obviously, this is the goal of Wordle, but it’s also a critical piece of leading and building a company. It comes down to how you state your vision, your value proposition, and how you tell your story. Think about the pain points faced by your customer and how you meet them. What makes you unique and how will you differentiate yourself from competitors? Invest in finding the right words to tell your story and you’ll receive long-term ROI.
Ross Romano is CEO of September Strategies, a consulting firm helping K-12 companies and nonprofits make the right moves to go from vision to decision. Ross is an experienced organizational leader and strategic advisor frequently sought after for thought leadership strategy and content development, team and talent evaluation, business development and marketing strategy, and audience-specific messaging platforms. He frequently writes about human-centered, empathic leadership and storytelling principles for company leaders and founders.