John Kotter wrote in The Heart of Change, too many change initiatives fail because they rely too much on “data gathering, analysis, report writing and presentations” rather than tapping “feelings that motivate useful action”.
Having surveyed numerous successful company change strategies, he concluded 8 stages, not necessarily linear, are required.
1. Creating a sense of urgency.
2. Pulling together a guiding team with the needed skills, credibility, connections, and authority to move things along. A coalition.
3. Creating an uplifting vision and strategy.
4. Communicating the vision and strategy through a combination of words, deeds and symbols.
5. Removing obstacles, or empowering people to move ahead.
6. Producing visible signs of progress through short-term victories.
7. Sticking with the process and refusing to quit when things get tough.
8. Nurturing and shaping a new culture to support the innovative ways.
Just looking around at all the places and ways in which people are constantly engaged in change is enough of an indicator that dramatic organizational change is possible. And I am more and more convinced it is the failure to tap into the “feelings that motivate useful action” than any other factor. It is the human factor.
Powerful research evidence is corroborating Kotter’s statement, particularly the 3 billion weekly hours we collectively spend frequenting virtual game environments online.
In 2008, I reviewed economist and virtual world researcher Edward Castronova’s, Exodus to the Virtual World: How Online Fun is Changing Reality for Inside Knowledge Magazine. Most stunning to me was Castronova’s conclusion that more of our physical world practices need to and will borrow from game design, becoming almost seamless with “in world” or virtual world actions. His equally remarkable estimation of 40% of GDP deriving from virtual environments may look even more enticing post the global financial meltdown and environmental catastrophes (natural and man-made).
Games are where millions of us spend our time. The most recognizable being World of Warcraft (WoW) and Second Life (SL).
So what is it about virtual world game design that keeps us coming back, to create, collaborate, innovate, share, and perform at such high levels?
Jane McGonigal charmingly spells it out in Gaming Can Make a Better World; a 20-minute TED presentations. So, sit back and enjoy. I guarantee you’ll watch a second time.
From her research, a few key behavioral actions gamers generate:
Urgent optimism – for an epic win (sense of urgency)
Social fabric – weave tight relationships in guilds, forums, wikis (coalitions)
Blissful productivity – doing the right level work (short term wins)
Epic Meaning (great missions and visions to pursue)
All adds up to - Super-empowered participants
Coincidentally these five are almost identical to Kotter’s change strategies! Worth noting.
McGonigal is with the Institute for the Future and has designed three public simulation games to meet world sustainability challenges: World Without Oil,
SuperStruct, and March 2010 release of Evoke.
The Collaboration Curve: Exponential Performance Improvement in World of Warcraft (2009), a Deloitte Center for the Edge white paper, details similar evidence to Castronova and McGonigal, that players “share experiences, tell stories, celebrate, (and analyze) prodigious in-game achievements, and explore innovative approaches to addressing in-game challenges.” The game and the players’ experience levels grow over time in a symbiotic morphing, which the “collaboration curve” demonstrates. John Hagel III and John Seely Brown first used the term in 2009.
Two challenges of open innovation platforms and other virtual spaces are:
- Teams create tacit knowledge, but have difficulty scaling to large platforms, and in
- Scaled environments like Innocentive, many participants share explicit knowledge, but have no means to share tacit knowledge.
WoW game design by Blizzard has forums, wikis and databases, shared by guilds which enables sharing tacit knowledge quickly.
Both real-time feedback and “after action performance reviews” of raids, are another critical component to the game. Constantly learning new skills and gaining new tools has primacy in WoW, but it is as much a collaborative effort as it is individual.
Although I am not a gamer, I have explored Second Life, a virtual world and collaboration platform finding that the learning curve is initially steep. Avatars are used as personal representations requiring a skill to manipulate separate from any goal or content to be generated. Thanks to a well-versed SL colleague I was able to move from “barefoot newbie” to "presentable enough" in three hours to give a mini workshop on Social Capital: Glue for Sustainability to a sophisticated group in Cedar Island.
The convergence of mobile technologies, augmented reality, massive multiplayer online games and virtual worlds is moving quickly and quietly. The organizations designing their products and services to use less physical materials will be the winners. One only needs to look to the Virtual Reality Conference of the IEEE or the Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds Conference to understand the sustainability gains from 3D, virtual materials design for science, medicine, healthcare and military to grasp the competitive value impacts.
As I wrote in 2008, the … “Implications of [Castronova’s] Exodus for business leaders, marketers – any one involved with organizational learning, innovation and knowledge – are significant. Not from the prosaic manner in which online space is used to conduct business or learning virtually, but rather to understand game design tenets, game behavior, ‘networked graphical sociality’ and how these will change real world expectations.”
~ Victoria G. Axelrod