Single-Player vs. Multi-Player Mode
“Life is a single-player game. You’re born alone. You’re going to die alone. All of your interpretations are alone.” - Naval Ravikant
I think about that quote a lot.
It’s a bit dark but true.
All of our thoughts, experiences, and memories can only exist in our own mind.
And yet, humans are deeply, biologically, social creatures. Left alone for long enough, we literally lose our minds. Together, we become exponentially more powerful. Our ability to form large groups is how we evolved as a species.
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As community builders it’s easy to forget that our members are individuals. We idealize our communities as these beautiful collectives of people who live in a state of coexistence and collaboration.
But that’s not how members necessarily experience our community. It can be part of it, but we must not forget their individual identities.
Members join your community in single-player mode.
People join your community to solve their own problems.
They join for benefits, not belonging.
It makes sense. They don’t know the other members yet. So how could they join the community for them?
Sure they could join a community with the goal of helping others, like volunteering for a food kitchen or participating in a protest. In that case, they’re doing it for other people, but not necessarily for the other members of the community. Until they join the group, they won’t know any of the people in it. They’re still functioning in single-player mode and focusing on achieving their own goal.
Social Identity Theory states that people move through three phases as they become a member of a group.
Social Categorization: We loosely categorize ourselves as being part of a group (eg. Jewish, Black, Tech Worker, Democrat, etc.)
Social Identification: We start to feel connected to other members on an emotional level and adopt the actions and culture of the group
Social Comparison: We tie our self-esteem to the group and compare our group (in-group) to rival groups (out-group)
The work of the community builder is to welcome and accept members as single-players, and gradually shift them to ALSO see themselves as multi-players.
From “me” to “we”.
Further reading: In The Business of Belonging, I share a model we developed at CMX called The Social Identity Cycle which explains how to help members to adopt a community mindset.
Shift your members to multi-player mode.
In multi-player mode, members start looking at themselves as part of a collective. What’s good for the community is good for them. Helping other members is helping themselves. Winning together is better than winning alone.
This will take time. It isn’t an easy mindset shift to make.
But it’s contagious.
Once one member shifts to multi-player mode, they will naturally move others. It’s really hard to stay in single-player mode when people start treating you like a member of a team.
You’ll know the shift is happening when:
Members start using multiplayer language (“us”, “we”) and less single-player language (“I”, “me”).
Members start helping each other without asking for anything in return
Members start celebrating each other’s wins
Members organically start collaborating on projects
Members offer unsolicited feedback on how to improve the community
Members start self-organizing events and experiences for each other
Members start representing the community externally by wearing swag, adding it to their profiles, getting tattoos
This isn’t something you can force. It has to happen organically.
But what you can do is model the behavior. You can be the first person to shift to multi-player mode.
You probably started the community for selfish reasons. Maybe it was a problem you wanted to solve for yourself. Or maybe you were hired to manage the community. That’s okay! It’s normal.
So you’ll need to make that shift first. Pay attention to the language you use. Notice if you’re doing things for the community for yourself and your business, or purely for the community. Notice how much you ask and how much you give to the community.
It’s not about replacing single-player mode. It gets pretty cult-y when members lose their sense of self and give themselves entirely to a community.
It’s about serving members’ individual needs while shifting them to also see themselves as part of a whole.
The community cannot thrive without the individual.
The individual cannot thrive without the community.
🪢 New on the Talent Collective
I kicked off the talent collective experiment last week with 40 candidates and 10 companies. In just the last week, 60 more people applied to join the collective!
The next drop is going to have candidates from Airbnb, Buffer, TopTal, Intuit, Google, Calm…it’s an incredible group that will bring the collective to over 70 hand-picked candidates!
Head of Community at Sphere
Head of Community at Ship 30 for 30
Community Manager at Watershed
Are you hiring for community? Sign up for the collective and post your job to start connecting with candidates! Use the code “betatesters” to get the first month free.
My keynote from CMX Summit 2022 is up! This is the first on-stage interview I’ve done since the start of Covid. I sit down with CMX’s new Director of Community, Jessica Hobbs. We discuss:
What it was like for me to return to CMX Summit after stepping down
Transitioning leadership in a community
The balance of community and capitalism
Don’t try to convince people to contribute to your community. Focus on the convinced.
Elon Musk is moving quick to make product and business improvements to Twitter, but he’s taking massive risks with the culture of the ecosystem. Large social platforms have crumbled when culture and community were ignored (see Digg).
I’m trying something where I don’t commit to putting meetings on my calendar. I give people my number and tell them to give me a call when they’re free. It’s been really nice having my days open without calendar meetings controlling my schedule. But not everyone loves my boundary, it clashes with their expectations. I’ll write something about this soon.
Both Substack and WhatsApp launched community tools this week. Since both have built in network effects, I expect both to be pretty effective at driving engagement. I’m testing out the new substack community feature for this newsletter. Right now it’s only in the Substack app and only on iPhone. Download the Substack app and you’ll see the community in there. If you’ve been playing with either Substack’s or WhatsApp’s community tools, let me know what you think of them so far.
Thanks for reading this week’s newsletter!
I’m down in Long Island staying with my family this week. My aunt is visiting from England so we’re drinking lots of tea and everyone’s playing with the toddler. We have two months until the new baby arrives and it’s about to start getting *cold* in NY. No idea what we’re in for this winter, but I’m excited and just sitting with all the emotions.
How are you all doing?
See you next week!
Aha, I'm saving your emails much longer than I would have expected. And they're definitely worth the extra time to delve in~
I'm always trying to start community, somewhere, somehow. Always have, always will :)
Good rule for me: start with others' needs and then co-create from there, to ensure alignment.
Within companies, a good rule is to start with higher-level folks at early stages. I think this works because others can more easily see alignment with these folks and be more open and attentive to possibilities.
Blessings to you and growing Familia. Great to hear you're spending more time with the extended family community as well.
Love the graphic of single player mode to multi-player mode and this whole concept in general. Really helps me put both my personal and professional community into perspective.