Total Engagement

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Total Engagement: How Games and Virtual Worlds Are Changing the Way People Work and Businesses Compete

People want to be engaged in work with a purpose, and they want insight into how their work is linked to larger organizational and societal goals. They want to know where they fit in. Competing in an upturn also demands a highly engaged workforce. When workers are engaged by rewards that are intrinsic to their task rather than controlled by bosses, organizations can better decentralize, allowing people to live where they want but play in the same game. Well-designed game environments can define

Some work is too hard: productivity suffers because goals are in conflict or difficult to define. Sometimes it’s hard because the learning curve is too steep, or success takes a long time to achieve, or it’s not easy to measure and thus celebrate intermediate steps. Sometimes work is too hard because of interruptions and information overload. Sometimes work is too hard because other people make it that way. Good game design can fix poor work design and bring new life to well-designed jobs that are still too difficult to be satisfying. In these situations, game designs will offer new tools to clarify objectives that adapt to external challenges and will give immediate and intermediate reinforcement for progress accompanied by intrinsic training to ensure personal growth. These design principles are all mainstays of successful interactive games.

Successful businesses in the future will redesign work from the gamer’s point of view. Businesses will create a workplace that accommodates employees (“players”) who want to know the rules, advance frequently, partner quickly, and nurture reputations in a narrative that aligns their own objectives with those of the organization that pays their salary.

Knowing how people are already working in games is important, but the best way to actually observe their efforts isn’t obvious. When you study movies, television, or websites, you cue up the digital file or domain name and start taking notes. For complex multiplayer games, it’s best to have jungle guides. The reason? It can take five hundred hours to get to the highest level in the current best-selling title, and it’s impossible to even get close to the best virtual places, challenges, and teams, let alone score an invitation to play with the teams with access to these challenges, without achieving high status in the game. This makes the study of games tricky, and it’s a stumbling block that needs to be solved by anyone interested in being a champion for game applications in his or her organization.

In chapter 9 we argue that play is not the opposite of work; rather, it’s a catalyst for engagement. Play isn’t frivolous, and it doesn’t just mean parties and laughs. Play is an extremely serious concept that philosophers, educators, and psychologists agree is critical for everything from intellectual development to learning and to the creation of culture.

You next meet another character who tells you about objects that are needed in the village at the edge of the woods (he adds that they’re willing to pay gold for them). Gold is good in the game, so you search the forest, find what might be a desired object, figure out the interface buttons you need to transfer the object to your personal inventory, and then deliver it to the village. Five gold pieces are yours when you get there. And you’re no longer at level 1. You’ve moved up to level 2, and it says so in your character profile, which everyone can view. Cool.

EverQuest (Sony Online Entertainment). This medieval fantasy game involves three types of play:

  • adventuring (gaining experience and loot),
  • trading with other players,
  • and social interaction.

Gamers must cooperate with rather than hinder one another.

Visual three-dimensional online social worlds—such as Second Life for adults and Club Penguin, Webkinz, and Habbo for children—are becoming increasingly popular. Like MMOs, virtual environments are characterized by real-time interaction among avatars (the online personae that participants create), and they typically have virtual economies that allow people to buy and sell virtual goods (land, clothing, furniture, and more) using a synthetic currency. Unlike MMOs, however, virtual social worlds lack structured, mission-oriented narratives, defined character roles, and explicit goals. Instead of collaborating

Gamers motivated to achieve are interested in personal rewards and in gaining power within the context of the game. They like to collect rare or special items in the game (and brag about them afterward), they like to see themselves at the top of leader boards, and they generally prefer the games that have lots of opportunity to advance and the potential for the largest possible difference between people at the bottom and top of the game hierarchy. They like clear goals and less ambiguity about what’s needed to advance, and it’s best if there’s a lot of score keeping. They’re hooked on

In real life, we frequently spend time with people driven by curiosity about how they and their environments work. The same is true for some gamers. The motivation to explore includes simply traveling around to interesting places. Much of the current 3D art in games is interesting and some stunningly so, especially if you’re playing on a high-definition, large screen. Game designers call it “eye candy.” You get to jump into the picture and walk around, a little like teleporting to a favorite vacation spot, but one that keeps adding acreage every time there’s a software update. Exploration also includes more than 3D places. Players

But the truth is that people of all ages can acquire these same sensibilities, and often easily, as a result of sophisticated game play. Recall that thirty-somethings are more likely to play the sophisticated games than teens, college students, and other twenty-somethings. And it’s the older folks, those in their forties, fifties, and sixties, who are putting in the most hours per week. Consequently, we review here the sensibilities that any gamer can be expected to develop

Game environments feel more social than a typical workplace. All aspects of planning, action, rehearsal, and evaluation—and plenty of goofing around time in between—involve conversations. Gamers expect and are comfortable with discussion, group action, and, importantly, group conflict. In this aspect, games only accentuate what is true of all contemporary media: social information is ubiquitous, quickly disseminated in short bursts, updated constantly, and really interesting.

Third, the speed of the games encourages trial and error as a reasonable, and for many the best, way to learn. Go ahead and experiment: if it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else, and usually right away. A trial-and-error strategy redefines risk, an important ingredient for innovation in business. Gamers learn to expect that plans will often fail. What’s important is to make the effort, register the feedback, and keep going. Finally,

Traditional media, when they were first proposed and launched, often promised benefits that were serious, and most of the early research about their effects concentrated on serious outcomes such as learning. Telephones, radio, film, and television were heralded for their potential to inform, facilitate democracy, or help during emergencies. New media have often invited utopian dreams—universal wealth, enhanced freedom, revitalized politics, vibrant communities, and personal fulfillment.

It’s not so hard to see how popular forms of the latest social media, such as blogs, wikis, personal Web pages, and social networks, can support enterprise collaboration and teamwork. Indeed, these ideas are being deployed or at least studied at every company we know. We are pushing further, to explore how the full immersive user interface of multiplayer online games, with all of the related affordances, could shape expectations at work and eventually the entire workplace.

We have alternated between examining the details of the work and the context in which work takes place. By details, we take note of the difference between transformational, transactional, and tacit work, as described in writings by McKinsey & Company. By context, we find it useful to consider the large drivers of human performance: purpose, meaning, and consequence.


Although companies own intellectual property, it is people who possess knowledge. Firms may own networks, but it is people who have relationships. A company can own a brand, but individuals own their own reputation. 5 The implication is that a lot of value can walk out the door unless the conditions are in place to create loyalty, and a lot of assets are wasted unless the conditions are in place to allow talent to be unleashed. Put another way, you can’t command the things you want from tacit knowledge workers; you have to create the conditions in which they want to give you innovation, collaboration, and insight.

What the students found most useful was a list, not limited to information work per se, from a project called O*NET. The Occupational Information Network is a large-scale collaborative project hosted at the North Carolina Employment Security Commission and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. It publishes and maintains a list of over eight hundred different occupations and provides tools to help employers with job design and to help prospective workers match their skills to defined jobs. 14 We think that even the most complex and sophisticated

Getting information: observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources. In order to shape their own army in Company of Heroes, players scout the opposing party using a swift squad of infantry to see which units the opponent is upgrading.

Judging the qualities of things, services, or people: assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people. Captains in Counter-Strike use practice sessions to judge players’ reflexes, abilities, and teamwork on tactics

Evaluating information to determine compliance with standards: using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards. Traders in Diablo II barter for goods based on careful consideration of the worth of virtual objects in game marketplaces. When a WoW raid leader recruits players, he or she needs to determine whether a player’s items are powerful enough to contribute effectively in raids.

Communicating with supervisors, peers, or subordinates: providing information to supervisors, coworkers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person. Preparing to fight a battle in Guild Wars, experienced players are in brainstorming mode. Their suggestions are important, but the team leader must make a decision about what will happen. The newest members mostly listen. Many guilds have a complex officer system in which responsibilities (such as taking care of the bank, maintaining the website, or introducing new recruits to guild rules) are assigned to specific people. Other responsibilities (for example, picking new officers) might be more of a collective decision. Guild officers

Helen’s priest lives in a visually rich three-dimensional world. This makes the game interesting not only because her presence in the world is embodied via her avatar, but also because she navigates in a game space that parallels physical properties of the real world.

Narrative Context

Good games have good backstories—galaxies at war, people who need rescue, or places that may soon be destroyed. Such narratives guide action and organize character roles, rewards, and group action. The information Helen sees about her character and team is drawn from a particular game narrative and is constantly reinforced (“Four years have passed since the Reign of Chaos

Great games also have great stories—epic stories. There isn’t a quest, raid, or guild assignment in Helen’s game that isn’t well placed in a larger narrative. Players know their role relative to those of others. They know where their current activity fits in the larger picture. They know how pieces of the story—each linked to

There may be a natural inclination, one way or another, that we’re born with, but there’s also good evidence that an internal orientation can be taught, and games are a good candidate to do the teaching.31 The knowledge that rules apply to everyone helps create a sense of internal control. Gamers think that “I can do this” and that decreases the worry that “success depends on who you know.” Ambiguous rules create distrust, often a cause of failure in business collaboration as well as poor game play. Player

study had people separate at random into a blue and red team (just like at camp, people count off, and 1’s are the blue team and 2’s are the red team). Participants interacted briefly as a team and then answered questions about their evaluation of the two groups. The result: if a person was assigned, at random,

  • A good definition of a multiplayer game is collaborative achievement under uncertain winning conditions.

The uncertainty comes from two sources. One is simple expertise: “Do I know enough?” and “Am I good enough to do the right things?” The other is time: “Will I be able to do them in the time allotted?” For gamers, it’s fun to be on the clock.

In the literature about new media, the word virtual can be added to just about anything. Take something in the real world, pair its name with the adjective virtual, and you accent the threshold between its media version and real life. From the ingredient list we chose four “virtuals”—people, money, teams, and leaders—to delve into a little deeper. We’re convinced of their importance for interactive play and their powerful roles in creating good and bad effects in games as well as virtual environments, and most important, we’re convinced they will enable games to influence serious work. A central theme in each is the meaning of virtual. What is added and what is taken away when people, money, teams, and leaders are elements in an electronic game?

Have you ever wished you could see yourself the way others see you? This is your chance. Do you have a colleague who doesn’t understand why people react unexpectedly to his or her behavior? Perhaps all that’s needed is for that person to spend a little time using the over-the-shoulder view of his or her avatar. Avatars

Go ahead and be tall and good looking. Sizes, shapes, and faces do matter. This is a well-tested result in psychology (e.g., tall and attractive political candidates do better than opponents with less striking features). The same advantage accrues to virtual people, except that you can far more easily make the desirable changes.

Think about the first video game you ever played. Was it Pong? Pac Man? Mario Brothers? Tetris? Doom? Wii Golf? You’ll date yourself with the answer, but we assume your first video game did not have anything like synthetic currency or a marketplace where you could send your avatar to spend gold pieces for the latest virtual doodad to enhance your ability to get to the next level in the game.

In most single-person electronic games, the striking scarcity is that of time. The concept is so important that we include it as the final one of our ten key ingredients in chapter 4. There are tasks that must be accomplished, and the clock keeps on ticking. In the early hand-eye “twitch” games, the trade-off was “Do I move the cursor left, right, up or down in order to gobble, shoot, collect, or escape before something bad happens?” Typically, the clock ticks come faster and faster and faster until you eventually fail. The fun games give you a sense of accomplishment before the inevitable catastrophe.

In addition to time pressure, the user experience in today’s persistent online games includes a vastly more complex landscape of objects, space, characters, and challenges in which to make choices under scarcity. To advance from level to level, MMO players must obtain or create certain virtual objects to carry out their quests, and some of these objects are rare. These items may contain the vital clues to puzzles or confer special powers on the holder. Many are a necessary means to a valued end. Some are simply cool. Some objects (or the raw materials to make them) may “spawn,” or appear from time to time, at a specific location. Others may need to be “crafted” using natural resources that are gathered by players using their special skills.

Money in games has useful properties other than portability. Gamers enjoy benefits related to all of the properties in the standard definition of the concept: money has the ability to serve as a unit of account, a means of exchange, a store of value, and a source of liquidity. As a unit of account, money is more easily divisible than most objects, including game pieces such as special swords or magic rings.

Some come out ahead of countries such as Bulgaria and Russia. Individual players have found they can scratch out a living in real dollars by selling virtual objects, game currency, and even entire characters on eBay. Companies have been set up to hire cheap labor to grind out game pieces and high-level characters for sale in RMT, a practice known as farming. There are even currency exchanges to facilitate trading among game currencies and government currencies.

People like to consume and acquire things. Pretty obvious. But what makes this interesting is the extent to which people care about consuming and acquiring things that don’t even exist, at least in the real world. Virtual goods are merely ideas encoded in bits and represented by light on a screen. They have real value based on the labor required to create them and the value (similarly derived) of other virtual objects for which they can be traded. People like to create things that are valued by others. In the games, this is called crafting, and it’s carried out by following a series of steps to collect and assemble components. The recipe for crafted virtual objects is defined in the game software by the designers. Specifications are complex and sometimes need to be discovered by solving puzzles or by trial and error. Sometimes players will personalize virtual objects, expressing individual creativity. And remember that most

Of course, consumption, acquisition, and production are meaningless in a context of abundant plenty; it’s the fact of scarcity that makes these behaviors interesting to players.

sake is not what keeps players engaged, but rather purposeful activity driving toward a larger goal. This may be assembling assets needed to complete quests and leveling up to higher status or becoming a more effective member of a raiding team in a highly challenging group activity where peer respect is based on capabilities and effort. Prescription

Enterprise workers are pretty much by definition not self-sufficient. After all, the enterprise was invented to aggregate complementary skills. Today’s multinational teams must collaborate and assemble solutions across distant time zones. They must solve complex production problems in which the objective is all too often poorly defined. Then there is the matter of chaos: plenty of that to go around in the modern enterprise, whether from competition, government, technology, or management churn. So why isn’t working there more fun? Of course some people are having fun, at least some of the time. We’re convinced that one of the ways to improve the situation is to encourage more overt economic behavior in the workplace and to do it, initially, with a synthetic currency. The wonderfully inane behavior depicted in Scott Adam’s Dilbert comic strip could never happen unless the characters were disconnected from economic incentives.

Thomas Malone, in The Future of Work, makes the case that internal markets are one of the key ingredients of an engaged and decentralized information workforce. In The Management Lab workshop on radical ideas for adapting management to the information age, Malone led a breakout discussion on just how far one could push this idea. What the participants came up with is a pretty good checklist of ways one might use economics to make work more fun. Here are two highlights from the taxonomy that apply to game economies at work.

Рынки предсказаний

Prediction markets are an example of a larger idea some call crowdsourcing, or outsourcing a task or job in an open-source model. By one compilation these prediction markets have been the subject of experiments at companies as diverse as Abbott Labs, Arcelor Mittal, Best Buy, Chrysler, Corning, Electronic Arts, Eli Lilly, Frito-Lay, General Electric, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, InterContinental Hotels, Masterfoods, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Pfizer, Qualcomm, Siemens, and TNT.

Managing attention, far more than managing time, is the greatest challenge of all. Before winning hearts, engaging minds, or harnessing creativity, you must first get people’s attention. In the world of digital communication this is both easier and more difficult than it’s ever been. It’s easier because the marginal cost of electronic communication is nearly zero, but much harder because of the clutter that ensues when other people’s inboxes (a prime place where attention is allocated) are turned into a free good for all to abuse.

Over time, people figured out how much currency it took to have an impact. In a published study of e-mail behavior using this system, we got a glimpse into how this simple game-inspired feature can change behavior. Senders behaved as economists would expect them to with real currency: they sent large amounts less often than smaller numbers, conserving currency for future use. We were also interested in whether the amount of currency sent had any impact on how long it took for the recipient to open a message.

Визуализация данных

Data (and especially visualizations of the data) about who trades with whom can be a highly informative tool for evaluating collaboration and relationships. We found that a map of e-mail connections based on the sender’s valuation of messages exchanged looks significantly different from network maps based on the frequency of correspondence. Up to now, social network pictures of communication patterns in large groups have depended on how many messages people exchange and often merely on whether or not any message is sent. Two people who e-mail each other frequently will appear close together in the map, with the link between them visually thicker than links between others. But that can be misleading. What if all the messages are about a company party? When maps of the same groups are drawn using currency exchanges as the measures of “closeness,” new roles appear for people in the network.

David’s guild keeps a detailed account of DKP for each player posted on its website for all to see. The guild DKP manager updates the site regularly and is experimenting with third-party software that will automatically tabulate DKP during play. The automation and transparency of the guild’s system gives David confidence that the system is fair and the data are current.

Much of the current spending on collaboration is about infrastructure—just making it possible to connect better, faster, and cheaper. We project that new spending will focus on enabling closer personal, social, and emotional connections that feed innovation. It’s one thing to allow groups to transmit information; it’s quite another to allow them to do so in a manner that engages, persuades, and changes. By now you know that this is the sweet spot for games.

Multiplayer games demand collaboration: I can’t win unless we win. But in both virtual and real worlds, there’s a tension between “me” and “we,” a battle royal between the psychology of the individual and the sociology of the group. The manner in which “me” and “we” are reconciled may hold the key to success in both worlds. What’s

The best way to get this sharing going, if the purveyors of knowledge management software are to be believed, is to deploy expert systems that will automatically collect, organize, and make available important information to anyone, especially a new employee, who needs to know what and how things have worked in the past. The responsibility of individuals is to pony up all their best stuff—regularly, completely, and preferably with useful tags—so that the organization can profit from the personal knowledge that the company pays people to collect.

Individuals are often valued in a company to the extent that the information they hold personally is unique. When personal knowledge becomes corporate knowledge, that’s good for the organization, but not for the individual who was the source of the knowledge. The individual’s relative intellectual capital might decline. There is the risk that you may give up power by giving up information.

The technology scene is alive with opportunities to comply: wikis, blogs, social networks, and a hundred software services that help people share, co-create, edit, and critique information that was once held by individuals, and transmitted only by them one to another

So called knowledge management systems offer an impressive collection of technology that is intended to expand community knowledge. The impact of such systems is sometimes disappointing, perhaps because the kind of sharing that’s enabled may not be the most important part of the knowledge story. Information

Other knowledge (often called explicit knowledge) is formal and usually more public. Much of it is conditional (when this happens, do this), and it’s fairly easy to formalize, record, and make it available to large groups. This kind of information is the mainstay of knowledge management systems. Think of company SOPs and many of the documents stored on a project wiki.

There are at least two barriers that deter translation of tacit into explicit knowledge. The first is that it may take effort that is not easy to see and reward in the typical enterprise environment. The second barrier is the potential loss of personal power mentioned already. The transition from tacit to explicit might work pretty well when everyone is on the same hallway, where trust and interest in mutual success is easier to create, but can break down when people try to collaborate remotely. The greater the reliance on electronic communication (“We’ve only met on a conference call; I’ve never negotiated with my boss face-to-face”), the more likely tacit knowledge is to remain tacit (“I’m not sending you my valuable personal experiences because your status may increase at my expense”). In geographically challenged groups, new hires often learn tried-and-true methods of talking up cooperation while at the same time competing ferociously with little sympathy for the failure of others. Knowledge about how to coordinate groups, and especially the tacit knowledge that a group has about the right way to go about work, may be more important than the facts that the group produces that are the results of their actions. Let’s look at how today’s businesses and games address the problem.

Recruit and hire for cooperation

To create a culture of collaboration, start with the right people. Find out whether job candidates can collaborate by having them meet large numbers of current employees. Give people collaborative scenarios and ask them how they’d respond. Instinctive free riders will try to fool management, but at least they will demonstrate the intellectual capacity for teamwork. Better yet, ask candidates to tell you their own stories about tough collaboration challenges and check references to back these up. Ask the best collaborators in the group to do the interviews (it takes one to know one). Model collaborative behavior. The collaborative styles and abilities of senior executives aren’t always on display. But when they are, they’re influential. Even the perception in the larger group that leaders collaborate often and well increases the chances that others will do the same. Make executive collaboration more visible. Teach collaboration. It’s possible to teach collaboration, and those companies that make training part of their human resource (HR) offerings fare better. Instruction is particularly useful in the first days and weeks on the job. That’s when the competitive versus cooperative tone is set. Longer term, mentors are important drivers of collaboration, especially when they volunteer services. Support a strong sense of community. The more an organization interacts, casually and informally, the better. When organizations sponsor events that create a sense of community (things such as special interest networks, group travel, or sports) and when they encourage informal places and times for casual interaction, people will feel more comfortable reaching out and will be more likely to share information. The cost of setting time aside to build trust is cheap compared with the cost of lack of trust when attempting collaborative work. The “ropes course” cliché has grounding in theory.

The most difficult challenges for teams involve emotional engagement, social relationships, personal reputations, and, most important, information about individual reward for group success.

For gamers, this is a familiar feature of collaboration. Interestingly, variants of DKP systems have popped up in class projects at Stanford—projects where the single reward for individual work is a group grade. Some students complain: “Can I please do a project by myself?” “No—and welcome to the real world.” But you also can’t hide behind the good work of your peers. Students now keep track of who does what, distribute points accordingly, and make the data available to all. Jeremy Williams describes a similar peer reward system tried in a Singapore setting.

Guild websites feel a lot like other familiar social media. Page layouts look like social network home pages, with personal pictures and annotations of shared experiences. But the sites also feel different because they’re about the game, a single common activity with its own strong narrative and clear challenges ahead. Social networking in or outside work may indeed be like a game, but the winning condition is ambiguous, the rules are often unknown, and the levels, skills, and expertise aren’t transparent. On the game sites, the game narrative guides the conversation, everyone remains in costume, and the relevant expertise, ranks, and accomplishments needed for what’s ahead are available for all to see.

Within one minute on a guild website (after secure login, of course) you can know who’s doing well, who’s contributed recently, who’s being credited with new points, and who’s talking with whom. The contrast between formal information (schedules, rankings, bank account information, auction purchases) and informal information (postcards, tags on pictures and prizes, gratuitous humor) is striking.

Good collaboration occurs when performance is tracked and when it is consequential. This is where computing helps. It’s hard to imagine a work environment that automatically produces as much relevant, valid, and transparent data about how individuals and groups are progressing as seen in an MMO. Replication of that environment is a wonderful challenge for the workplace of the future.

We’ve seen guilds that offer tangible rewards for behavior such as answering questions in the guild forum, preparing for a guild quest by helping to gather scarce resources, or allowing a newbie to shadow you in a raid (“Just to learn; don’t do anything stupid!”). One guild even devoted one night per week to helping new players level up. There were no victories to brag about on those occasions, but a wise investment in future ones.

Gamers don’t discuss hypotheticals or simulate play when the real thing is readily available. This takes advantage of game collaboration that is a series of short, intense “projects” that are highly monitored. After the raid, forum comments are securely posted for guild review (with the most likely negative comment being “I didn’t enjoy his/her company”), the votes are tabulated, and offers made (or not). When work becomes more like the games, it will be easier to ensure that new members are the ones you really want. The transfer from interviewee to new group member becomes blurred, with good value to group effectiveness and culture.

The true wisdom of any crowd that gathers in a broadcast network is far from guaranteed. There are situations where crowds can be dead wrong. Four attributes of large groups increase the value of large collaborations: diversity, independence, decentralization, and aggregation. All play to the strengths of MMOs. Diverse groups with many points of view will do better than those whose members all know the same things. Diversity could mean multidisciplinary skills (computer scientists and English majors; marketers and engineers), experiential diversity (young and old members), or hierarchical diversity (line workers and vice presidents).

Called affiliation or group forming networks by David Reed, they offer an important increment to shared knowledge. When groups overlay individuals, as is the case with online communities such as those in the games, Reed argues that the value of the network becomes the exponent of the number of participants (V = 2N), dramatically accelerating value creation as a function of participation, especially when the number of groups added becomes large. Groups could be all sorts of collectives: for example, chat rooms, buddy lists, trading rooms, discussion groups—any group that shares something in common. См. Закон Рида

Sloan model has been used since 2001 as a basis for MIT workshops on distributed leadership. The model describes four core capabilities needed for effective leadership: sensemaking, relating, visioning, and inventing. Good leaders have at least a minimal competence in all four capabilities, but no leaders are perfect in all of them. The following are descriptions of the four dimensions. Next, we’ll look at how they play out in the games. Sensemaking Sensemaking is the ability to notice, evaluate, and communicate about ambiguous situations.4 It often involves creating mental maps, stories, or useful points of view. The key to effective sensemaking is to create a map or other method of representing a situation that is useful for the people who need to respond to that situation.

Relating involves developing key relationships within and across an organization. Effective relating balances inquiry and advocacy. Inquiry involves the ability to listen to and understand what others are thinking and feeling without imposing your own point of view. Leaders who are good at inquiry are good at suspending judgment and understanding how others move from data to opinions.

Visioning is about creating compelling images of the future, not of what is, but of what could be. Leaders who are good at visioning provide meaning for what people do and motivate them to bring their best to the task of fulfilling a vision. Examples of visioning behavior include describing a desired future state; connecting organizational goals to personal or societal values; and painting a picture of the future. Inventing

Second Life is a virtual environment and not a game per se. Consequently, players must initiate group behavior (the environment doesn’t tell you what to do), and some activities involve substantial visioning. Players build discos, promote political, social, and religious causes, organize hobbyists, and open up businesses (e.g., developing virtual real estate and selling digital clothing). Some of the best organizations in virtual environments completely bridge the two worlds.

Being quick can be more important than making everyone happy. It’s true that maintaining good relations with a team is critical for guild success, and particularly for recruiting. But it’s also true that quickness sometimes trumps relationships. Gamers make numerous comments related to the pace of play that demonstrate the trade-off between time and consensus. This is an important lesson, and an early one for younger players. It’s hard to make everyone happy and there is often no time to waste on consensus.

Leadership is a task and not an identity, enabled in part by the quick and organized pace of play. Leaders are chosen (or they volunteer) in minutes, with no expectations that the role will last beyond a single game episode. Good leaders are often also good followers. Whoever leads will have people following who have a better sense of what the leader is trying to accomplish because they have been there themselves. Stars

The gamers ask, “Why not change the game instead of changing the leaders?” We believe there are three game-changing properties of environments that facilitate effective leadership: quantitative incentives, particularly in the form of synthetic currencies; the hypertransparency of important and conveniently organized information; and connections through a variety of specialized communication channels.

of this information makes leading easier. But the information also makes following easier as well, which may be even more important. Players can easily see for themselves where they fit in and how well they are contributing and adjust their behavior accordingly. This is a huge advantage and, we think, an important explanation for why lessons from these environments are the next frontier for enhancing leadership functions. The

The idea of an über-dashboard for the CEO has received a lot of attention. Many products that offer “business intelligence” technology deliver the dashboard in only a few offices on the higher floors. We believe that leaders will benefit when they make that information available for all to see, as part of managing in a looser hierarchy where people are expected to make their own decisions or organize organically in groups that could process the information together. The information found on game dashboards is empowering. One icon gives players information about themselves (e.g., health status and currency reserves). Others help them locate and evaluate players, contact them individually or by using lists, take notes during play, access market information during trades, and even open a browser within the game. The dashboards in games are like a streaming video of players’ résumés. A huge bonus is that much of the information doesn’t have to be provided by the person it’s about (the biggest problem with any system that depends on human creation of metadata). Much of the information is automatically made transparent as the computer tracks play. It’s

Transparency goes beyond data. Leaders (and everyone else) can also see the actual players (or at least their avatars) in addition to the data attached to them. You know (at least virtually) where people are located and who’s ready for action. You can place the “camera” at any location in the scene to view the action (e.g., top down, from the eyes of your avatar, or next to the immediate group), and leaders can scan with great flexibility, tracking everyone in the group. People tracking the emerging enterprise technology related to “presence” in the field of unified communication will appreciate the parallel between awareness of others in the game and knowing where they are at work.T

Brian Sutton-Smith starts an extensive review with the observation that “we all play occasionally, and we all know what playing feels like. But when it comes to making statements about what play is, we fall into silliness. The central ambiguity (Sutton-Smith even titles his book The Ambiguity of Play) is that play is at once what it seems to be and also not what it seems to be.

The inversion of that ethic began with a radical treatment of play by Johan Huizinga published in 1949 (Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture). Huizinga boldly suggested that play, especially playful contests, was the same as those activities that shaped the essence of culture, including politics, law, scholarship, and the arts. Anybody who challenges

Recently, the 2,500-year-old Chinese classic The Art of War became a business bestseller.Others have written about the explicit connections between business processes and less serious contests. More than one noteworthy book, for example, touts the close and useful relationship between poker and financial investing.10

Practice matters, even if it’s simulated. There are pilots, surgeons, welders, and retail clerks who perform better on the job because they’ve “played” with simulations ahead of and in between the real experiences. Simulations are more easily accepted as first uses of games and virtual worlds in companies, possibly because they seem more serious because they better disguise a primitive playful attraction. But remember where in the computer store you go to buy simulator software—the game aisle. Most

Players need to transform themselves, making what is present absent and what is absent present. 16 This represents an inversion of the more linear and rational expectations about ordered thought, yet it might be the essence of thinking outside the box. Imagination is also less about the contest than it is an entirely different way to think. The philosopher Immanuel Kant said that a playful imagination is the link between mere sensory experiences and formal thinking.17 To our ears, he’s making the case that play could be a link to innovations at work.

The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has an unlikely answer. He has shown that our best moments—those we say we enjoy the most—occur when we’re voluntarily trying to accomplish something difficult for which we have the right skills.19 Labeled as “flow,” this high level of engagement describes a state in which nothing else matters, and experience is so pleasurable that people participate at great cost and for the mere sake of enjoyment. Flow has nothing to do with alcohol, drugs, or wealth, and it’s more likely when experiences are risky - см. Теория потока

Three virtual online worlds that are bridging entertainment and business applications are Icarus Studios (, Active Worlds (, and Entropia Universe ( Entropia emphasizes its use of an overt economy convertible into real-world funds, much like Second Life’s Linden dollars. Kaneva ( is focused on the consumer demographics of social networking sites such as Facebook, but may have the infrastructure for certain types of business applications. Unisfair ( provides virtual trade shows and conferences. There are many more, as compiled by the Association

Some of the game features discussed here are based on an excellent review of game play, especially first encounters with games, in Edward Castronova, Synthetic Worlds (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), chapter 2. 18 Nicolas Ducheneaut and Nickolas Yee, “Collective Solitude and Social Networks in World of Warcraft,” in Social Networking Communities and E-Dating Services: Concepts and Implications, eds. Celia Romm-Livermore and Kristina Setzekorn (Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2009), 78–100.

  1. Good proposals for work taxonomies include the following: Robert P. Tett, Hal A. Guterman, Angela Bleier, and Patrick J. Murphy, “Development and Content Validation of a ‘Hyperdimensional’ Taxonomy of Managerial Competence,” Human Performance 13, no. 3 (2000): 205–251; and R. J. Harvey, “Empirical Foundations for the Things-Data-People Taxonomy of Work” (paper presented at the annual conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Things, Data, and People: Fifty Years of a Seminal Theory, Chicago, IL, April 2004). 13 The
  1. The O*NET approach is to identify generalized work activities (GWAs) and detailed work activities (DWAs) to summarize the broad and more specific types of job behaviors and tasks that may be performed within multiple occupations. Using this framework makes it possible to use a single set of descriptors to describe many occupations. For more details see “The O*NET Content Model,” 15 Company of Heroes is a real-time strategy computer game set in World War II developed by Relic Entertainment and released in 2006. A 2007 expansion was Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts.
  2. Edward Castronova, “A Test of the Law of Demand in a Virtual World: Exploring the Petri Dish Approach to Social Science,” CESifo Working Paper Series no. 2355, Ifo Institute for Economic Research, Munich, 2008. 28 The
  3. Nine of the top ten games are multiplayer games rather than solo games. See Seth Schiesel, “In the List of Top-Selling Games, Clear Evidence of a Sea Change,” New York Times, February 1, 2008. 33 Several
  4. Edward Castronova, “Theory of the Avatar,”
  5. Byron Reeves and Thomas Malone, with Nick Yee, Helen Cheng, David Abecassis, Thomas Cadwell, Macy Abbey, James Scarborough, Leighton Read, and Simon Roy, “Leadership in Games and at Work: Implications for the Enterprise of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games,” Seriosity, 2007,

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