How World Of Warcraft Could Change The Workplace

Stanford University communications professor Byron Reeves talks to The Washington Post about how the collaborative online model of games like World of Warcraft can help change real world workplaces and empower better leaders.

Reeves is the co-author of Total Engagement: Using Games and Virtual Worlds to Change the Way People Work and Businesses Compete. With a title that long and involved, you know he has to be an authority of the subject of plumbing virtual worlds for ways to enhance our workplace interactions, so you should listen to what the man says.

As a once-rabid MMO player, I've often marvelled at the difference between the way large video game guilds work and how your average office operates. I would spend hours online with people from all over the world, with one or two leaders flawlessly orchestrating the actions of 25 to 40 different individuals, none of whom had ever met in person.

Then I'd go into my old graphic design job the next day to find that four people sitting within a 1.85 sq m office couldn't collaborate without some sort of miscommunication, clashing personalities or inter-office politics getting in the way.

So why not adopt a virtual office, as Reeves suggests? We could create our own avatars, raid important projects for experience points, gain special equipment for particularly good work - it would be a fun and engaging way to work.

It's something I could see cropping up in the near future, as new bosses come to power and the older ones retire. Many employers still can't imagine managing employees who aren't directly in front of them, much less trust them to be productive when they're a hundred miles away from the office.

It'll happen.

On Leadership: How video games build leaders [The Washington Post - thanks Riddilem!]


    I know I'd really enjoy settling disputes with a quick duel followed by a bandaging session

    I thought about it some more and I think the main difference is your 25 to 40 raiders have a clearly defined goal that they're all working towards.

    In a business environment it's rarely one project (read: boss) and then another, rather each person doing a small piece of ten or twenty projects at a time, liasing with different team members for each. Like if you had to heal seven different raids simultaneously, jumping from one to the other depending on which team was screaming for you the most at the time.

    Don't you just love work.

    The problem is that guilds are working to complete something that has already been created.

    In the real world the objectives aren't kill so and so, they're create a new thing from scratch.

    companies already do it

    I'd like to apply for a job like that starting now!!

    One reason why these 2 forms of collaboration is different because there's very different motivations.

    People forced to do 'group projects' will often do it only grudgingly and half-assed. While WoW raid members pay a subscription to play + invest their time, so it's a willing choice to be there. Plus there's the extra incentive of reward (loot) that makes people much more willing to work together.

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