CIOs whose primary involvement with computer games is trying to get employees to stop playing them may need to revise their thinking, if Edward Castronova has anything to say about it.
Castronova, a researcher on virtual worlds, encourages companies to use a game design approach with their IT projects, by working to make them more fun.
"Never again," may be the gut reaction of CIOs who saw few tangible results from allowing employees to play air hockey or bring pets to work during the dot-com days. (It's worth noting that companies as traditional as MBNA Financial continue to offer such benefits, saying they are a low-cost way to boost employee morale.)
But Castronova's approach may be worth a try. In contrast to previously unfocused efforts at fun, Castronova says his method provides plenty of benefits. By creating a virtual corporate culture inside a role-playing game, companies in theory will learn lessons they can apply to real-world process improvement.
In addition, role playing may help keep younger employees engaged and interested in their work, and synthetic currencies could prove useful for the allocation of internal resources.
In a world where some people are more interested in Second Life than real life, we've certainly heard crazier ideas.