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Harvard Business Review Article: Serious Gamers Hone Leadership Skills

Guy Buckmaster, a marketing director, sits at a computer as he demonstrates the online game, "Guild Wars," that he regularly plays with his six children in Clearwater, Fla.

Via: Harvard Business Review - Leadership’s Online Labs

"Tens of millions of people are honing their leadership skills in multiplayer online games. The tools and techniques they’re using will change how leaders function tomorrow—and could make them more effective today."

Harvard Business Review has published a new, in-depth article that specifically links online game-playing to leadership ability.

Leadership’s Online Labs says that players of MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and EverQuest are developing specialized leadership skills that businesses will need to compete in an increasingly global and digital workplace. 
The challenges they face aren’t the same as those of business leaders, but serious gamers hone skills like risk-taking, speed, and fluidity in leadership roles—traits that will be crucial to all companies (not just tech) as leadership demands evolve in the coming years.

Their suggestions? Create more immediate non-monetary incentives and make data about performance hyper-transparent.

Lead author
Byron Reeves (of Stanford and software developer Seriosity) and his co-authors Thomas W. Malone, and Tony O’Driscoll, explain what this potentially new understanding of leadership will mean for non-game players and give tips on how to “gamify” the workplace to create a more effective leadership environment.It’ s a really good primer for those who aren’t familiar with serious games and how they can function in the workplace.

Here are some exerpts with amazing findings:

"Getting a look at how leadership works in online games isn’t easy. To see the best players in action, you need skills that allow you to participate at the highest levels of play, and those can take 400 or 500 hours to acquire. When IBM commissioned Seriosity to study leadership in games, Seriosity used a team of a half-dozen veteran players, with more than 50,000 hours of cumulative experience, to observe and record the actions of leaders in this rarefied setting.

The eight-month study also included interviews with more than a dozen prominent gamers about their leadership endeavors in this arena. A follow-up survey at IBM of people with both gaming and business leadership experience helped validate some of our findings and suggested how they might be translated to fit real-world corporate contexts.

A number of our conclusions about the future of business leadership were unanticipated.

For one, individuals you’d never expect to identify—and who’d never expect to be identified—as “high potentials” for real-world management training end up taking on significant leadership roles in games.

Even more provocative was our finding that successful leadership in online games has less to do with the attributes of individual leaders than with the game environment, as created by the developer and enhanced by the gamers themselves. Furthermore, some characteristics of that environment—for example, immediate compensation for successful completion of a project with non-monetary incentives, such as points for commitment and game performance—represent more than mere foreshadowing of how leadership might evolve."

"Ultimately, the entire workplace may begin to feel more gamelike—with game-inspired interfaces becoming 3-D operating systems for serious work—which could enhance not just leadership but all sorts of collaboration and innovation.

At the very least, digitally enabled environments and techniques could increase productivity by making many aspects of work simpler, less tedious, and more fun."