Recently I spent some time reading the book Better than Carrots or Sticks: Restorative Practices for Classroom Management by Dominique Smith et al. As a teacher and an EVE player, I found it a very interesting read and I wholeheartedly recommend the text. More directly, as I read the book I felt inclined to examine leadership tendencies in EVE. I hope these words may be of some use to current leaders and those who are thinking about a leadership role of their own in the future in EVE.
It is Easier to Build Strong Members than to Repair Broken Ones
Leaders must build strong groups of individuals, which is statement adapted from the book, which says: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Many capsuleers have had the experience of watching cracks form in a group, a corporation, or an alliance. Oftentimes we respond by ignoring them, or even by contributing to these cracks. In a way, this behavior stems from the breakdown of communication between members. Hostility, exclusion, apathy, and disconnection, on the part of individuals, can spell doom – immediate or long-term – for the group. These feelings can stem from the harsh realities of real life, or from events in-game.
We should find nothing wrong with the fact that people have these feelings of disconnection. They only become a problem when they are not expressed at all or are expressed inappropriately. Leadership plays an important role in helping members express themselves and resolve any disputes within the group. Disputes should be resolved in a calm manner, with respect for the feelings of both parties. True, EVE is just a game, but the people in it are real people. The building of resilient and respectful member relationships is an important piece of the group building puzzle, and leaders should look to avoid, or mitigate, any potential future damage to the group.
What You Think Matters
It is relatively common to find a corporation that welcomes a new member, who shortly leaves for one reason or another and who will then be described by other members as “no loss.” What loss is a single domino falling? But what if that domino strikes others on the way down and creates a domino cascade? Remember the EVE ad that talked about the butterfly effect? If that butterfly effect can happen in positive ways, it certainly can happen with negative effects as well. Instead of shunning or purging, perhaps leadership should fine ways to turn unproductive members of the group into something valuable. Productive members of the group may have been in the cards all along, if only the time and effort was put into those individuals to help them find their niche.
Schools oftentimes establish a set of rules which, when violated, lead to strong punishment, guilt, and accountability. Traditionally, corporations are formed with similar formal or informal rules which serve the same function. I like to think of these as the “do this and you are doomed” rules. Indeed, this may be an extension of how we treat rules in societies. However, what if we placed more emphasis on the individuals involved? There truly is a place for the structure of rules and their enforcement, but what if we also had more focus on mending the internal group element? Could we see fewer lost members? Fewer fractures? Less disbanding?
The kicker for leadership is that they do not necessarily have to believe it will work to see results; they only need to consistently adhere to the policy of group interconnection and mediation to see results.
The Calm and the Storm
You may have your own memories of such an event, but picture this: a friend or corpmate says something which leads to an awkward silence, followed by uncomfortable feelings, an argument, or pure dismissal, or possibly the strategy of pretending it never happened. However, those involved, consciously or unconsciously, add this experience to their overall opinion of the group. Some of my friends, as well as readers, may remember this from our times in previous corporations. CEOs and other members of leadership getting negatively involved in these kinds of situations can be the downfall of a social group.
My first CEO in EVE alienated his members in this fashion. He was particularly good at recruiting new members, but these members were mostly inexperienced. This CEO became overwhelmed by both RL issues and in-game issues and seemed to take these frustrations out on his members. Very new players got yelled at for not understanding what they were doing wrong in-game and that behavior does not make a strong corporation. The group split several times and eventually disintegrated. Even players and people in general do not respond well to being yelled at for something they do not understand. How well might the group have done if it had been characterized by patience and the building of group relationships?
We Are Eve
EVE exists because of its player base, and ultimately, we are part of one very large group. I don’t expect everyone will always get along, but what if we spent some more time learning about each other and building up our bonds? I think we could go farther than ever before.