Lecturer: Byron Reeves, Stanford University and Seriosity, Inc.
Lecturer: J. Leighton Read, Seriosity, Inc.

Video and computer games have powerful lessons for business about engagement and motivation. Every day (and night) tens of thousands of teams of 5 to 100’s of people from multiple time zones, countries and cultures, each with different and highly complementary skills self-assemble around extremely challenging goals. Sound familiar to business? It should. This is the new world of global business collaboration. The psychological principles and affordances found in MMOs have much to teach us about teamwork, leadership, innovation, urgency, and incentives.

One of the reasons to pay attention is that games are dramatically shaping the expectations of people entering the workforce. The gamer generation has different expectations about challenge, risk, authority, and collaboration. And what’s most important is that we know many of these gamers work at Fortune 500 companies right now.

We are not talking about just using games for training and simulation but also about technology that helps people while they do their jobs. This could range from borrowing a few of the key psychological ingredients to the full Monty: re-engineering entire jobs so that workers become their avatars, building transparent and persistent reputations for tackling graded challenges with teammates inside a virtual online world as part of a compelling narrative. If this sounds fantastic, it’s worth noting that tens of millions of MMO players are already carrying out tasks inside their games that look exactly like the kinds of information work that companies have to pay people to do!

If you peel back the patina of medieval or science fiction images of dragons and spaceships, you will find a host of features that perfectly capture the essence of motivation and management in business. Games do an especially good job of encouraging people to try and fail, and try again in the context of clear and interesting challenges. They do a fabulous job of giving feedback in all of the relevant timescales for a task. Leadership emerges as a product of the environment. Collaboration is faster and richer with reputation systems flowing in parallel channels of information where dashboards are as important to followers as to leaders.

Because business is utterly dependent on voluntary creativity and collaboration of workers using their tacit knowledge, ignoring game inspired design principles is a huge missed opportunity. Games offer powerful tools for creating alignment, performance and engagement. Successful applications, however, will depend on engaging the best people and companies in the game design community in new business, something we hope to do when we meet at LOGIN.

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