Business lessons from World of Warcraft

The stereotypical online gamer is a greasy-haired, pimply, overweight teenager with no social skills and too much time on his hands, right?

Wrong.

Statistics from the US Entertainment Software Association (ESA) suggest that the average gamer is 33 and more likely to be learning vital business skills than wasting time.

In World of Warcraft, for instance, thousands of players adventure together in an enormous virtual world, forming friendships, slaying monsters and engaging in epic quests that can span days or weeks. At last count, 9.3 million people were playing the game.

An IBM study, conducted in conjunction with MIT, Stanford and software start-up Seriosity, found that multiplayer games such as World of Warcraft and Everquest can help the next generation of workers become better corporate leaders as work becomes more collaborative and virtual in nature.

The study suggests that hours spent playing online can hone abilities to effectively collaborate, self-organise, take calculated risks, influence and communicate – skills that are not generally taught in universities or workplace training programs.

But do online games really provide insight into the future of our organisations as our leaders communicate with workers across a ‘virtual environment’ that spans many countries, cultures languages and time zones?

The impressive organisational skills needed to run a World of Warcraft guild, organise raids involving as many as 40 people and co-ordinate their different abilities to defeat a game’s strongest foes are all relevant to work.

Some of the lessons that gamers learn include the ability to make decisions rapidly, analyse and use data from varied sources and recognise people for their contributions – are all valuable assets in the workplace.  Perhaps even more so is the ability to assemble and motivate a group of individuals – many whom are volunteers – to make rapid decisions and act effectively under uncertain conditions.

What do you think?

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