Business in Virtual Worlds, Collaboration

Online Games (Should) Feed into Corporate Software

Recently, a kid in North Carolina named Blake Peebles dropped out of high school to become a professional Guitar Hero player. Sound short-sighted? Well, if you ask a few corporate consultants, it might not be such a bad move if Mr. Peebles is looking for a future at IBM.

Well, perhaps Guitar Hero is a stretch: but there is a growing chorus of consultants and corporate employees out there who are touting the collaborative innovation of MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft as a massive suggestion box for big business collaboration, according to the MHT Journal.

David Laux, a global executive at IBM, borrowed from the concept of online gaming to create a team that needs to meet a goal, using an IBM-created onlne corporate game called Innov8.

“I, as a gamer, can rapidly build a team and dissemble it based on the completion of the ‘quest’ or assigned task,” he said. More than 5,000 IBM employees use Innov8, according to Laux.

Wells Fargo is another company that has jumped into the gaming fray with its Stagecoach Island, a virtual world that educates users about smart money management.

Another advantage to the MMOG model is that people might work harder with little supervision, as has been proven in World of Warcraft.

“Traditional frontline management of individual contributors tends to focus on making sure they work a full day,” says George Dolbier, a CTO at IBM. “The online community is teaching us you can accomplish large and complex goals,” with little supervision.

On top of this: online games require very little in the way of reference manuals or setup guides. The intuitive nature of MMOGs means that people spend less time consulting manuals and more time involved in the role-playing experience, which of course means more productivity at work.

There is also the factor of youth, which will play an increasingly significant role in the corporate makeup. The younger generation is, generally speaking, more accustomed to online tools and able to collaborate in different ways.

“We hear from employers all the time, and the greatest challenge they have is getting people to collaborate in teams,” said William Gribbons, director of the human factors and information design programs at Bentley College. “But we as adults define community by physical contact. Young people have a very different sense of reality and community, because of the experience they have with games.”

But with all the excitement surrounding the entry of MMOGs into corporate networks, caution must be used. Users must still abide by company guidelines, and to this end IBM released the “IBM Virtual World Guidelines” to ensure that employees stay up to standard and meet productivity targets.

“We need to remember that in the world of gaming, there’s a very different outcome,” said Gribbons. “In the world of work, you’re still looking at productivity, and need to be sure it doesn’t get silly.”

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