Got an employee who plays World of Warcraft at the office? Instead of punishing him, maybe you should promote him.
A new study from IBM and Seriosity (which sells solutions that "use psychological and economic principles from multiplayer games to improve collaboration, innovation and productivity," according to its Web site) highlights a connection between the kinds of skills needed for multiplayer, online role-playing games and those needed for next-generation management.
BusinessWeek reports that such games foster a willingness in even introverted folks to step up and give leadership a try. They also promote skills that are especially useful in our increasingly flat and fast-moving world, including gathering information from diverse sources, assessing strategic risks and rebounding quickly from failures.
Big Blue has much at stake in promoting this new game theory. In addition to its vocal support of the virtual community Second Life, IBM has created a business division for Internet technologies. Its first product is a game called Innov8 that helps folks develop and test their process improvement abilities.
Gartner believes that 80 percent of Internet users will have avatars for work and play by 2011 and that half of U.S. companies will have "digital offices" or other such virtual environments by the end of 2012. With the business case for such environments just beginning to shape up, we think this may be a little overly enthusiastic.
But the IBM/Seriosity study makes many of the same points as "Everything Bad Is Good for You" author Steven Johnson: Video games and other widely derided aspects of popular culture are just as or more likely to help us than they are to hurt us.