A flight of fantasy: What Dungeons and Dragons and thought leadership have in common

I stared down the dank and dark cobblestone hallway as the chittering shrieks of treacherous goblins echoed around me. In one hand, I grasped my trusty longsword—a veteran of many battles; in the other, I clung to the broad, metallic shield that bore my family’s crest, the only barrier between me and what foul fate awaited at the end of the corridor. I strode boldly into danger to vanquish my goblinoid foes. And with a skillful swing of my faithful blade, the threat was extinguished, the forces of good once again victorious!

This is how most of my Thursday nights go. Every week, a group of friends and I gather virtually for the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). Even though the game has enjoyed a cult following since its inception in 1974, its popularity has resurged recently with the production of several high-profile podcasts and web series, such as Critical Role and Dimension 20. Once considered a pastime solely for social outcasts, it has a fanbase of nerds and jocks alike that now grows daily.

While I love the game for the fun, the suspense, and the escape from (what has been an exceedingly harsh) reality, I also find that, in many ways, it is similar to the work I do each day. What does gathering indoors with my friends to roll polyhedral dice and talk in overly dramatic wizard voices have to do with thought leadership? A couple of things.

Storytelling and creativity

D&D is a deeply creative medium rooted in storytelling. The dungeon master (DM)—that is, the person who facilitates the game—is tasked with bringing to life an entire imaginary landscape for players to explore, and it’s the job of the players to live out the heroic tale through the characters they play. Together, they tell a story—perhaps one of hidden intrigue, or daring rescue, or terrible loss—drawing on each other’s creativity to spin a unique and unforgettable yarn.

D&D shares this heartbeat of creativity with thought leadership. The most successful content tells an interesting story and creatively uses its parts—literary tools and schemes, typography and design elements, SEO optimization—to contribute to a cohesive whole. This is the content that gets the most views, resonates with readers, and leaves a lasting impact.

I’m a copy editor whose job it is to help craft these compelling stories for our clients in a way that best conveys their message, so my ability to tackle each project with newfound interest and a renewed perspective is inextricably tied to my own sense of creativity. By playing D&D every week, I’m able to regularly flex my creativity. Then, when the time comes, I can more easily approach thought leadership content to mold each sentence into a piece of the broader narrative that hooks the audience from the get-go and leaves them wanting to read more.

Collaboration

D&D also relies heavily on collaboration. While the DM may conjure up the fantasy world, there is no game without players to delve into its dungeons or slay its dragons. How characters (and their players) interact with each other is what makes D&D so engrossing. It is impossible to play alone in any meaningful way.

In the content world, while subject-matter experts may conjure up perspectives, resources, and data, there is no (good) content without editors to sharpen the narrative, test the logic, and tighten the language; designers to create graphics, choose art, and tailor the overall look; or project managers to shepherd the piece along and ensure all the necessary boxes are checked.

At Leff, we know collaboration is core to the work that we do, and our entire team is committed to the singular goal of creating the best possible article or report or infographic or interactive—every time. This collaborative atmosphere is key to producing high-quality content, but such an environment has to be approached intentionally. Successful collaboration requires a free exchange of ideas among open minds; at Leff, we specialize in this exchange, and the content that we produce is all the better for it.

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Dungeons and Dragons is a whetstone for creativity and a training ground for collaboration. So the next time I hit a mental block, you can be certain I’ll be reaching for the nearest longsword.

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