Massive Multiplayer Online Games the Digital Business School of the Next Generation

In “Leadership Online Labs” HBR, May 2008 – the authors describe their research about what we can learn from Massive Multiplayer Online Games for the understanding of leadership in the post modernity.

Tomorrow’s business landscape could be alien territory for today’s business leaders. At many companies important decision making will be distributed throughout the organization to enable people to respond rapidly to change. A lot of work will be done by global teams – partly composed of people outside the institution, over whom a leader has no formal authority — they are assembled for a single project and then disbanded. Collaboration will happen within these geographically diverse groups mainly through digital rather than face to face communication

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I really love this article. It makes clear that we need to understand leadership in the post modern world in a different way. In the Scrum community we try to convince everybody that collocated teams are the best. And I agree, but–in the post-modern world we will work in a different way to how we have in the last 100 years, so we need to find ways for collaboration across countries and cities.

People ask me about Scrum-Tools again and again. I always answer: Use a task board. And this is correct for a group of people in one room. And–we fail to answer the question for creating a working environment for people non-collocated. No–I do not believe in Scrum Tools. They are not doing what is necessary. But the article “Leadership Online Labs” has shown that the answer is already there: In Online Games. Online Games work because they have developed the necessary tools which allow people to communicate together and to manage work for large groups.

We can learn at least three key points from massive multiplayer online games:

“Leadership in games is a task, not an identity – a state that a player enters and exits rather than a personal trait that emerges and thereafter defines the individual.”

So we need to find ways to distribute leadership in a way that people can take over the task of leading people easily.

The have found ways to incentivise / reward people who participate in an engagement directly.

This is key. I talked to Bob Schatz and he was of the same opinion: You need to find a reward system that is direct, fast, meaningful, transparent and fair. It does not need to be monetary. But it can be monetary: So instead of giving people a bonus at the end of a year based on percentages of something, pay them a couple of dollars for every feature they have delivered. If you pay for products you get products if you pay for time you get time spent.

The information needs to be hyper-transparent.

In collocated teams we use this idea by having a visible task board. But the key point is: Everybody needs to know the “status” all the time. In one room a task board can do this, but the basic idea is that we create information raditors that are visibile to everybody ALL THE TIME!. Henry Mintzberg showed in 1990 already that managers are not interested in Management Information Systems, because they are not fast enough. But today, we can creat online, real time information systems which can give us the correct information every second-now! And we need the information of the performance of everybody, the skill and a lot more right now. Mintzberg had no idea that this is all tactical information not strategic information. So in fact we need to have this information available for the team so that they can synchronize immediately.

Then and only then the leadership can become a task!

So – when we want to have a Scrum-Tool, we do not need a Scrum Tool, we need an information radiator tool that is similar to the information panel of online games.

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