Jon Tilbury is the managing director of National Student Esports (NSE), and has spent most of his career in the esports industry.
He started playing CS:GO back in 2004, and became Multiplay’s esports manager in 2015. One year later, he became Game’s strategy manager – and in 2017, Tilbury created the NSE.
At Multiplay, he created the Truesilver Championship, which was a Hearthstone invitational with a $30k prize pool, and at Game he developed the Belong strategy, which saw esports arenas installed into stores.
His huge experience means he’s full of advice – including a deep understanding of the psychological techniques that are beneficial in any workplace.
Tilbury’s first tip? Study the Dunning-Kruger effect. This cognitive bias enables people with low ability to overestimate their skill.
This misplaced confidence leads to mistakes – which, naturally, knocks that confidence. Over time, a person gains experience, which justifiably raises their confidence.
Tilbury has experienced this first-hand. Back in 2015, he’d never organised any tournaments – but he went into the Truesilver events with huge confidence. Predictably, things went wrong, and the event only succeeded due to support from more experience colleagues.
By the time Tilbury worked on Game’s Belong project, his modest confidence levels meant that he had experts evaluate financial models – so he could identify and fix mistakes.
And now, at NSE, Tilbury has confidence in his strengths and weaknesses, which means he can manage projects and know when to defer to experts.
Tilbury’s second psychological technique is called Professional Deformation – a bias where people examine issues from their own perspective. It’s understandable, but it means that too many people don’t listen to people with differing experiences.
The solution? Listen to experts, talk to them in a way that makes them feel comfortable and appreciate different perspectives.
The next technique is a big one: confirmation bias. This is the tendency for people to choose and favour information that supports their existing opinions.
Tilbury has real-world examples. After his Truesilver events, he thought his marketing had been successful – but he didn’t take into account the impact of external factors, like choosing a popular game and well-known players.
These days, Tilbury sees that, in his words, the team was “an echo chamber of [its] own ignorance”.
Tilbury’s fourth psychological tip – identify and minimise your correspondence bias, where people are more likely to blame people for personality flaws than they are to recognise external problems – like someone being late because of a traffic jam.
Tilbury answered questions from the audience – with the first asking which event he’d found most challenging. Tilbury’s answer was simple: the current NSE final. The COVID-19 situation has meant rapid changes, which means organisational difficulties, falling morale and compromised decision-making.
They’re all things that work against the smooth functioning of an organisation like the NSE, but Tilbury’s experience in the esports industry has given him the tools to deal with it.
Tilbury was also asked which events he’d like to go back and manage with his current level of experience. His answer was simple: the bring-your-own-computer events in the early Multiplay days. Tilbury regrets his focus on glamourous global events back then, and concedes that he’d get more longevity and value out of concentrating on the local audience.
Tilbury’s psychological insights are invaluable for anyone pursuing a career in esports. This week, the Intel FutureGen 2020 broadcast will feature Grant Rousseau, Head of Operations at EXCEL Esports.